Monday, November 22, 2010

Remember Me in Your Kingdom

Last Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King
21 November 2010, Chapel at Patience Hill, Tobago
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43

          What is the nature of the kingship of Jesus? How does saying that the Messiah, that the Christ, that God’s Anointed, His Chosen One is Universal King change or color things for us? What difference does it make in our lives if we proclaim Jesus as ruling over all? What is in it for us, you might ask?
This year’s Gospel passage taken from St. Luke has the leaders of the people and the soldiers jeering at Jesus, mocking Him as He hung upon the Cross: “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” One of the two men crucified with Him does the same, but the other whom our tradition refers to as the Good Thief says, “…Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
          For us who don’t generally have much to do with kings or queens, we tend to look first and foremost upon the hereditary part of the thing (nobility by birth and your placement as a prince or princess in the line of succession to the throne), whereas a big part of the Scriptural message for today has to do with the people choosing their king, subjecting themselves to him, accepting him as their leader. After the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan, Saul’s heir apparent to the throne, David’s own relatives made him their king in Hebron; he was made king over his own tribe, over Judah. The passage from 2nd Samuel (today’s 1st Reading) recounts how the other tribes of Israel then came down to him in Hebron and made a pact with him and anointed, singled out, chose David as the king of Israel. That’s the choosing part: the people designate their king.
          The other part, about Jesus’ royal pedigree, is there too. It is spelled out in our 2nd Reading from St. Paul to the Colossians. “Now the Church is his body, he is its head. As he is the Beginning, he was first to be born from the dead, so that he should be first in every way; because God wanted all perfection to be found in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross.” Jesus, as God’s only Son, is given the kingship over everything by God, His Father.
          What is the nature of the kingship of Jesus? It is summed up in His rule over us and for our benefit, for our salvation. King is who He is as the Christ of God, God’s Chosen One, the image of the God we cannot see; in Him and under His Kingship we inherit the light; we are taken out of the power of darkness; we find love, freedom, dignity and joy. And for some folk to say that is just to string together words isn’t it?
           Is Jesus our King really good news for us and does He speak to our world? Does Jesus in some way come up new and important for our day as He should, as the answer to all our prayers for relief and release from the chains which bind us? Is He our refuge and our strength? Can we convincingly present Him as such to family and friends, to all who cross our path?
          Not long ago, an older woman, a friend of mine over in Trinidad, told me about a conversation she had had at the market with a young lady she hadn’t seen at Mass in a long time. She asked the young woman if she had been off island or in the hospital and this lady responded by saying that she had changed churches and found a community of prayer and praise around the corner from her home which she liked better than her Catholic parish church. She liked the music, she liked the friendly atmosphere, she liked the fact that if she missed a Sunday people from the congregation came to check on her and see how she was. After telling me this my friend kind of just looked my way and waited for my reaction; she told me she had told the young lady that there is more to faith than that, but saw no reason to insist with her or to take her on.
The word is that in the rural areas of Trinidad and Tobago of today we can count fewer and fewer Catholics. Where are people going, what are people looking for and why are they going elsewhere? Is one prayer meeting or group on a Sunday as good as another for declaring our choice of Jesus as King over us? Why does the Church bind us under pain of mortal sin to assist at Holy Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, if we are able? Why does the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass take precedence over any other religious ceremony on Sunday? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “2181 The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice.” “2182 Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church.” Simply put, the Church teaches that nothing can come close to substituting for Sunday Mass.
The Catechism quotes the Second Vatican Council to explain the importance of the Sacrament of the Altar:
“1323 At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”
King David waited in Hebron after the death of King Saul for Israel to come to him and designate him king. Once supported by all of Israel David went up with his army and took Jerusalem and made it his capital, it was there that he set up the Meeting Tent with the Ark of the Covenant inside, the symbol of God’s favor, of His willingness to live among His people.
Jesus went up to Jerusalem, too, not with an army but meek and riding on a donkey. That was Palm Sunday, when the people of Jerusalem and those who had come to town for Passover hailed Him blessed and coming in the name of the Lord. By Friday of that same week they were mocking and jeering the Holy One Whom they had nailed to the tree of the Cross. In John’s Gospel Jesus prophesied that once lifted up He would draw all to Himself. Jesus dictated that the choice of Him as King would be made in choosing the One pierce through for our deliverance and hanging on a tree. Sunday Mass, Sunday Eucharist is our time to stand at the foot of the Cross with Mary His Mother, St. John and those few who did not run away and choose the Crucified One as our King.
Be encouraged in the practice of your Catholic faith; be encouraged to make the sacrifices necessary to assist at Holy Mass, to really stand at the foot of the Cross every Sunday you possibly can. Choose the Crucified One as King and Lord of your life. Be thoughtful and theological in your outlook; don’t kid yourself in thinking that music and emotion will call down the heavens upon you. It is the Lord Himself, God Almighty in the Person of Jesus Christ, who invites us to choose Him above all else, to place ourselves under the banner of the Universal King, Whose throne is Calvary and Whose crown was woven from the thorns of rejection, neither of which kept Him from breaking the bonds of hell, setting the captives free, winning once and for all the victory over sin and death in the glory of His Life, Death and Resurrection.
Let us choose Jesus as our King and no one else. Let us place ourselves in a position to be able to repeat with the Good Thief: “…Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

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