Monday, November 17, 2014

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe - November 23, 2014

First Reading Commentary
The Solemnity of Christ the King was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quas Primas.  It was originally celebrated on the last Sunday of October, immediately preceding the Solemnity of All Saints.  The revision of the liturgical calendar placed it at the final Sunday in Ordinary Time. 

This Reading precisely prophesies the arrival of a Chief Shepherd Who is none other than God Himself.  As it continues, we learn that God will be among us and will tend to us; He is the Light for our darkness, He is our Provider and in Him is where we can find rest.  He shows us the way when we are lost, binds our wounds and cures our sicknesses; and therefore, He is a Healer. 

“Rams and goats” are listed to distinguish the obedient from the disturbers of the flock.  The Hebrew word for flock includes goats with sheep.  Rams and goats, in Hebrew terminology, are indicative of the ruling classes and thus are susceptible to egoism.  Therefore, “I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats” implies a removal of disturbers or oppressors from the flock.  

Second Reading Commentary
If what Saint Paul teaches in this Reading were untrue, that the dead “shall be brought to life”, then Christ has not fully repaired the damage caused by the fall; and therefore, Christ is not the King of all creation.  But Jesus is indeed the “firstfruits” which literally means the “first installment” which implies there will be more installments. 

Paul frequently compares Adam to Christ.  Because of Adam, death is inevitable; but because of Christ, rising to eternal life is also inevitable for those who belong to Jesus.  Our Lord’s role as Messiah and Redeemer will cease when all who are to be redeemed are gathered.  This is “the end”, as Saint Paul calls it; when a Mediator will no longer be needed.  Jesus, however, maintains His Human Nature forever. 

It is clear that Paul is quite familiar with the Psalms and recognizes Christ as the fulfillment of them: “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” is an adaptation of Psalm 109 (110), verse 1: “Sit at My right Hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool” --  “When everything is subjected to Him” can be applied to Psalm 8, verse 8: “You have subjected all things under His Feet.”  God will be “All in all” when there will no longer remain anything that is opposed to God.           

Gospel Commentary
In the United States, with its governance by a democracy, sometimes it can be difficult to fully grasp monarchal terms such as describing Jesus as “King” and also reading from this Gospel about His glorious “Throne”.  In America as in many nations we choose our leaders; and it’s not just the President who leads us, but also many men and women who form the Congress.  Therefore, coming to grips with a sole king as a ruler, although still present in some countries, is nonetheless a foreign ideology to Americans.  But there isn’t any form of government that will ultimately succeed until it acknowledges that God is the Supreme Ruler.  And right now our nation may be walking on thin ice because God has revealed that which He considers abominations, and perilously, some of these things which are to be avoided are actually legal in our nation. 

This Gospel does not shy away from what is the end result of disobedience to the true King, or more familiarly, the King of kings.  Jesus clearly indicates that there is a separation of good from evil at the final judgment. 

The early Church scholar, Origen, writes something that should prompt a personal examination of conscience.  He writes: “When a man prays that God’s Kingdom may come, he is praying, as he should, for the Kingdom of God which is within him, that it may rise, flourish and reach its full growth.  We must understand this about the Kingdom of God – as there is no partnership between righteousness and iniquity, no fellowship of light with darkness, no accord of Christ with Belial, so the kingdom of sin cannot co-exist with the Kingdom of God.  If we would have God reign over us, then, sin must have no reign in our mortal body.  We must put to death what is earthly in us and bear the fruits of the Spirit, so that God may walk in us as in a spiritual garden and reign alone in us with His Christ, so that Christ may be seated within us at the right Hand of that spiritual Power for which we pray, seated until all His enemies within us are made a footstool for His Feet and all the principalities and authorities and powers are destroyed in us.” 

There are religious orders that are dedicated to taking care of the poor and hungry as well as committed lay ministries who visit prisons; and all of these worthy orders, organizations and ministries can use our help either through volunteer work or financial support.  “These works of mercy,” says Saint Augustine of Canterbury, “prevail towards life everlasting and to the blotting out of former sins.”  But let’s take it another step and consider this on a higher realm: Those who are spiritually starving and those who are spiritually imprisoned by their own wills and desires.  These are plagues that exist the world over.  And the remedy for this can only come by encountering those who are spiritually nourished and experience spiritual freedom without the use of any of this world’s goods; but instead by using the spiritual gifts that God has given to them.  This is an encounter with Christ living in the soul.  By applying both the physical and the spiritual to these plagues, one can see why the world is often at odds with our Lord.  Those who are physically poor and hungry generally display an “other worldly” joy and spiritual fulfillment as missionaries have attested to; while those who have material wealth could easily fall into a secular trap by thinking that the comfort of their lives means that God is not necessary. 

Those imprisoned for crimes committed, often find God in their confinement and discover spiritual freedom.  Those who are incarcerated by their own desires and addictions such as pornography, drug abuse and alcoholism actually think they are living a life of freedom.  Regardless of where we fit in by society’s standards, the joy, happiness and freedom that lasts an eternity can only come from Him Who is Eternal.  As conflicting as it sounds, true happiness cannot be found until we enter into the Wounds of our crucified Lord.  There’s an intimacy here that cannot be fully expressed in words.  Our Lord mysteriously identifies Himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.  This is hardly the world’s view of what a king is.  Supreme Perfection has lovingly embraced imperfection.  True freedom cannot be experienced until we surrender to Him Who is Christ the King.