Tag Archives: Kingdom

Year A – Third Sunday of Advent – December 15, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10 (R/. cf. Isaiah 35:4); James 5:7-10; Isaiah 61:1 (cited in Luke 4:18); Matthew 11:2-11

ImageIsaiah is the prophet of joy in Advent.  He pictures a dry desert that will blossom and flower when the Lord comes.  He then images the healing that the Lord will also bring: feeble hands strengthened, weak knees made firm, blind eyes opened, deaf ears made clear, the lame leaping, and the mute singing for joy.  This is the jubilation that accompanies the coming of the Lord.  God wants all of us to have fullness of life.  It will surely come in God’s good time.  Even now, we get a taste of it, knowing that by our Baptism, we have entered into the life of the Trinity, and by receiving the Eucharist, we enter into communion with the Lord and each other.

For the fullness of joy, we must wait patiently, as James reminds us, not complaining but with hearts trusting in God’s promises.  The rest is only a matter of time.  While Jesus praises John as more than a prophet, nevertheless he concludes by saying, “Yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  Even now we are children of the kingdom.

How have you known the joy that is a gift of the Holy Spirit?

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Year A – Second Sunday of Advent – December 8, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 (R/. cf. 7); Romans 15:4-9; Luke 3:4, 6; Matthew 3:1-12

Advent is a season that set before us visionaries like the poet-prophet Isaiah, the preacher-missionary Paul, and the herald-prophet John the Baptist.  Each offers us a vision of God’s good creation coming together in unity.  For Isaiah, it is all creation – human and animal; for Paul, it is the church in Rome “thinking in harmony with one another;” for John it is the Promised One coming to gather the good wheat into his barn, God’s harvest, which is the children of the kingdom.

We are brought together each Sunday to think, live, pray, and sing in harmony to the gracious God who continues to come to us in Jesus Christ, the One who came in the power of the Holy Spirit, an who continues to come in God’s Word and in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  The risen Lord draws us more deeply into communion with the Father and with one another.

How can you help bring about God’s dream for a renewed and unified creation?

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Year C – Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – Thirty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 24, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5 (R/. cf. 1); Colossians 1:12-20; Mark 11:19, 10; Luke 23:35-43

The image of a shepherd became linked to the role of the king in the Old Testament.  David, the youngest son of Jesse, who tended sheep, exalted the Lord through his harp music, and slew Goliath, was destined to become king of Israel.  The leaders of Israel came to David and asked him to shepherd them as king, fulfilling what the Lord had said to David, “You shall shepherd my people Israel and be commander of Israel.”

The life of David foreshadowed the life of Christ:  Bethlehem is the birthplace of both; the shepherd life of David prefigures Christ, the Good Shepherd; the five stones chosen to slay Goliath are typical of the five wounds of Christ; the betrayal by his trusted counselor, Achitophel, and the passage over the Cedron remind us of Christ’s Sacred Passion; finally, many of the Davidic Psalms, as we learn from the New Testament, are clearly typical of the Messiah.  Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe is not an earthly king though.  His crown is a crown of thorns, his royal purple robes are draped over his beaten body in mockery, his throne is a cross, and the only jewels he has are the nails that pierce his hands and feet.  They hang a sign on the cross above his head that says, “Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum,” (“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”)  It is through this unearthly image of a king that he shepherds human souls into his kingdom.

Jesus picked up the image of the Good Shepherd in his preaching to human souls and carried it out in his actions as he sought to shepherd his flock into the kingdom, searching out the blind and the deaf, the lame and the sick, the possessed and the grief-stricken.  He became the king of the poor, the weak, and the suffering.  He is our king.  He is not just the king of a nation, or even of the world; he is king of the entire universe.  He is a king so powerful and feared that Herod tried to kill him as a defenseless newborn baby.  He is so powerful that he may shepherd those most astray back to the flock, no matter how far they have gone or how long they have been away.  He gives hope to those most in need and ushers them into his everlasting kingdom.  A kingdom, as he told Pilate, which is not of this world.  He ushers all in like sheep with wool, white and pure.

Even from the cross, Jesus seeks and saves the lost.  Over the heckling of the crowd and the verbal abuse of one of his crucified companions, Jesus responds to the faith of the nameless thief on his other side.  (Tradition calls him Dismas.)  Through his confession, repentance, and spiritual act of mercy by admonishing the sinner, Jesus absolves the criminal, promising him Paradise that day.  Dismas secures his salvation, becoming the first saint of the Church, through his longing for the kingdom and exaltation of Christ as God and King of the Universe.  Even as Jesus is laying down his life for his sheep, he is also carrying one on his shoulders into the kingdom.

How does it help you to see Christ the king as Jesus the shepherd, leading us to green pastures where he feeds us, gives us rest, and finally leads us through the dark valley of death into the kingdom of light and life?

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Year C – Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 17, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Malachi 3:19-20a; Psalm 98:5-6, 7-8, 9 (R/. cf. 9); 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:28; Luke 21:5-19

As the end of the liturgical year approaches, the readings call our attention to the “end time,” that “Day of the Lord,” referred to by both Old Testament prophets and most New Testament writings.  Throughout history, groups have predicted the end time was right around the corner.  In our own day, such dates have come and gone.  And we are still here!  Most recently, we all survived the supposed Mayan Apocalypse of December 21, 2012.

It may be more helpful to live aware that, while we do not know when the end of the world will come, we do know that one day we will face our own end, dying to this life as we know it.  We can take comfort in Jesus’ final words today, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”  For, if we persevere in faith, hope, and love, and if we strive to bring justice, mercy, forgiveness, and peace into our world, whenever the Day of the Lord comes, we will be counted among the just and experience it as the arrival of “the sun of justice with its healing rays.”  In the meantime, as Paul advises, go about your lives, working quietly to bring about the kingdom of God even now.

How does life’s eventual end influence your days?

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Year C – Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 1, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29; Psalm 68:4-5, 6-7, 10-11 (R/. cf. 11b); Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a; Matthew 11:29ab; Luke 14:1, 7-14

Jesus certainly had chutzpah.  Here, at a dinner party, we find him offering advice to his fellow guests and to his host.  Keep in mind that he has just healed a man with dropsy (edema) on the Sabbath, and his host, a leading Pharisee, would not approve of any activity, even healing, on the Sabbath.  So the atmosphere was a little tense.  Perhaps that is why Jesus decided to take a risk, calling the shocked guests to humility and the disapproving host to generosity.

Jesus is initiating some “Kingdom etiquette,” teaching how things will be in the kingdom of God, but also encouraging those who want to have the Kingdom present even now.  In the Kingdom, the last are first, the least are honored and feted, and generosity replaces entitlement and self-serving action.  The God who reigns in the kingdom appreciates humility, so if you want to be great, be humble before God and others.  And know this:  God’s dinner parties will be held in the heavenly Jerusalem, with angels decked out in finest garb, and invited guests will be hosted by Jesus.  What a great party it will be!

How can you help the Kingdom’s banquet to begin now?

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Year C – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 4, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23; Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17 (R/.1); Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21

In the first reading, when the Teacher (Qoheleth) uses the word “vanity,” he is not talking about having an inflated appreciation of one’s abilities or appearance; he is using the word in the sense of being empty.  He is saying life is futile, passing.  Life, love, looks, and possessions – all will pass.  In the end, we all go back to dust, as the Psalmist points out, “You turn man back to dust.”

“How dismal!” you may say.  But also, how freeing.  What are you worried about today?  Will you remember it in a month?  A year?  A decade?

Listen to Jesus, the teacher, who refuses to get caught up in family bickering over what was in the will.  Jesus directs our attention to getting into God’s kingdom, not accumulating more and more.  Greed can poison the heart, eat away at the soul, and destroy relationships.  Store up what matters to God.  Paul tells us to think about what is above, of the glory that awaits us when we make Christ and his teaching our treasure.  The goal is transformation, not accumulation.  So put on that new self.  Put on Christ.

Think of one way you can “put on Christ” this week.

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Year C – Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – July 7, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Isaiah 66:10-14c; Psalm 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6:14-18; Colossians 3:15a, 16a; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9

From the beginning, preaching the kingdom of God was at the top of Jesus’ priority list.  He began his ministry preaching that the kingdom was “at hand.”  Proclaiming God’s presence in the world was the first task Jesus gave to his twelve apostles when he sent them out.  Later on, as Luke records in today’s Gospel, Jesus sent out seventy-two others.  After he had risen, he commanded all disciples to do this until the end of time.  So, it should be clear that evangelizing, another word for preaching the gospel, was at the top of Jesus’ “to do” list.

Echoing Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI , Pope Francis is calling all of us to take part in a “new evangelization,” described as having “new ardor” for spreading the gospel.  Today’s Gospel gives us a picture of what the “old ardor” looked like:  going out in twos, traveling light, not dawdling, getting to your destination and bringing peace there, not fussing about the accommodations or the food, then to getting down to business and spreading the good news.

What does having a “new ardor / zeal / passion / fire” mean?  Do you have it?

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We are soon going to share in the Passover

While I was praying the Office of Readings this morning, I came across this homily by Saint Gregory Nazianzen, bishop.  What a great way to prepare for Holy Week:

We are soon going to share in the Passover, and although we still do so only in a symbolic way, the symbolism already has more clarity than it possessed in former times because, under the law, the Passover was, if I may dare to say so, only a symbol of a symbol. Before long, however, when the Word drinks the new wine with us in the kingdom of his Father, we shall be keeping the Passover in a yet more perfect way, and with deeper understanding. He will then reveal to us and make clear what he has so far only partially disclosed. For this wine, so familiar to us now, is eternally new.

It is for us to learn what this drinking is, and for him to teach us. He has to communicate this knowledge to his disciples, because teaching is food, even for the teacher.

So let us take our part in the Passover prescribed by the law, not in a literal way, but according to the teaching of the Gospel; not in an imperfect way, but perfectly; not only for a time, but eternally. Let us regard as our home the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly one; the city glorified by angels, not the one laid waste by armies. We are not required to sacrifice young bulls or rams, beasts with horns and hoofs that are more dead than alive and devoid of feeling; but instead, let us join the choirs of angels in offering God upon his heavenly altar a sacrifice of praise. We must now pass through the first veil and approach the second, turning our eyes toward the Holy of Holies. I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified.

If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other scoffing thief to die outside in his blasphemy.

If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make your own the expiation for the sins of the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.

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Year C – First Sunday of Lent – February 17, 2013 – Gospel Reflection

Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalm 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15 (R/. cf. 15b); Romans 10: 8-13; Matthew 4:4b; Luke 4:1-13

Food, fortune, fame – the temptations sound like categories from TV’s Jeopardy.  “Feed yourself, you’re starving,” Satan said.  After forty days of daytime heat and nighttime cold, Jesus could not have had much energy.  But it was not physical strength that was needed; it was strength of the spirit.  Jesus was not lacking that.  The Spirit has come down upon him at his baptism, had driven him into the wilderness, and did not abandon him now.  First temptation: Use your power to feed yourself.  Jesus’ answer: God’s word is my food.  There I find strength.  Second temptation: Bend the knee to me in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world.  Jesus’ answer: Only God deserves worship; the only kingdom worth having is God’s kingdom.  Third temptation: See if God is with you by throwing yourself off the temple.  Jesus’ answer: You do not test God; you trust God.  As Israel was tested in the desert, tempted to turn from the God who delivered them from Egypt, so Jesus is tested.  But Jesus, the new Israel, the beloved Son, trusts his Father.  That Spirit who was with Jesus during his testing is with us today.

Where do you place your trust?

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