Nov 21, 2020

No Slave to Any Earthly King

 


Since last December, Sunday after Sunday we have been retracing Christ’s life, death and resurrection in a way that has allowed us to journey together, step by step through the historical events of our salvation. It all comes together this Sunday, culminating in our acknowledgment of Christ as King of heaven and earth. 

His title is not honorary. He does not sit passively on a throne looking down on His subjects. Nor do we stand, sit or kneel in His presence as mere attendants. As He has participated in all our battles and struggles, all our achievements and successes, whether we realize it or not, Christ constantly invites us to participate in all of His. By doing so, we have His assurance that our individual lives have eternal value and meaning - that we too are destined for glory. 

It may not seem like that on a given day. Our lives can sometimes become absorbed with responding to the needs and the demands of others, too ordered and scheduled even to the point of exhaustion. Christ’s life was no different. But He would often tell us to come away with Him to a quiet place, alone with Him and away from the crowds. 


Likewise our lives can sometimes be too isolated, quiet and even uneventful.  Christ’s life was no different. But He would often tell us to actively join Him on the road, responding with strength and patience to the needs of friends, the stranger and the passerby. 


(For those in the military, think of it this way. Christ began as a private and through his years of service became a Chief Warrant Officer. By his death and resurrection from the grave He becomes our general. In his ascension into heaven to seat at the right hand of the Father, He is our commander and chief. He is the humble Shepherd who becomes the King, never losing that common touch and the smell of the sheep about him. I say sheep, not goats. The sheep lend themselves to his voice and commands. Goats are too hard headed, and will chew up anything in their path.)


Our lives can never just be one way or another if we live with Christ. Yes, He is the King in all His Glory, but also the Shepherd in all His gentleness. He is the Lion in all His strength, but also the Lamb in all His tenderness. His Kingdom is not defined by territory. It is defined by the reach of His embrace. He rules, not by might, but by example. 

And if we are to follow Him and bear the name Christian, then we can not pick and choose which “portrait of Christ” we like better - for fear we might only recognize Him on our own terms of engagement. Instead, our King of glory comes to us disguised. He hides the reality of His Eternal Presence to us behind a resemblance of humble bread as we reverently approach Him through the doorway of the Mass. He waits for us to join Him in quiet company, alone in our thoughts when all is still. And He tests the availability of our daily presence to Him through our response to the challenges of the day, with friends and strangers through whose eyes He gazes upon us as each day unfolds.


Regardless of the challenges we all face everyday, don’t get locked in to just one way of seeing Christ. Never be afraid of allowing Him to be both a king and a servant to you, the one who challenges as well as comforts, a friend and a stranger, a father to you as well as a brother. May you also take on these qualities, not to sometime arrive at the best version of yourself. Instead, to rejoice that from that very first unique moment of your conception you have been and are made in the image and likeness of God and destined to reign with Him over all creation. Wow! To be a King hidden in the crowd. To be a man hidden in glory.


Solemnity of Christ the King 2020 



Nov 15, 2020

The Weight of Glory

 


The Gospel passage for this Sunday weekend recalls the famous Parable of the Talents, as told by the Evangelist, Matthew (25: 14-30). The “talent” mentioned in the story was actually a unit of valuable Roman currency. If you owned one, you would be very well off. If you had a few, you were set for life.


When we first hear this story, we naturally assume it has to do with money. This is understandable, because, as we live now, our finances or lack of them, are very much part of our lives, our stability and security. Unlike most of those who heard this parable for the first time when Christ told it, most of us have come to depend more and more on our own personal financial resources, rather than the support of our extended family. I would often (half-jokingly) suggest to newlyweds that they be open to having many children, if only for the reason that they are a good investment in the future. If ever social security, retirement benefits or pension plans go south, our children should be always ready to step in. 

Of course the parable, as Christ preached it, is most definitely not about money. It has much more to do with weight. The heavier the Roman talent, the greater it’s worth. What comes to mind is the expression we might use describing someone as “worth their height in gold”. 


Back to Christ’s parable of the talent. Each one of us has been carefully molded and shaped by God, unique in our individuality, our particular gifts and talents. Regardless if you are spiritually (even physically) a featherweight, lightweight, middle or heavyweight, each one of us belongs to a particular class at certain times. God entrusts to each of us particular weights of gold. He knows what we can handle, what we can lift, what we can do with the talents He gives us. He gives us all the necessary opportunities and strength to master our talents, to invest in them so that when we stand before Him on that final day, both God and I will delight together in the great gains we have made. 

But this is not some sort of selfish investment in our own potential and abilities. The weight of glory does not belong to us.  It belongs to God. Our talents never really belonged to us from the beginning. God invested them in us to see them bear fruit. 

It is therefore a tragedy when, as Christ notes in His parable, someone buries their talent, hides it from everyone, sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of jealousy or even because we don’t know what to do with it. That is why we need good friends, good mentors, teachers and pastors to help us rediscover the hidden strength that lies within and untapped. 


God shared with the Blessed virgin His own weight of glory- His Son. She did not keep Him for herself or hide Him from the world, but instead courageously, with faith and love, offered Him to the whole world. Our Heavenly Father as likewise shared His Son with us, through the sacraments. We dare not keep Him buried in our thoughts and empty gestures, but with gratitude and thanksgiving, allow Him to work through us unleashing His power to save through the gifts that are at work through us. 

Nov 7, 2020

Energy Reserve

 

The first public prayer made on the people’s behalf at this Sunday’s Mass asks God to keep us safe - not just spiritually, but also mentally and physically. Only then can we freely pursue what really matters to God, not in the short term, but also in the long term. That is why, we must ask God to help us discern each step we take from here.


Almighty and merciful God,

graciously keep from us all adversity,

so that, unhindered in mind and body alike,

we may pursue in freedom of heart

the things that are yours.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, (one) God, for ever and ever.


Entering into the short days and the longer nights of darkness fast approaching, we are reminded that even in the dead of night, Christ will enter and reach out His hand to us to grasp our hand, even from the sleep of death itself.  (1 Thess 4:13ff) 


That is why Christ in the Gospel (Matthew 25:1-13) echoing the advice from the Book of Wisdom, reminds us of the importance of always being prepared, being prudent not to exhaust the light of our faith, but instead to think ahead, not burn up all the oil in our lamps too quickly. We may need to keep some in reserve for future days when we truly will need it. Our light should always be a pleasing sight, always ready to welcome Christ. 


Nov 6, 2020

Forecasting Results


It’s climate change, but not as we know it!  By this, I’m not referring to weather patterns. Our attention has naturally been focused on the change of climate in our political, church and civil environment and how it affects us, our families and our Church community. 

Suffice to say, weaved into our national consciousness, there has often been a relentless temptation to try to accurately predict outcomes, to want to see instant results or spontaneous anger at not getting what we believe is true and justly deserved. We might willingly sacrifice four minutes of our time, even four hours. The greater challenge for some is four days, four months or even four years.


During times like this, I think of the medieval politics involved in the elections of medieval popes between candidates rival families. There was at one time even an instance of a Roman mob locking up all the cardinal electors in a room and not letting them out until they elected a pope. The Church once had three men each claiming at the same time to be the legitimate pope and Europe was politically and religiously divided for many years until it was resolved. Even as late as 1903, when a certain Cardinal Rampolla began to slowly gain all the votes necessary to be elected pope, a Polish cardinal elector announced an legal veto on behalf of the Austrian-Hungarian Emperor. Another man was elected instead, and the first peasant pope since the Middle Ages, St. Pius X. 


Of course, although times and circumstances change, human nature and all its base impulses change little. God is the God of history. The fact that He entered into our human history and knows first hand of our complexities, sinfulness and struggles should assure us that our Heavenly Father sent His Son to us in order to win - to win us the gift of salvation and eternal life in the kingdom of God. That has always been and will continue to be our prize if we remain faithful in our Christian faith and work despite the storms and ever changing climate of the landscape we find ourselves in. God works through it, even despite it. Christ will win, with or without us. 


You will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.” James 1:2-4

Nov 2, 2020

Our Faithful Departed -

 All Souls


We remember those who have died. Even now, we make them present in our minds. If we have loved them in life, they are to us not ghosts or spirits. We remember them in the context of a relationship. This occurs when we perhaps look at photographs, when we go down memory lane, when we relive in our mind events, celebrations, a conversation, even having an argument or something we can never forget. 

This is what eulogies attempt to do. Remember when…..? Sometimes we share with others a memory. Sometimes two or three may share particular experiences from different perspectives. We see our loved one with the fresh eyes of another. And there are memories that are, for us a deeply unique, secret in a way that only you can appreciate.  Sometimes our best memories are awakened when we are alone and reminiscing of days past. 

But where are they now? Are they in heaven? Do they live in our hearts? Are they simply no longer here? 

Suffice to say, those who have died, they now rest in peace. And resting in peace is something that we all do after a long day’s work. We all deserve our rest at sometime in our lives. 

Each one of us, after the sun has set and our own work is over, we too will rest from all our labors, rest from all our anxieties, our worries – rest from the work of daily life and living.

And for those who have now taken their final rest, what we call death,. Our prayer for them is that they are at peace, enjoying their rest until that great day at some unknown time, when the Son of the eternal day will dawn upon us all. And when that day comes, all who have died in Christ and lived for him will not be afraid to awaken and with sleepy eyes behold our creator and our judge.

So what is our prayer for our faithful departed, our loved ones who have died? Even though we may remember our sins, our Christian hope gives us confidence that we should never be afraid of God our Savior, not to be afraid of the judge of heaven and earth. He is the good shepherd who comes to lead his flock through the valley of darkness to the green pastures of everlasting life. Together let us follow him. 

So until that final day comes, may we and our departed family, friends and loved ones always rest in peace and hold on to that hope we have in Christ of eternal life. 

Nov 1, 2020

Victory Campaign

All Saints Final Victory


Today’s solemn feast day of All Hallows or All Saints is celebrated every year with serious attention so that we do not forget what our life as Christians is about. It is all about salvation. We exist for one reason – to be ultimately joined to God in an existence, a new family of relationships, a new world where a new heaven and a new earth exist together and forever.   


 The Christian believes in the coming of this new Kingdom of God, a renewed community of the faithful where all will be saints. All who have gone to their rest in the hope of the fulfillment of God we already call saints.  What makes a human being compatible in the company of saints is “holiness”. 


Holiness allows, not only able to approach God but to see him face to face. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.” But holiness also allows us to notice how the things of heaven are also very much alive and active in the world, especially in the sacraments of the Church. Through the Word of God and before this altar, we encounter the very person Jesus Christ to gather all his disciples around Him still, whether they be in heaven or on earth.  If we are to be numbered among them, we are called to be saints too – for where Christ is present, so too are the saints.


 Saints are those who rest in the assurance of God’s peace. They are our heavenly brothers and sisters, our extended family in the embrace of God. When we look upon a picture of them and ask them to pray for us, we long to experience that rest and peace, that enjoy and wish to extend to us, from all the anxieties of this fallen world and our, far from perfect lives.


 But the saints we revere and not refugees from earth. They are still, like us, citizens of both heaven and earth and members of the Church. While they Were with us, they sought to be faithful to God and loyal to the Church, not simply in the big events of their earthly lives. More importantly, they were as much authentic Christians when nobody was watching them or when they were alone and away from the public eye. 


 And that’s the difference between sainthood and knighthood!  The Church bestows recognition of a certain person with the honor of being called a saint, not because they were champions and heroes and did great things.  The Church recognizes a Christian as a saint because, even in the secret of their lives, beyond the glimpse of spectators, these men and women led lives of authentic prayer, sacrifice, and devotion to God. For this reason, there are more saints of God whose names we do not know and whose life’s stories have and never will be told.  To be included, one day, in their company, is all we need to pray for.


To inspire us to be authentic Christian disciples, of course, we look to Mary (CCC 2679). To be united with her in prayer, as were the first disciples of her Son, we pray that with God’s grace, one day she will take us by the hand and lead us through the gates and into the very heart of God, and in the company of all the saints, to look upon the face of Jesus Christ, her Son, and our Lord and God in the Kingdom of God.

Oct 30, 2020

Begging Your Indulgence

I’ve asked God for Pardon. Now I beg your Indulgence

(The Pathway up Mount Purgatory to the Manor House)



You are on your way to an important and once-in-a lifetime meeting with someone you have adored for years. They know everything about you and you’ve lived your whole life only imagining what this person will be like up close and personal. As you make your way up the long and winding road on foot to their manor house, you are encouraged by the signs pointing you in the right direction. 

In fact, there is only one road to your destination although there are countless little dirt tracks here and there going to God knows where. As tempting as these distractions are, you are determined to keep going straight. 


As you begin to get tired, there are little towns and villages along the way to eat and drink to regain your strength. There's also water fountains to drink from and even wash up a bit. From everyone you meet on the way, you are told and encouraged to keep to the main road and you’ll get there. 


But inevitably there is often that long stretch of the road between places where we often become conscious of our sore feet, our heavy backpack, our fading energy and a longing for something substantial in our stomachs. During those times, it’s helpful to have a little indulgence, such as a protein bar or little snack that we delightfully find in a pocket. It’s a little boost of energy and encouragement to keep on going. And that you do. 


But what about your shoes? Did I invest in the right type for the road I’m walking? But these are the only shoes I have and the soles are becoming weak and wearing out. Do I arrive at the gates of the manor house with soggy socks, blistering feet and holes in my soles? My heart may be in the right place but my mind is in anguish. I am conscious of my overall shabbiness. How can I restore my graceful appearance as I present myself to him that I long to meet?


Finally I arrive at the end of the road. I am met by the gardener (who doubles as the gatekeeper). He lives in a little house just outside the gates of the mansion. His name is Peter. He compliments me on my health and strength to make it up the long hill on foot and he congratulates me on my discipline and commitment. 


But looking at me from head to toe he says, “Have you seen yourself in a mirror? You don’t really want to go up to the manor house in wrinkled travel clothes and worn out scruffy shoes? Do you?” “Of course, I want to be presentable,” I replied, “But this is all I have”. And then it occurs to me that I have family and friends who could send me fresh clothes and new shoes. And because I was so close to opening the gates and walking up to the front door of the manor house, I could beg their indulgence to send fresh clothes and new shoes to me at this address.  Maybe, they could make a little bit of a sacrifice and get overnight shipping! It’s just a thought, a secret prayer and hope. 


I mention this to Peter. The plan seems reasonable enough. “And in the meantime, while you wait,” he says, “why don’t you stay with me in my guest room and rest up a bit. I’ll light a little fire in the guestroom so you can dry out a little?  And I’ll call the manor house and inform them that you’re here and to expect you soon.”  


The little guest room was small and drafty. The mattress was as hard as nails, and the fireplace gave out more smoke than heat. It was more a penance than a blessing but I was grateful. 


Inside my little room I was comforted by the fact that from one window I could see the manor house up ahead where I knew they were expecting me and from another window, a view of the road from where I was waiting for my delivery of fresh clothes and new shoes.  This brought me a sense of great hope which allowed me, in my little travelers’ lodge, at least a chance to rest in peace until the morning of when a new day began and I could then finally open the gate and walk up the pathway to the manor house. 

No Slave to Any Earthly King

  Since last December, Sunday after Sunday we have been retracing Christ’s life, death and resurrection in a way that has allowed us to jour...