Solemnity of Christ the King, Cycle C (2)

Today we celebrate the last Sunday in Ordinary time by celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King, and the readings remind us that no other king has or will reign over what Our Lord does, nor will any king reign in the same way.

In today’s First Reading the tribes of Israel come to David and acknowledge them as their king. In today’s solemnity believers in Heaven and on earth acknowledge Our Lord and Redeemer as the King of not just an earthly kingdom, but of all creation, a reign that will only fully be revealed at the end of time. Today’s First Reading commemorates when David became king of all of Israel, not just the southern part and southern tribes. A few verses later in chapter 5 it says, “At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years” (2 Samuel 5:5). The way David reigned, and the extent of his reign progressed, is a foreshadowing of the reign of Our Lord that we celebrate today. Our Lord reigned over the disciples who welcomed him during his earthly ministry, but his reign soon extended not just to the disciples who believed into him, but to everyone, as St. Paul teaches in today’s Second Reading.

Today’s Second Reading reminds us that we’ve already become a part of the kingdom of Christ, rescued through baptism from the reign of sin and death that oppresses and dominates a fallen world. All of creation was made with the Son in mind, and all of creation becomes his throne from which he conquers sin and death in order to present the kingdom to Our Heavenly Father at the end of time. His reign is a reign that liberates from sin and death, gradually conquering all enemies, the last of which will be death. Therefore today, the last Sunday this year in Ordinary time, we remember Our Lord reigning from his cross, but especially the day when he will return in glory and his reign will be total and complete.

The good thief crucified alongside Our Lord in today’s Gospel thought he would only be remembered in the kingdom to come, and Our Lord promised him paradise. The Lord’s detractors were mocking his claims of royalty (of being the Messiah), since his situation and his apparent inability to extricate himself from it disproved it in their minds. When Pilate placed the inscription “King of the Jews” above the Lord’s head the Pharisees balked, but it doesn’t seem that Pilate was mocking Our Lord: he saw some royal nobility and dignity in the man whose kingdom “was not of this world” (cf. John 18:36-38), but that didn’t lead him to justice in Jesus’ regard, just political expediency. The mocking thief wanted to ride the coat tails of the injustice being inflicted on Our Lord. If the Lord was really who he claimed to be, he would not only free himself from this injustice, but free the criminals too. The good thief knew it didn’t work that way. Unlike the Pharisees or the mocking thief, he didn’t put the royal dignity of Our Lord on trial, demanding proof. He humbly submitted himself to it. It is only with the eyes of faith that you can see that Our Lord is reigning on the Cross, not just hanging on it. Which of the spectators recalled in today’s Gospel do you identify with?

The Lord gradually conquers sin and death throughout history, and he wants to do it in our personal history too. Next Sunday we start a new liturgical year, this can be the year Christ the King helps you throw off the shackles of sin in your life, big or small. Spend this last week in Ordinary Time asking your King to show you the chains and help you break them. We were born into sin and death, Original Sin, and rescued through Baptism, but we can return to slavery if we don’t turn to Our Lord repentant and ask to be remembered in his kingdom. Let’s ask him to reign in our lives, today and forever.

Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1–3; Psalm 122:1–5; Colossians 1:12–20; Luke 23:35–43. See also Solemnity of Christ the King, Cycle C, Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Cycle B and Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.

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Solemnity of Christ the King, Cycle B

Today we celebrate the last Sunday in Ordinary time by celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King. The liturgical year symbolizes the history of salvation, and the Solemnity of Christ the King celebrates when, at the end of time, salvation history comes to its fulfillment. We conclude the liturgical year this week by remembering the end of salvation history, when, as John tells us in the Second Reading, Christ will come amid the clouds, and all eyes will see him. It is a moment to celebrate that Jesus is the Lord of Life and History.

As today’s First Reading reminds us, Jesus is not just Our Lord. He is the Lord. Daniel reminds us that Jesus, after completing his mission on earth, appeared before Our Heavenly Father and “received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. his dominion is an everlasting dominion.” When Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin, and the High Priest asked him if he was the Christ, Jesus responded with the very words we have considered in today’s First Reading (cf. Matthew 26:63-64). In exchange for declaring his kingship, he was beaten, tortured, and nailed to his throne, the Cross. The horrors he voluntarily underwent didn’t change the fact that he was and is the Lord of Life and History. He reigned, even from the Cross.

Today’s Second Reading speaks of that day when Our Lord returns and everyone, good and bad, will see him: the Last Judgment at the end of history. After Jesus’ resurrection, before he ascended to his Heavenly Father, he only appeared to those who had believed in him. In the eyes of the world, he had suffered, died, and disappeared. John reminds today that the day will come when Jesus returns. All will see him, including those who pierced him. Everyone will see him at the end of salvation history, good and bad. If Jesus is the Lord of Life and History, what will happen to those who persist in their rebellion, who do not let him reign in their hearts? It is a call for all of us to pray and sacrifice for those far from God.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world, and that he had come to the world to testify to the truth. The who belong to the truth hear his voice. Those who belong to the truth let Christ reign in their hearts, even Christ crucified, because he is truly King. This is why we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come!” whenever we recite the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus received his Kingship by suffering and dying on the cross, and for fulfilling his mission, his Father invested him with eternal life and authority over all. We see the glory of his kingship in the Resurrection, and we know that the reign of eternal life and love will come for each of us, if we listen to Jesus’ voice and welcome his truth into our hearts.

It’s enough to look at a Crucifix to know that the Lord will keep his promises. In today’s Second Reading John tells us that Christ has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us into a kingdom. His blood freed us from the true rebellion—sin—and made us members of an everlasting kingdom. Christ’s kingdom has not yet completely come, but he has already won the war. The difficulties we face in life are the last battles of a conquest Our Lord has already made, and now Christ continues, soul by soul, to battle for each soul until the end of time. In turn let’s battle not only for our own salvation, but for all those souls out there who need help to hear the Lord’s voice and to let him reign in their hearts.

Readings: Daniel 7:13–14; Psalm 93:1–2, 5; Revelation 1:5–8; John 18:33b–37. See also Solemnity of Christ the King.

Solemnity of Christ the King, Cycle A

Today’s Sunday is also ominously referred to as the last Sunday in Ordinary time, and not just because next Sunday a new liturgical year begins with Advent. Today’s Sunday reminds us that one day will be the last day of history: the day when Christ, Our King, returns in glory so that, as the Second Reading today phrases it, “God may be all in all,” and he reigns forever.

In today’s First Reading Ezekiel has just criticized the kings of Israel for not being good “shepherds” to Israel, their flock (see Ezekiel 34:1–10) and tells Israel that the Lord himself will shepherd them. This shepherd will rescue the sheep no matter how much they’ve strayed or been scattered. When he is among them he will tend them as a shepherd should. He will make sure they have the pasture and rest that they need, and will keep them together and take care of the sick and injured.

The Lord, however, also warns that the “sleek and strong” sheep will be destroyed, and that it is the right thing to do. The implication shifts back to the Lord being a good and just king who punishes the bad kings of his people. Those bad kings grew strong at the expense of their flocks and lost sight that they too were sheep of the Shepherd. Anything of danger to the flock gets ended. The Lord also has a word for the flock: they too will be judged. The Good Shepherd, Our King, does all this for us.

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul outlines the process that began with Christ’s Resurrection from the dead and continues until the end of time when “God may be all in all.” Christ’s Resurrection was just the beginning. As the “firstfruits” the resurrections are just starting. Adam’s Fall condemned us all to death; Christ’s resurrection brings life back to us again. This won’t happen until he returns in glory. His Resurrection is a testimony that it will happen to those who believe in him as well.

At the Last Judgment everyone will be raised from the dead, good and evil, and judged by Our Lord in the sight of all. The powers he destroys, including death itself, are all the evils in creation that afflicted us. We will never have to fear them again, because they’ll be definitively overthrown by Christ. Then, with his Kingdom secure and established, Christ will offer it to the Heavenly Father who gave it to him in the first place, and the Heavenly Father’s desire to have those who believe in him gathered around his Son to be with him forever will be fulfilled.

In today’s Gospel we hear, in Our Lord’s words, what the Last Judgment will be like: at the end of time everyone, living or dead, will stand before the Judge and be evaluated on their charity. The Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” receives an added incentive: what you do unto others you are also doing to the Lord himself.

Love for neighbor is not just the ethical and loving thing to do; it is a way to love God himself. We’ll be judged on love for both. Sometimes Our Lord hides really well in those we’re trying to love. Many saints throughout history have persevered in loving nasty, smelly, offensive, ungrateful people because they know they are loving Our Lord and showing those people how much God loves them. We may not feel loving or feel the love, but we continue to try based on a deeper spiritual conviction that it is the right thing to do and a way of loving Our Lord. When we live this deep spiritual conviction, driven by charity, the difference between those who don’t and us is like the difference between a nasty cranky goat and a humble simple sheep: night and day.

With every Our Father we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come!”, and Our Lord, at the start of his public ministry, said the “Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The Kingdom began with Christ preaching it and grows even today. It’s not just something that will come at the end of time. Charity and justice are the way we can help Christ’s Kingdom to spread. His Kingdom is a conquest of hearts, starting with ours. We should go out and through our justice and charity help him conquer the hearts of the whole world.

Readings: Ezekiel 34:11–12, 15–17; Psalm 23:1–6; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26, 28; Matthew 25:31–46.

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34th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

We can fall at times into the trap of thinking that there are never fairy tale endings or living “happily ever after,” but in today’s First Reading John paints that happy ending and at the end of his Revelation says, repeating what he was told, “These words are trustworthy and true.” There will come a day when there’ll be no more night, no more want, no more evil, no more mysteries. Forever.

The light of God in today’s First Reading is not just physical illumination; it is full “disclosure.” The mysteries of God will be revealed, and we will see him as he is. In that knowledge we’ll see ourselves as we truly are: children loved by Our Heavenly Father forever, cherished, safe, and secure.

That day may be at the end of history, but we shouldn’t relegate it to that moment. The thought of it should bring a little warmth and light to us even in today’s world still struggling against sin. Let’s ask Our Lord to let just a ray of that future light shine on us today to encourage us and help us continue to strive for living happily ever after.

Readings: Revelation 22:1–7; Psalm 95:1–7b; Luke 21:34–36. See also 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday and 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

34th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In today’s First Reading we come to John’s vision of the Last Judgement. The thousand years in which the Devil will be imprisoned represent the time from Our Lord’s victory over sin and death in the Resurrection and the time he returns in glory. During those same thousand years those who sit in judgement at Our Lord’s side are those who’ve been victorious over sin and death through baptism and reign with Our Lord. After that time even the Devil will be released briefly to face judgement at the end of time. On that day everyone will be raised from the dead and face final judgement before Our Lord himself.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord says that heaven and earth will pass away, but his Word will never pass away. That Word of life in this moment becomes a moment of glory for those who did not succumb to the Devil or the beast, and a Word that makes the unrepentant realize they’d made the biggest mistake of their life. The world as they know it, and we know it, will be over. The sea in John’s vision disappears because it was the home of the dragon. The just will form part of the new Jerusalem, the spotless bride of the Lamb–the Church–living in a new Heaven and Earth.

Christ’s reign has already begun and those who strive for holiness already reign with him. Let’s continue to work so that others reign with us: by sharing the Gospel with them.

Readings: Revelation 20:1–4, 11–21:2; Psalm 84:3–6a, 8a; Luke 21:29–33. See also 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.