Pastoral Sharings: "Feast of Christ the King"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Feast of Christ the King   
Posted for November 22, 2015

Today we conclude the Liturgical Year with our celebration of the feast of Christ the King. On this final Sunday of the year we meditate on Our Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledge that all creatures in heaven and on earth are ultimately subject to him as the Universal King.

For our Gospel text we have the interesting exchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate about his Kingship; this interaction occurs on the steps in front of Pilate’s palace on the night of his arrest. Of course, Pontius Pilate is very concerned to hear about Jesus’ claims to kingship since he was the representative of Caesar and it was his duty to uphold the authority and might of Caesar in Palestine. And it was his particular role to root out anyone who claimed to rival Caesar.

It immediately becomes clear that they are talking on completely different levels; Pilate seeming to be concerned only with earthly authority while Christ is speaking about his universal spiritual authority. One focussing on the human, the other on the divine.

Surprisingly perhaps, Pontius Pilate does not regard Jesus as any kind of real threat to Caesar. Maybe this was because Jesus does not arrive with soldiers and weapons but simply as himself together with his known abilities as a healer and miracle worker.

Pilate seems to regard the arrest of Jesus as merely the outcome of a religious squabble among the Jews and therefore as something beneath his attention. But he does not want the blood of Jesus on his hands and offers to release him. This shows that Pilate does not understand the Jewish authorities nor the nature of the threat that Jesus presents to them.

We are here dealing with St John’s account of these events but in St Matthew’s Gospel we read how Pilate had been given a warning by his wife to have nothing to do with harming Jesus because she had a disturbing dream about him.

In the text before us Jesus speaks about truth. He says that he came into the world to bear witness to the truth and that all who are on the side of truth listen to his voice. Unfortunately we miss the next line which has Pilate’s reply, “What is truth?”

Clearly Pontius Pilate does not have much time for truth. He is a politician and as such he is used to the venality of man and the tricks and half-truths used by the various factions of the political elite. What he is interested in is authority and governance. He is a ruler and wants nothing to disturb the established order and his position as the effective governor of Palestine.

Christ on the other hand is focussed on the really important things in life, namely the virtues. Material possessions and the exercise of power do not interest him; in fact he knows very well that these things go completely against that which is truly fulfilling in life.

His message to us is that it is only truth, justice, unity, fidelity and similar virtues which bring true happiness and fulfilment in life. He wants us to understand that we are living in a passing world and that our eyes ought to be set on the Kingdom where these values come into their own.

Pursuing the acquisition of wealth and power can never be truly satisfying. Things like celebrity and purely human fame are in the long run completely worthless. Ultimately the things that the world admires are empty and unfulfilling.

What lasts are the eternal values and in the end all these come down to one thing: love. It is the person that loves others with their whole heart who finds the most fulfilment in life. It is those who love God with all their hearts who find real peace in this world and the next.

Pilate says, “What is truth?” For him this is a dismissal of something that he regards as quite unimportant and ultimately worthless. As a politician and as a man of the world living in Roman times he has obviously seen men give their lives for their principles but apparently he felt that in the end they were giving their lives in vain.

To Pilate principles were clearly something expendable. He does not value love of country or family or party very greatly. Pilate lives his life entirely in the present moment and the things that he values are only those things which will bring him advantage or personal gain. He is not a bad man but his values are distorted and he has no eye for eternity. He thinks in the short term.

Pilate’s question though is of vital importance for anyone who believes that God is in charge and for anyone who believes in an afterlife. It is of vital importance because God clearly regards truth as something absolutely critical.

Truth like many other concepts that fall into the religious field is perhaps best defined by looking at its opposite, in this case falsehood. That which is false cannot be trusted, it is tricky and unreliable. And ultimately falsehood is not something on which anyone can base their lives.

Truth, however, is what corresponds with the facts and is a faithful reflection of reality. Truth is therefore utterly reliable and dependable and what is more it corresponds to the nature of God himself.

This is the key. If we are to describe God then we use words like true, good, trustworthy, faithful, one, eternal and so on. Consequently if we want to become like God then we need to adopt these values and make them an essential part of our lives.

We need to become persons who are truthful, good, faithful, just and all those other attributes which we ascribe to God. If we adopt these as our priorities in life we will be filled with integrity and be considered as persons worth looking up to and following. We will be living then a life that is truly worthwhile and fulfilling, a life that is greatly satisfying; a life, in other words, that is in complete conformity with the will of God.

It will be by living such a life that will get us to heaven, for to live any other kind of life will mean that our horizons are based only on the things of this world and not the things of the next world.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
November 22, 2015

The Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe: The Testifier to the Truth

A few years ago, I attended the YMCA Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Clearwater and was electrified by the speech given by the Keynote Speaker, Retired Lt. General Gary H. Mears.  General Mears spoke the need to restore truth to our society.  He began by mentioning that a sign was found in the Nazi soldiers’ quarters in Auschwitz that said something to the effect, “All who arrive here are to be deceived.”


Feast of Christ the King

John 18: 33b–37

Gospel Summary

The choice of this text from John’s gospel could not be more appropriate for the feast of Christ the King. It is taken from the Passion Narrative and is part of the exchange between Pilate and Jesus during his trial before the Roman Procurator. This trial scene is particularly important for John, and he devotes no less than twenty-nine verses to it. In fact, this scene reveals John’s concept of the central issue in the life and ministry of Jesus.

When Pilate and Jesus discuss the question of kingship, it is clear that Pilate has in mind political and military power. He also knows that he, as a representative of the mighty Roman Empire, possesses this kind of power in fullest measure. He lives in a palace and has access to the finest military forces of those days. By contrast, Jesus stands before him as a shackled and helpless prisoner. The contrast could not be more obvious.


The Solemnity of Christ the King, Year B—November 22, 2015

Today, we celebrate the truth that, even now, Christ reigns as King over all the earth.  But what kind of kingdom is it?

Gospel (Read Jn 18:33b-37)

On this final Sunday of our liturgical year, the Church gives us St. John’s account of Jesus before Pilate to help us understand the kingdom He came to establish.  It’s a lesson we desperately need.  If we have a false notion of the reign of Christ as King of the universe, we can be subject to disillusionment and disappointment as we await its final manifestation at the Second Coming.  See that Pilate is very curious about Jesus and His kingdom:  “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus wonders where he got this idea.  Had Pilate seen evidence that Jesus was traveling around Judea trying to set up a throne for Himself?  Or had someone else suggested to him that Jesus was a rival to Caesar?  Pilate answers right away:  “Your own nation and the chief priests handed You over to me.  What have You done?”  Pilate is working entirely on the claims of the Jews.  None of his Roman military officers was suggesting anything like this.


Life and Light in the Word

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). By saying that there is life in plants, we mean that they grow and send forth leaves, buds, and fruit. How crude is this life, and how dead. We say that animals live because they see, taste, and go here and there as they are moved by their senses. How mute is this life. We also say that life is to understand, to know, to know oneself, to know God and to desire him, to love him, and to wish to be happy in him. This is the true life. Yet what is its source? Who is it that knows himself, loves himself, and enjoys himself, unless it is the Word? In him, therefore, is life.


Trusting in God: Praying Like Pope Francis

I will never forget the day that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected Pope: March 13, 2013. I was sitting in front of the TV just waiting like so many other Catholics around the world. I had watched all of the news broadcasts and read articles with speculations about who would be the next Pope. When the announcement was made, I admit, I had never heard of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. But then, neither had so many others. Yet, we would all soon learn why he was elected.


Jesus Waits: God’s Presence In The Blessed Sacrament

Sometimes, God makes His Presence known in obvious, can’t-miss-it ways: a colorful sky, a baby’s giggle, a beautiful song, a spectacular range of snow-capped mountains, an unexpected hug from a friend when we were feeling low, or an inspired insight while reading some Scripture. In such cases, we might spontaneously break into a prayer of gratitude that God grabbed our attention and reminded us He is still around.

Other times, though the resulting prayer of praise might be the same, God asks us to make the first move, to seek an awareness of a different brand of His Presence.

I frequently remind myself to go to such destinations, to truly holy ground. For instance …


Pope: Jesus Will Ask Us, ‘Did You Use Your Life for Yourself or to Serve?’

VATICAN CITY — On Sunday, Pope Francis paid a visit to Rome’s Lutheran community, where he took questions and told attendees that what we will ultimately be judged on is how we cared for the poor and less fortunate.

“What will the Lord ask us on that day? Did you go to Mass? Have you prepared a good catechesis?” the Pope said Nov. 15.

While these things are important, the deeper questions will be “on the poor, because poverty is the center of the Gospel. He, being rich, was made poor in order to enrich us with his poverty.”


Our Lady’s Presence during the Holy Mass

J.M.J. If you attend Mass on Sunday and abstain from unnecessary servile work, you fulfill your “Sunday obligation.” In that case, you do as required by the Church’s precept that states that a Catholic must attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and avoid unnecessary servile work.

However, when it comes to Holy Mass we are encouraged to do more than merely to attend. We are invited to “participate” fully, actively and consciously as the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council stated in its December 4, 1963 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, also known as Sacrosanctum Concilium (see 14). 


A Catholic Primer on Jubilees for the Upcoming Year of Mercy

Pope Francis has announced an “extraordinary” Jubilee which begins on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and which will be more commonly known as the Year of Mercy. During this special year, the Church will open its treasury to dispense Mercy, in the form of special devotions, pilgrimages, the opening of “holy doors”, and indulgences intended to bring us all closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.

But, what exactly is a “Jubilee” and what are its origins?


How the Rosary Changed My Life

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “The Rosary is the best therapy for these distraught, unhappy, fearful, and frustrated souls, precisely because it involves the simultaneous use of three powers: the physical, the vocal, and the spiritual…”

Archbishop Sheen was absolutely right, because my devotion to the Rosary began as therapy. At age 27, I look back at the many hours I spent praying the Rosary because of my brokenness. However, this is how God reeled me into something that would change my life forever.


How to Start Your Day in Holiness

We learn so much from our parents, good habits and bad.  Maybe that’s why I’ve always been conflicted about waking up in the morning.  On the one hand, my father has always risen before the sun; he’s the earliest riser in the family.  On the other hand, my mother, well, that’s a different story.  Although she gets up early for work, the truth is that on the weekends she has the ability to sleep until…let’s just say she can sleep pretty late.  Honestly, I think I inherited my mom’s sleeping gene.  I’ve always loved sleep, and getting out of bed has tended to be an effort for me; yet, I have continually made an effort to get up early.  Therein lay the conflict.


What Is the Sign of the Cross?

The Sign of the Cross is a Christian ceremony that represents the Passion of our Lord by tracing the shape of the Cross with a simple motion.

It is a ceremony, I say, and here is what is meant by that term. A skillful manager assigns to each of his subordinates his proper task, making all of them useful, not only those who are vigorous and energetic, but also those who are less so. Similarly, the virtue of religion, hav­ing for its proper and natural work to render to God the honor that is His due, draws up each of our virtuous ac­tions into its own work by directing them all to the honor of God.


Reverence and Respect

I’ve been reading Romano Guardini’s wonderful little book Learning the Virtues that Lead You to God with some of my students. I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is boundless wisdom to be found on every page. Allow me to mention just one example concerning the virtue of “reverence.”

Reverence, says Fr. Guardini, is “a surmise of greatness and holiness and a desire to participate in it, combined with the apprehension of being unworthy of it.” In reverence, “man refrains from doing what he usually likes to do, which is to take possession of and use something for his own purposes. Instead he steps back and keeps his distance. This creates a spiritual space in which that which deserves reverence can stand erect, detached, and free, in all its splendor.”


The 2nd Corporal Work of Mercy: “To Give Drink to the Thirsty”

The second corporal work of mercy might seem redundant, but is in fact a separate work of mercy. “To give drink to the thirsty” is similar to the action of “feeding the hungry,” but addresses a different need of the body and is not easily accomplished. There are many parts of the world, even in our own country, where fresh drinking water is scarce or impossible to find.

To highlight this need, let’s look at the crisis that is facing those in different parts of Africa:


The Hope of Mercy: Be Not Afraid

At the beginning of his papacy the late John Paul II said these words: Be not afraid. He later said he could not anticipate what the Holy Spirit was saying in that moment, and what a profound message it would turn out to be for our times. The pope told a world in uncertain times to have no fear: “Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God… The power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear.” At the summons of a new Pope, Francis, we stand now at the threshold of the Jubilee of Mercy, and we are in uncertain times still. The heart of the world has been broken, it seems. Many are afraid. But the answer is still a poignant one, driving us into an uncertain future on the merits of a certain past: That the risen Lord of yesterday is the same risen Lord of tomorrow, and he comes to us on pinions of Mercy.


Our Lady of Fatima and the Reality of Hell

In the apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima, there are 2 striking aspects. These aspects are the miracle of the sun and the famous three-part secret. Recently, I had cause to think about one of the parts of the secret, namely the vision of hell. There are some intriguing questions about Fátima and hell in relation to some contemporary theological views that deserve some treatment.

To begin treating these questions, it is first necessary to state the contents of the three-part secret of Fátima.


In Purgatory and on Earth, Mourning Has Power to Free Soul

COMMENTARY: It is our duty to pray for ourselves and for those who are asleep in Christ, so that, together, one day we might all share in his glory.

Some years ago, I was counseling a middle-aged woman I’ll call Jane, who suffered from low self-esteem and constant insecurity. Her anxiety led to stress-related illnesses. It was as if she lived in a state of fear, worry and dread.


Learning to Be Scrappy in the Spiritual Life

My father was the first son of a single mom who had next to nothing. He never graduated from college, but with hard work and tough lessons, he was able to retire well by the age of 45.

I learned a lot from him growing up. One principle that he worked hard to teach me was to be “scrappy.” He taught me to be scrappy in life and this scrappiness has also translated well to developing a healthy prayer life.

I am by no means perfect in the virtues associated with being scrappy, but I have found that to the degree that I rely upon God and pursue the principles my father taught me, I have been able to make progress.

What does a scrappy person look like? Here are a few characteristics translated into spiritual terms:


The Essential Nature of Marriage

In His infinite love and goodness, God created man and woman in freedom to know, love and serve Him in this life and to spend all eternity with Him in the life to come. This call to holiness is our vocation and dignity.

“Man is by nature and vocation a religious being. Coming from God, going toward God, man lives a fully human life only if he freely lives by his bond with God.” (CCC ¶ 44)

We are incorporated into this life by Baptism. How we are to live out this call to holiness is what we refer to as our vocation. From the moment of our baptism, we are to prayerfully discern the vocation to which God calls us:


Saints and Scoundrels: Preambles of Faith

I was a graduate student in English literature during the flakey 1970s. I had recently returned to Catholicism and found my faith under daily attack by professors who took great relish in debunking the Church.

I spent a lot of mental time trying to answer those criticisms for my own sake. Once, when talking with a Jesuit priest (a safe haven, I thought) I said something about the “rational basis of Catholicism.” He responded that there was nothing rational about faith at all.

In fairness to him, I think he meant God’s love for us is so great and undeserved that it makes our human rationalizing look absurd, 0r something like that.


Don’t Apologize for Apologetics

If you want to engage others in the faith, know your material and never, ever argue

Some Catholics get apoplectic about apologetics. They argue with atheists and pick fights with Protestants. They not only need to win, they want to bash the enemy. Valiant warriors for Catholic truth, they shout down the unbelievers and shoot Bible verses back and forth like gunslingers in a shootout. As veteran apologist Patrick Madrid has observed, “They end up winning an argument but losing a soul.”

“Apologetics” is the attempt as St. Peter advised, “to be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have within you” (1 Peter 3:15). To give that answer, one must first gather the information and study hard to understand and master the content. Secondly, one has to identify the person asking the questions.…more

Bookends: How the First and Last Books of the Bible Fit Together

Today’s post shows some contrasts and fulfillments between the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and the last book, Revelation. There is a kind of “bookend” quality to those books wherein things are announced or initiated in Genesis and then fulfilled or finished in Revelation.

Consider the following two lists. I pray that you will appreciate the parallels and paradoxes presented in them, especially during the months of November and December, when we consider the four last things and the culmination of history in Christ Jesus.


7 Epic Things About Being a Practicing Catholic

1. Heaven on Earth

The Catholic lifestyle revolves around the source and summit of the faith: The Holy Eucharist. With spiritual authority tracing directly back to the twelve apostles, any legitimately ordained Catholic priest has the authority (and privilege) to turn unleavened bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ Himself. Not a symbol, but a sacrament. God being mystically present in every tabernacle throughout the world, the Catholic Church literally is Heaven on Earth.


After Nearly 500 Years, Our Lady of Guadalupe Reveals Her Secrets Again

LOS ANGELES — The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is centuries old, and her message to St. Juan Diego has been translated into numerous languages over the years. Countless books have been written about the apparition, and the tilma and its image have been intensely scrutinized by scientists.

So what more can Catholics learn about Our Lady of Guadalupe and her message?


Can The Church Condone, Permit or Legitimize Sin?

The Answer: No.

In 1995, in an article entitled “Morality and Christian Morality”, Father Joseph de Torre made the point that the Church cannot change morality, the natural law, or the content of revelation. Father de Torre’s general conclusion is this:

“Christ never condones or ‘permits’ sin.  What he does is always to forgive the sins of those who are repentant. The Church founded by Christ follows the same line: she cannot condone, permit or “legalize” sins; through her ordained ministers, however, she can always forgive sins confessed in the sacrament of penance with true repentance.”


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