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Thy Kingdom Come

Stained glass window at the Annunciation Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Roslindale, Massachusetts, depicting Christ the King in the regalia of a Byzantine emperor

A reflection for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year B. The readings are Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:5-8 and John 18:33b-37

“Our Father, who art in Heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come…”

 How many times have we prayed those words: “thy Kingdom come”? Do we even know what we are praying for? What does it mean that Jesus has a Kingdom? What does it mean that he is King? What does it mean that he has dominion? That his dominion is an everlasting dominion? That he is robed in majesty? I don’t know about you, but, other than watching The Crown or Victoria, I have no concept or connection to royalty; to kings or kingdoms.  We know that the king is supposed to the supreme ruler; the ruler of all. We are supposed to obey the king. But we have so many examples of bad kings. Yet Jesus is supposed to be like the good shepherd, who takes care of the sheep. That’s why Jesus is a king in the line of King David, the Shepherd King.  And we know that Jesus is a king that will rule with perfect justice, but also with perfect mercy. All that is true, but I think that to truly understand the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, we have to pay attention to today’s Gospel.

We’ve heard this Gospel many, many times, at least once a year on Good Friday. Jesus is on trial. Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you a king?” Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is not one of earthly power and violence. Then he says, “I came into the world to testify to the Truth. Everyone who belongs to the Truth listens to my voice.” And then, do you know what Pilate responds? It’s not in today’s Gospel, but we’ve heard it so many times. Pilate responds with the rhetorical question, “What is Truth?” And that, my dear brothers and sisters is what  the Kingdom of Jesus is about and why we need the Kingdom of Christ: Truth. Yes there is a climate crisis and there is a refugee crisis. There is a mental health crisis and we are in a pandemic and there are dictators and wars and racism and abuse – but the crisis of our day is a crisis of Truth. We live in a world where human beings have decided that we can determine what is Truth and what is not Truth. We decide when life beings and when life ends. We decide what’s male and what’s female. We define what marriage is. We decide what’s sin and what is not sin. We decide that ‘what’s true for you is not true for me’. Where we don’t think that Truth is objective and universal, but instead it is relative: What’s true for you is not true for me. And, apparently, we’ve had this crisis at least since Pilate’s “what is Truth?” Perhaps we’ve had this crisis since the Garden of Eden when the serpent questions Truth, “did God really say that you would die?” That’s why Satan is called the liar, because he attacks Truth. But he is a crafty liar. We are in a crisis of Truth not because of full outright lies, but because of half truths. So something is partly true, but partly not true. It sounds like Truth, but it is not completely true and so it’s confusing. This crisis of Truth means that we are confused. That is the crisis of our day. And it is that crisis that leads to wars and dictatorships and racism and mental health issues and power struggles and wars, and famine and to so many other crises that are a result of our bad and egotistical choices.

But Pilate asks the wrong question. Truth is not a what; Truth is a person. The question is not “what is Truth?” The question is “who is Truth?” And we know the answer: Jesus is the Truth. He told us, “I am the way, the Truth and life” (John 14:6). That’s why He came to testify to the Truth, because He IS the Truth. That’s why those  who belong to the Truth listen to his voice. And those who listen to his voice, belong to the Truth.

I wish we have more time to talk about Truth and what it means that Truth is universal and absolute. I wish we had more time to talk about how to find Truth – maybe we can do that some other time, but for now, I think all you have to remember is that Jesus Christ is Truth and his Kingdom is a Kingdom of Truth. There’s a beautiful prayer that says something like, “may we seek the Truth, that in seeking it we may find you, Lord, and in finding you we may want to seek the Truth more.” Something like that. This is why I think it makes perfect sense that it is on this Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe that we also celebrate the annual local, diocesan celebration of World Youth Day around the world. There is a connection between young people and Christ the King. That connection is Truth. Young people hunger for Truth. They have a zeal and passion for what’s True, what’s just, what’s right. That’s why young people are always at the forefront of revolutions. They hunger for Truth and Justice. Even young children; they are always asking questions – that’s because they seek to know Truth. It’s written in our hearts – we long for Truth because we long for Christ. I think as we grow old we sort of lose that; we get settled in our own truths. But young people are thirsty for the Truth. Let’s let young people remind us to never stop searching for Truth, for beauty, goodness and justice. May we be like young people and always seek the Truth, that in seeking we may find Christ and in finding Christ we may want to seek the Truth more. If there are young people in your life that don’t know Christ, pray that they will always seek the Truth that in finding Truth, they will find Christ.

If you want to find the Truth, seek Jesus Christ. Today is a good day to start. Today, on this Feast when we accept Jesus as supreme King and ruler of our lives. Let’s allow Jesus to have dominion over every aspect of our lives; not just the parts that are safe and convenient. Let him be the ruler of every aspect of your life. Next time you pray the Lord’s Prayer and you say, “your Kingdom come”, remember what you are asking for; that you will be part of his Kingdom of Truth. Put him at the centre and you will find Truth. And when you find the Truth, the Truth will set you free.

Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, in our lives, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Take Courage, Get Up, He is Calling You

Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus by William Blake  (1757–1827)  Yale Center for British Art.   

A reflection for the 30th Sunday, Ordinary Time, year B. The readings are Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126; Hebrews 5:1-6 and Mark 10:46-52

Today, the universal Church observes World Mission Sunday (in fact the whole month of October is Missionary Month). It’s always on the second last Sunday of October, established by Pope Pius XI in 1926 in order to collect funds for missionaries and missions worldwide. This special collection for the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fidei) still exists today and is held in many parishes around the world. But, more importantly, this is a day when we are reminded to pray for missions and missionaries all over. And for us in North America, we have to remember that today, many missionaries are coming from the developing world and the global south here to North America to do mission. Today is also a very good day to remind ourselves of our universal call to mission. I’ve written about this many times before: We are all called to be missionaries. It doesn’t mean you have to go off to another country; but it does mean that we need to spread the Good News everywhere we go and all the time.

It’s not hard to do.

A missionary is someone who tells others about something they love. The best analogy that I can think of for being a missionary is what I do when I hear about someone who’s going to visit Panama. I get so excited that they are going to my home country. I tell them where they should go: they have to go here and there (and not go here) and they have to go to this restaurant and when they go there they have to order this particular dish. That’s being a missionary. Telling someone about something you know and love. The pope’s message for this year’s World Mission Sunday is based on the theme, taken from Acts 4:20: We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard”

That’s what being a missionary is. We can all do that.

If you’re wondering how else you can be a good missionary, today’s readings give us five good suggestions as to how to be a good missionary.

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Who’s Inside Your Tent?

A reflection for the 26th Sunday, Ordinary Time, B. The readings are Numbers 11:25-29; Psalm 19; James 5:1-6 and Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48.

Today is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. It is a day that has been observed by the Catholic Church for 107 years, so it’s clear that for a long time refugees have been of great concern for the Church. But people who work with refugees, especially people in the church who work with refugees, say that the refugee crisis today is worse than it has ever been. Today there are 100 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world. These are people who are actually living in camps. And what’s different about today, as opposed to other times when we’ve had refugee crises, like, for example, after the second world war, is the length of time that people are in a refugee camp. It is very common today for someone to be born in a refugee camp, to grow up in that same refugee camp and to become an adult in that refugee camp. The average stay at a refugee camp today is 20 years. It is a crisis and some would argue that it is the crisis of our day. There are so many other crises; we’re in a climate crisis, there’s a pandemic, but none are as bad as this refugee crisis, which is made worse by all the other crises: the climate crisis and the pandemic and every other political crisis that is happening around the world. And it is a crisis that affects us, even if only indirectly. But I think it’s a crisis that we can affect, maybe just by simply changing our attitudes.

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Blessed Are You Among Women

A reflection for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The readings are Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10a; Psalm 45; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 and Luke 1:39-56.

Assumption of the Virgin by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo  (1617–1682)   

“Blessed are you among women…”

How many times have we said those words? Thousands of times. And maybe not even thinking about what we’re saying.

I grew up in Latin America, as you know, where there is a huge cultural devotion to Mary, as is the case in a lot of the countries where many of you come from and I think that for that reason I actually did not grow up with a great devotion to Mary because it seemed a little superstitious to me and it also didn’t make any sense because I thought, why should I go to Mary, why should I pray to Mary, when I can just go straight to Jesus? So it didn’t make sense to me. I thought that we called Mary blessed – blessed are you among women – because she’s a saint. All the saints are blessed. I mean she is the saint of all saints; she was chosen to be the mother the Son of God, but I still thought she’s blessed because she’s a saint. Why does Elizabeth greet her and say that she is blessed? Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb? And then later on Elizabeth says, “Blessed are you who believed that the promise that was spoken to you would be fulfilled.” And then Mary herself, later on in the in the Magnificat, the prayer that she prays as a response to Elizabeth’s greeting, she says, “from this day all generations will call me blessed.” And it’s true: Up to this generation we still call her blessed. But why?

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