Sunday, November 25, 2007

Solemnity of Christ the King

2 Sm 5:1-3
Lk 23:35-43
Thinking of kings brings to mind the idea of splendor, of glory. After all, kings live in palaces, have people wait on them hand and foot, sit on glorious thrones, and generally are surrounded by magnificent things. Certainly we think of Christ as King, especially as we celebrate this solemnity of Christ the King. The art work that portrays Christ as king shows the very splendor and glory that we associate with kings. Christ is seen in regal pose, sitting on a glorious throne. Icons of Christ the King are studded with jewels, all portraying the splendor and glory that we see as regal, kingly.
What a contrast to the Gospel reading today. Rather than a royal salon, we find ourselves on a dusty hill outside of Jerusalem. Rather than a jewel encrusted crown, we see a crown of thorns. Not a glorious throne, instead a cross. This scene isn’t exactly the royal drawing room we associate with kings. How can this person be a king? The sign over his head proclaims him king, but no one seems to see him as a king. The crowds jeer and mock him, “If you’re the King, save yourself.” He hangs on the cross, a common criminal, dying with other criminals. Even one of the criminals crucified with him jeers and mocks him. The other, however, the other sees something different. This man sees, a king. He alone seems to understand that this hill, this place, is a place of power, that this man is indeed not just a king, but the king. He sees what the others cannot, he sees what we should.
We find ourselves too often caught up in the glitz and glamour of the world. We may not have actual royalty, but we make certain people royalty. We see the trappings of wealth and power and think that they matter. We grant these wealthy, glamorous people a power that is not theirs. We see a false power, missing the point of real power. We fail to see the real power, the real glory that we should on that Jerusalem hill, for there is our salvation.
A man hangs on a cross on a dusty Jerusalem hill. Could there be a more regal setting; could there be a more glorious throne?

Deacon John
Solemnity of Christ the King
Nov. 25, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mal 3:19-20a
2 Thes 3:7-12
Lk 21:5-19

Hurry up and wait. It’s a saying I have heard before, but I always wondered what it meant. It seems nonsensical, but I think I get it now. I think what that saying is telling us is to be prepared for what is coming, but don’t be anxious about it. Get ready and wait, so that when the big event, whatever it may be, happens, you won’t be caught by surprise. Be ready for it, just don’t be anxious about its arrival. This is very much what Paul, or the author of 2 Thessalonians, is telling the Thessalonians. Too many have interpreted this passage with its famous saying, “if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat,” to be a condemnation of the poor. If those lazy bums don’t want to work, then let them starve. But that’s not what Paul is saying at all. The people of that time lived in a state of imminent expectation. They expected the Christ to return, not eventually, but now. They truly expected that Christ would come any day, any minute. With the return of the Lord so close, worldly concerns seemed trivial. Why worry about what might happen tomorrow when tomorrow might not happen. But one cannot ignore the concerns of this world in anticipation of the next. Even if the “end is at hand” life goes on until it happens. That is what the author meant, keep working, keep waiting, be ready, but keep living. Some of us today find ourselves in that same situation. Too many are shouting “the end is near.” Why worry about this world when the next is about to fall on us. I recall first encountering this mentality about 35 years ago with the arrival of a book called The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. The end is coming it said, and coming in our lifetime. Stop worrying about everything else. The condition of this world is unimportant, because soon it won’t be here. This cottage industry of predicting the end has blossomed, reaching its culmination in the Left Behind series of books. It’s an easy thing to swept up in, but avoid the temptation. Yes, as we approach the end of Ordinary Time we will hear much about the last days, but listen to what Christ says.
“See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he,' and 'The time has come.' Do not follow them!”
This expectation of the end becomes an excuse to not do anything about now. We can’t forget that our expectation for the world to come is tied to the world we live in. Yes, Christ will come again, someday. When that day is no one, not you, not me, not anyone else, knows. It could indeed be tomorrow or it could be 10,000 years from tomorrow. That is not for us to concern ourselves with. Our concern is this world, caring for it, caring for those who live in it. We make ready for the return of Christ by taking care of things here and now. We do indeed need to be prepared. We also need to remember to keep living. We need to hurry up, and wait.

Deacon John
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov. 18, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14
2 Thes 2:16-3:5
Lk 20:27-38

Seven, completeness, wholeness, the number of perfection. Seven, the pinnacle. Seven brothers are tortured, tortured to death. They refuse to deny their God, to defile themselves by disobeying God's law. For their faithfulness they receive death. Even those putting these young men to death admire their courage, their steadfastness in the face of tribulation, but they still die. They seem at the surface to have failed, and failed badly.
Seven brothers all marry, yet all die without an heir. Following the law the wife of the first to die marries the next, who also dies. She then marries the next and the next and the next, each in his turn, until she has been married to all seven, yet all seven die childless. The law was kept, but failure is still the outcome. Some even mock the law and it's keeping. "At the resurrection, whose wife will she be?" Seven, the number of perfection, yet none of these outcomes is perfect. Indeed all can be seen as failures. All can be seen as failures if we fail to see the ultimate truth in these events. "They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise." The outcome may seem as failure to human eyes. Not so for the divine. "It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up..." Seven is indeed the number of perfection as long as we realize that for the brothers, and for us, all is brought to perfection in God.
Deacon John
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov. 11, 2007

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wis 11:22-12:2
2 Thes 1:11-2:2
Lk 19:1-10

Being a rather short fellow myself, I can empathize with Zacchaeus’ predicament. Many times I have had to climb up on something so that I could reach what I needed, or see what was happening. I understand Zacchaeus need to climb that tree in order to see Christ. At least he was willing to climb the tree and not allow his short stature to be an impediment in seeing Christ. Zacchaeus climbed and Jesus took notice. Zacchaeus had to climb the tree to see Jesus, but Zacchaeus also had to climb the tree so Christ could see him. Without his willingness to climb that tree, he would not see or be seen. No matter how tall or short we may be physically, we too are short in stature, made short by our failure to love, by our failure to live as followers of Christ. Our sin keeps us from being able to see. We can’t see Christ, we simply don’t have the height. We too must climb. We must climb the Tree, so that we can look into his face, and see the love, the caring, the sacrifice made for us.

Deacon John
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov. 4, 2007

Thursday, November 01, 2007

All Saint's Day

Rv 7:2-4, 9-14
1 Jn 3:1-3
Mt 5:1-12a

What does it mean to be a saint? What does it really mean? I know there is an answer, anyone who is in heaven is a saint. But what does that mean for you and me? Are we, can we be, should we be saints? Too often when we think of saints we think of some larger than life figure. It may be someone from the past, Francis of Assisi, or someone more recent, like Mother Teresa. It always seems to be some extraordinary figure, someone we see as totally unlike ourselves. How many times have you said, I'm no saint. We compare ourselves to these larger than life people and inevitably fall short. But how does one really become a saint? We try to live as we are called to live, we try to live a life of love. We try to share the gift of love that is ours, given to us by God, embodied in Christ, in those larger than life figures, and in people we meet every day. Think of all the people in your life, those you loved, those you knew who have gone on before us. Think of those people who did live a life of love. Are they not saints? They are saints as surely as any saint on the calendar. Other people may not know them, but we do, and today we celebrate them. They lived lives of virtue and love, the life that they, and we, are called to live. As we celebrate them, know that if we live life as we have been called, one day, that celebration will be for us, saints.
Deacon John
Solemnity of All Saints
Nov. 1, 2007