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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Christ the King (Year B) 2012

Christ the King (B)

                 (Daniel 7:13-14; Apocalypse 1:5-8; John 18:33-37)

In our readings today we are given a magnificent portrait of Him Who is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Christ, Son of God become Son of Man:
As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the One like a Son of Man received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, His kingship shall not be destroyed.
Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.  And all the peoples of the earth will lament Him.  Yes.   Amen.
And, in answer to Pilate’s question, Jesus pictured Himself as follows:
I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.
Jesus is, therefore, most worthily our King, and today we gratefully celebrate His kingship and rule.  As He tells us, He came, as King, to bear witness to -- that is to proclaim in word and deed, by His death as through His life – the ultimate truth about God and His plan of salvation for us:
Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  (John 17:2)
He came as King because His proclamation of the truth had to be both authoritative and unambiguous, it could know neither frustration nor failure; and His sublime witness of love and forgiveness had to be seen and experienced in all the fullness of its beauty and power:
And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  (John 17:3)
As King, therefore, He not only proclaimed the ultimate Truth, He also manifested that Truth in all its sublime reality, because He Personally was and is, the eternal  Truth:
            I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
But did not St. John also tell us that, God is love?  Indeed he did, and this is just how he put it:
We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.            (1 John 4:16)
That means that those who have known and believed the love that God has for us, that is, those who have believed in Christ’s proclamation of and witness to, the only true God, have God -- Who is love -- abiding in them.  Therefore, God is Truth in the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel and He is Love in the hearts of those who receive that Gospel of Good News and Hope.
And so we can appreciate that truth is not just to be heard and acknowledged, it has to be lovingly believed and responded to, in order to fulfil God’s purpose as Isaiah prophesied (Isa. 55:11; 61:11):
My word that goes forth from My mouth shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it;
The Lord GOD cause(s) righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
Those prophecies are rightly fulfilled when God’s word is both proclaimed in truth and received in love; for then, and then only, does God loved in the Word become God ‘lived’ in our heart, a fulfilment which the Psalmist (Ps 85:10) celebrates with the words:
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.
It was strange, however, to hear the author of the book of Revelation so emphatically assuring us that, when our Lord and Saviour will come in His glory:
Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him.  And all the peoples of the earth will lament Him.  Yes.   Amen.
His coming will cause all the tribes of the earth to mourn, every eye to lament?  Obviously, it would seem to us, all those who killed Him might mourn at His return in glory; but why will it be that all will lament, even those who loved Him?  
This will be because of the Truth; since it is, indeed, Gospel truth that all, each and every one of us on earth, have sinned:
There is none righteous, no, not one; none seeks after God.  All have turned aside; there is none who does good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10-12)
Those who receive the truth proclaimed by the Lord’s coming, will see Him and lament the evil that was done Him; above all, they will lament their own part in that evil: that is, they will lament and mourn out of love, out of sympathy, for Him, and out of regret for and displeasure with their own behaviour.  Consequently, in their case, those words of Scripture will be fulfilled:
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory (soul) may sing praise to You and not be silent.  O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever. (Ps 30:11-12)
On the other hand, those who did not receive, will not embrace, that Truth made manifest, will mourn simply and solely because of His return.  There will be no love for, nor sympathy with, Him; nothing other than continuing rejection of Him and concern for self.
The kingdom of God, Jesus once said, is among you.  And so, today as everyday, the question -- the drama -- of truth and its reception is going on around us in society, within us as a community, and in the secret depths of our own, individual, hearts.  How do we, can we, should we, respond to God’s truth revealed to and treasured in Mother Church?
There are those, who seem to think that truth is above all to be known with our minds, hopefully, as extensively and as accurately as possible; and, at the other extreme, there are others who think that love is all that matters.   Let us consider these two attitudes a little more closely.
Many Catholics are perfectly content with themselves when they go to Mass and receive the Sacraments on the appointed days, just as they have always done: they say they know the faith; they were taught it at school or received it in the instruction given them by a priest, say at conversion and baptism, or when they were preparing for marriage.  Thereafter, they merely fulfil the obligations they originally accepted as part and parcel of the faith.  Here we have an example of the truth proclaimed being received with but a minimum of heart commitment: believers doing what they have been taught, but no longer fulfilling with love that which they themselves had, perhaps, originally sought and embraced with love.  At the head of such disciples can be found clerics of all levels who will ‘say’ Mass and give the Sacraments in double-quick time; they will present Catholic doctrine and spirituality with words that are nothing more than bloodless transcripts of Jesus’ words of life or of the experience of saints revered throughout the Church: too often, that is, mere abstract truths or cold mental concepts, apparently standing upright and firm only because they are backed by ‘authority’.
On the other hand, those of the contrary inclination are most content when they can give themselves exclusively to devotions or charity, to social involvement or emotional prayers: these have a full heart, indeed, but not infrequently, are somewhat dismissive of the idea that they might have any true need for better appreciation or greater understanding of their faith.  These Catholics rarely have any doubts about themselves, they do not experience any need to ask about, search for, a deeper understanding and appreciation of what they think they already know and most firmly believe.  They are totally satisfied with their own warm heart, and fully approve of and uphold the sincerity of their own intentions.  And yet, Jesus, early on in His public ministry, had lovingly yet unhesitatingly declared of Samaritans encountered in His travels:
You worship what you do not know, we worship what we know. (Jn. 4:21)
How many sects, originally enthusiastic disciples of Jesus, have separated themselves from Mother Church over subsequent centuries because of like  ignorance of the will of God and of the fullness of the maturity of Christ!
People of God, Jesus is come to bear witness to the truth for us, and He tells us:
            Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.
For Jesus’ disciples, His truth is ever a living and loving issue whose beauty is to be unceasingly and increasingly admired, not just a memory from the past, however  firmly fixed; nor can worship in His name ever be just ritual, no matter how beautiful, but is essentially, a total and vital commitment with Him to the Father and for the brethren, by the Holy Spirit. 
So, People of God, on this feast of Christ the King of Truth let us open both our minds and our hearts to Him in His Gospel proclamation, that proclamation which continues to this very day to be made for us and offered to us in and through Mother Church.  It is not just to be remembered as ammunition for argument; we have to increasingly appreciate and love it, by committing ourselves to live for it and grow in it.  Only thus will we allow it to fulfil God’s purpose in our lives.
Jesus assures us that with God, Truth and Love are one; let us also recall those other words of His to the effect that, what God has joined together none of us should ever separate.