Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday word, 22 Nov 2009

Christ the King (23 Nov 2009)
Dn 7. 13-14; Ps 93; Rv 1. 5-8; Jn 18. 33b-38
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Chronic or Gracious? God’s Love is Both

When a child is born healthy parents rejoice, free to imagine a future with grand potential for their youngster. When someone lands a new job, the person rejoices to have financial and work security and is free to imagine and set goals and contribute to family and society.

Our rebirth in baptism, made alive in Jesus Christ…the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the monarchs of the earth, initiated our freedom to rejoice that we share Messiah Jesus’ royal, priestly prophetic mission.

“Priestly people” is a royal title: God set us apart in Jesus to glorify God. It’s a prophetic title, too: we are free to imagine new life dawning in the darkness and hum-drum of daily existence until new life shines as the son of Man...on the clouds of heaven presents us before the Creator’s throne.

Priestly people also know challenges. A child’s birth; beginning a new job; as well as being reborn in Jesus and the future’s far reaches: much unexpected lay between. A healthy infant can develop a syndrome in childhood which changes life for the youngster, parents, the entire family.

A job’s financial and work security don’t insulate a worker from challenge, frustration, even agony. Life in Jesus does not rule out suffering now. Jesus not only indicated his life would ultimately end on the throne of his cross; Jesus repeatedly alerted his disciples that witnessing to his cross and his kingdom entails lives of cross-bearing. We’d rather deny that. Denial is strong.

When a chronic condition appears with no warning and begins to dog a formerly healthy child, parents struggle immensely to cope, often denying it’s happening. When unexpected adversity tarnishes the luster of a new job, we can feel we’ve made a mistake with our lives.

So, too, all of us always confront our tendency to deny Jesus in one form or other. A person may feel deluded by the people who passed on the Christian faith. Another may feel that Jesus can in no way be in season in one’s time, life or circumstances. Still another may feel it’s impossible for the crucified Jesus to be the almighty, let alone the Beginning and End./1/

We’re no different from Jesus’ contemporaries. Those who staked their lives and hopes that Jesus was the Expected One: he wasn’t the individual they thought he’d be. Pilate demonstrated this was not only the disciples’ problem. It was a human problem. My kingdom does not belong to this world.How would a ruler make sense of that? Jesus’ mission to testify to the truth stirred in Pilate no idle question, “What is truth?” though Pilate may have asked it from the position of his power rather than genuine desire.

To ask Jesus what truth is was to ask Jesus who he is. No human response satisfactorily answers that. All power finds its meaning in Jesus. Someone once rearranged the letters of a Latin translation of Pilate’s question, What is truth?/2/ He arrived at this answer: The man standing before you.

Jesus never is precisely who we think him to be: nor are our children, our jobs, even our church. God doesn’t abandon us to our chronic conditions, our poor selves, even our strengths. Rather, God’s perpetual graciousness reveals to us God’s truth and the truth of ourselves. When we allow our truth to be revealed we experience a release,/3/ even while we feel captive in a world of illness, dysfunction and rejection as was Jesus. Jesus is our King precisely because he commanded no things. Giving himself to God’s truth, he gained his. This is the essence of our feast of Jesus as King: we remind ourselves to be open, not striving, and to rely more on the perpetual grace of his redeeming glory.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, bask in the life of the Trinity. Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus. Thank Jesus for creating you and redeeming you. In your words ask Jesus for the grace to surrender to him so you and your life will be a faithful witness of his Spirit alive in you. Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to help us live our royal, priestly, prophetic mission with renewed courage and conviction.

1. The meaning of Alpha and Omega in Revelation 1.8 of the Second Reading.
Quid est veritas? Est vir qui adest. This appeared in Ripely’s Believe it Or Not in the 1950s.
3. See Romans 8.21.
Wiki-images from an ancient gospel folio of Jesus before Pilate and of a detail of Jesus before Pilate are in the public domain.

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