Author Archives: lesruhrmund

Listen to Him

2nd Sunday of Lent Cycle C
17 March 2019
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

And so we start the second week of Lent; our spiritual preparation for the glorious celebration of the Easter Triduum.

For some of us the first week of Lent has passed without much notice, for others it’s been rewarding and for some it’s been a struggle. I’ve struggled.

I’m a fervent reader often reading two or three books at the same time and while I enjoy reading Christian spirituality, I also love a fast paced thriller or a beautifully written novel or a thought provoking biography.

One of my Lenten disciples is to read only scripture and religious books during these six weeks – and after one week, I’m suffering withdrawal systems, longing to get my teeth into an exciting page-turner.

But that’s surely one of the objectives of Lent.

Through our conscious, disciplined denials of pleasure we await the end of Lent with eagerness and yearning; counting down the days to Easter with hungry anticipation.

If we don’t make Lent meaningful, Easter too will have little meaning and pass us by as just another long weekend. And we’ll be no closer to our Lord at Easter than we were when Lent began in the desert.

The Gospel reading describes the Transfiguration of the Lord; a mysterious event in the life of Jesus and I imagine, an exhilarating but terrifying experience for Peter, James and John; a crucial turning point in all their lives.

At the time, his pending death was very much on Jesus’ mind. He had taken the decision to go to Jerusalem and knew an awful destiny awaited him there. In the Transfiguration on the mountain, Jesus was given the assurance that he was on the right road and he was given a glimpse of the glory that would follow the horror of Calvary.

Jesus’ death would also have been on the minds of the disciples because he had told them just the week before that he would be killed in Jerusalem. What Peter, James and John experienced in the transfiguration would give them something to hold on to in the dark days ahead. The voice of the Father confirms for them that Jesus is who he says he is: the Son of God.

This reading has a precious significance in my life

It was while reflecting on the transfiguration that I came to understand and accept my calling to the deaconate.

I had completed three years of theology studies not with a view to becoming a deacon but rather driven by a critical need to sustain my fragile faith. A date had been set for the ordination of nine deacons which included me but I advised the Archbishop that I’d not be part of that group. I was busy building a business and raising a family and wasn’t prepared to take on further responsibilities. I told the Archbishop that I’d consider it later in my life.

A few days after I’d written this letter I went on retreat for the weekend and we were given this reading of the transfiguration as a meditation.

Sitting at the window in my small room at Schoenstatt, on a cold misty Saturday afternoon, not feeling particularly motivated by the reading, I was overcome by a real awareness of God and the Father’s voice “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him” and putting my trust into God’s hands, I was ordained to the deaconate with the rest of the group a few weeks later.

I share this experience because I feel sure that God is talking to all of us in our hearts and Lent is a good time to stop and listen; open our hearts to the gentle voice inside.

Fr Ron Rolheiser in his book “Wrestling with God” writes: ‘Simply put, God lies within us, deep inside, but in a way that’s almost non-existent, almost unfelt, largely unnoticed, and easily ignored.

“However, while that presence is never overpowering, it has within it a gentle, unremitting imperative, a compulsion toward something higher, which invites us to draw upon it. And, if we draw upon it, it gushes up in us in an infinite stream that instructs us, nurtures us, and fills us with endless energy.”

Within each of us is a gentle, insistent voice, a nudge, urging us to listen and respond.

What are we being called to do in these weeks of Lent?

What actions are we being prompted to take?

Perhaps it’s just a nudge to be more generous with the time we give to our relationship with God.

Perhaps there are words that we need to say to someone who is hurting; or a relationship that we need to heal.

Perhaps we have habits we need to temper, thoughts we need to banish, emotions we need to express or control.

Maybe there are acts of charity that we need to embrace: the Archbishop’s Lenten Appeal or clothes, shoes, food supplies that we have in excess to our needs that we could give to people who have so much less than we do.

Lent encourages us to look deeper into our hearts and believe absolutely that within our brokenness, we are nevertheless God’s beloved.

We all struggle. In the words of Ron Rolheiser again:

“We are just normal, complicated human beings walking around in human skin. That’s what real life is all about! The scriptures are filled with stories of persons finding God and helping bring about God’s kingdom, even as their own lives are often fraught with mess, confusion, frustration, betrayal, infidelity, and sin.

“There are no simple human beings immune to the spiritual, psychological, sexual, and relational complexities that beset us all.”

Our personal struggles are not the same but we struggle with similar issues: temptation, bad habits, pride, ego, self-pity, anger, bitterness, hypocrisy, hunger for acceptance and doubt.

Our weaknesses and struggles don’t make us any less Christian; they are a reflection of our humanity, a humanity that was lived by Jesus who loves and died for us in our sinful humanity.

If we were all perfect there would not have been a need for Easter.

Peter, James, and John heard God clearly affirm that Jesus was his Son and that they were to listen to him.

God our Father says the same to us as we follow Jesus, our guide through this Lent.

Advertisements

The Golden Rule

7th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C 2019

24 February 2019

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

Last week I visited with my children, Woodside Special Care Centre in Rondebosch East which is a haven for the profoundly disabled – physically and mentally. There are 78 residents ranging in age from 5 to 50 years old, they are all in nappies, only two of them can hold a spoon to feed themselves, very few of them are able to stand or walk because their limbs are so badly deformed and only a small number of them are able to express themselves in understandable words. My children are involved in marketing and digital media and we were there to evaluate what assistance we can give Woodside in raising desperately needed funds.

I think it would be fair to assume that the parents of the disabled residents of Woodside all wanted a perfect child.

We are told that God looked at the world he had created and it was good. A question that comes to mind when one sees these profoundly disabled adults and children is ‘What could possibly be good about this?’

I believe that through such as these, each one of them a precious child of God, perfection is found in the way that the people around them react. They bring out the Christ in us.

That’s the message in today’s Gospel.

Paraphrasing a verse from Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians that we heard in the Second Reading, he says “Just as we bear the image of Adam the man of dust, we also bear the image of Jesus, the man of heaven.”

The Gospel Jesus says ‘If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Be kind, be merciful, forgive and do not condemn, for the measure you give out is the measure you will receive.’

Jesus is painting a self-portrait. He is telling us how God acts and how he expects us to act. Jesus goes beyond the ‘golden rule’ of ‘do as you would want done’ and says rather ‘do as God would do.’

The very essence of Christian conduct is not as much about refraining from bad things, as it is about whole-heartedly doing good things. And we know all too well in our own brokenness, just how difficult that can be.

It’s much easier to stop ourselves from consciously committing serious sin than it is to consciously treat others, neighbour and stranger alike, with patience, respect, kindness, generosity and love desiring only that which is good for them no matter how they have treated us.

We live in a world that encourages instant gratification summed up succinctly by my three year old granddaughter Ella who walked into the kitchen and said recently “Nana I want a biscuit.“ When Claire asked “And what’s the magic word?” Ella replied “NOW!”

With so much focus in society on ourselves, our personal needs, wants and emotional satisfaction, it’s really challenging to be a good Christian. It doesn’t come naturally.

Christianity is a discipline. Our faith demands of us every day that we should be the visible presence of Christ in the world through our words and in our actions.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta was someone who understood this completely.

Once when she was staying with her community of sisters working with the Aborigines in Australia, she visited an elderly man who lived in total isolation, ignored by everyone.  His home was messy, dark and dirty.

She offered to clean his house and wash his clothes but he told her that he was just fine with everything as it was and she should leave him alone. To which she replied “Yes but you would be even better if you allowed me to do this” and he relented.

While she was cleaning the house she discovered a beautiful lamp covered with dust which obviously hadn’t been used in years.

Mother Teresa asked him if he ever used the lamp and he told her that no-one ever came to visit him and there was no reason to light the lamp.

To which she asked ‘Would you light it every night if the sisters came?”

“Of course” he replied and from that day on, the sisters visited him every evening.

A few years later, back in Calcutta, Mother Theresa received a message from the old man “Tell my friend that the light she lit in my life continues to shine still.”

That’s what it means to be a Christian: to give, to bless, to stop judging, to stop condemning, to serve and to start lighting lamps.

Christianity is an action not an emotion.

We may feel emotionally fulfilled after a wonderful liturgy of great music, song and prayer but if that does not motivate us to bring the light and love of Christ into the world through our actions, then our prayer and worship are little more than an extension of our focus on our own gratification.

Preparing an action plan for the week ahead we could start with our words.

Language is one of our greatest gifts allowing us to know each other, understand each other, express and share our thoughts, our love, our hopes and our fears but language is also an instrument of immense destruction inflicting untold pain and suffering (often on those we love most) and fermenting ideas that cause division and wars.

In the week ahead, we could take conscious action to use language to express love, hope, forgiveness, kindness and encouragement and avoid saying, posting or tweeting anything negative , critical or derogatory to anyone; refrain from saying that would cause pain, doubt, anger, anxiety or the dispersion of rumours, gossip and innuendo.

This one action of deliberately using our words to build the kingdom rather than undermine it can have profound consequences of good in our lives and in the lives of the many we touch through language.

Hatred can be defeated only by love; injury can be healed only by forgiveness; evil can be restrained only by goodness.

 

Saviour of the World

3rd Sunday Ordinary Time
Cycle C
27 January 2019
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

The Gospel reading opens with the first four verses of Luke’s Gospel in which he explains that while there are numerous other accounts ) about Jesus, after thorough investigation, he has compiled an accurate and orderly narrative about Jesus which he dedicates to a man called Theophilus.

We know little about Theophilus except that he was a person of high status and in all likelihood a convert to Christianity.

The reading then jumps to an excerpt from Luke chapter 4 describing the beginning of Jesus’ ministry after his baptism and 40 days in the desert, closing with Jesus’ homily in the synagogue; a startling nine words “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

In this liturgical year, Cycle C, which started with Advent, four Sundays before Christmas, we will be hearing from the Gospel of Luke on most Sundays and I thought it would be worthwhile saying something about Luke’s Gospel as we get into our stride in this new year.

Luke was born in what was the Greek-speaking city of Antioch in Syria (today the modern city of Antakya in Turkey about 20 kms northwest of the Syrian border) and he is traditionally identified with Luke whom Paul mentions as one of his co-workers in his letter to Philemon and with “Luke the beloved physician” mentioned in Colossians.

The four Gospels were written at different times, in different places, for different audiences, for different reasons and each writer presents Jesus to us in his own distinctive, characteristic way.

If we think about it it’s almost impossible for any one writer to fully capture the life of another person in a book; let alone the life of Jesus, the Son of God.

In our own times for example there are at least 12 biographies written about the life and sayings of Nelson Mandela and more than 20 about the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Each is well researched and based on true events and people with a good measure of cross referencing but each presents a different aspect of the truth of that person’s life.

Luke is clearly writing for a Gentile audience who would not have had the background of the Jewish scriptures with the expectation of the Messiah.

He stresses the blessing of salvation brought by Jesus and is concerned in his Gospel and in his sequel, the Acts of the Apostles, to show how God’s plan of salvation, began with Israel, is fulfilled in Jesus and that it embraces all God’s people, Gentiles included.

Salvation is not extended exclusively to the Israelites as it is not extended exclusively to some Christian denominations who would claim salvation only for themselves.

Luke’s original audience did not usually read his Gospel but listened to it being read aloud at a gathering of Christians, perhaps for the Eucharist; as we have gathered here.

The Gospel comes to life for us in two stages.

First, its words come to life when, as 21st century Christians, we gain insight into the original first-century meaning and context of scripture. Then, as followers of the risen Jesus, we can be inspired to apply that gospel message to our lives today.

And so what is the gospel message today?

The message is in Jesus’ words in the synagogue:  “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus is referring to Isiah’s prophesy about the Messiah and tells them that he is the fulfillment of that prophesy; that he is the Messiah and he lays out his plan of action around which the Gospel of Luke is constructed..

Jesus brings good news to the poor and lowly, sight to the blind, freedom to those who are in bondage to sin or disease. He opens the doors of salvation to everyone and reveals the unconditional love of the Father.

Jesus is the saviour of the world. That’s the message.

Sometimes we can be a bit blasé about being Christians; we take our salvation for granted as we do tomorrow’s sunrise.

Pope Francis uses a powerful image to describe the reality of our salvation:

“It’s one thing when people tell us a story about someone’s risking his own life to save a boy drowning in a river. It’s something else when I’m the one drowning, and someone gives his life to save me!”

Jesus is our saviour.

That’s the message that should be at the centre of our very being as Christians.

And yet we so easily lose sight of this in the busyness our lives and our addiction to instant communication, email and social media dominating our daily agenda and defining our priorities.

It’s hard to stay focused on God through the day but conversely we’re hardly true to our discipleship if we put our Christian identity into a one hour slot once a week.

Being a Christian is not something we do, it’s who we are.

In the year ahead, we could try to develop the habit of keeping Jesus in our hearts and minds through the day.

The early Christians had a prayer for this purpose they called the Jesus Prayer the roots of which can be traced back to the 5th century.

The prayer is simple: “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Just 12 words, but if we make them part of our daily routine they can change the rhythm of our lives.

In the car and traffic, while walking or perhaps standing in a queue at the supermarket we could pray:  “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

When we’re frustrated or filled with doubt or anxiety, try saying: “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

When we’re grappling with temptation or weighed down by our own sins or the sins of others, we can pray: “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Jesus has come to save us, to give us God.

In this Mass as we prepare to receive Christ in the Eucharist, we can pray deeply in our hearts: Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.

The Baptism of the Lord

Cycle c

13th January 2019

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

We could ask ourselves on this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord why it’s important or relevant or indeed whether it was even necessary for Jesus to be baptised.

Jesus didn’t need baptism as we need baptism but this marks the start of his public ministry rooted in his identity as the Son of God anointed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was baptised into our humanity, so that we can be baptised into his divinity.

All four Gospels relate the Baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist but Luke’s account is different from the others which imply that the Holy Spirit descended at the moment of Jesus’ baptism, while he was still in the water. That’s the way this scene is often depicted in religious art; Jesus and John standing waist deep in the water with a dove above Jesus’s head representing the Holy Spirit descending from heaven.

But Luke says, “Now when all the people were baptised, and when Jesus also had been baptised and was praying, the Holy Spirit descended upon him.” From this we might assume that Christ was out of the water and alone when the Holy Spirit appeared and he heard the voice of the Father. Did anyone besides Jesus actually witness these events?

The Gospel of John answers that question. He tells us that John the Baptist gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” (John 1:32-34).

Luke wrote his Gospel primarily for Gentile Christians; non-Jewish people who have been baptised. He is telling them that their baptism means the same as Jesus’ baptism; that they, through baptism, are God’s daughters and sons. The same is true for us over 2000 years later; through baptism we are children of God calling God, our Father.

Jesus preached that you and I can have the same personal, intimate relationship with God that he has.

At that time this was a most radical and outrageous idea; a blasphemous idea that would certainly have upset the Jewish authorities and contributed enormously in their decision to have him killed. They taught that our relationship with God is like the accused before a judge, and God, therefore, is distant, stern and righteous rather than a loving, caring, compassionate and forgiving Father. Even today, Muslims consider it blasphemy to attribute fatherhood to God.

Our relationship with God as our Father is central to our Christian faith.

Christianity is not about being a good person or doing the right think or having a heart of gold – as wonderful as these attributes are. Anyone can have those qualities irrespective of their religion.

To be a Christian is to be grafted onto Christ; to become a member of his mystical body – sharing in his own relationship to the Father. Jesus is the Son of God by nature; we become sons and daughters of God by Baptism. And hopefully the fruits of our baptism will see us living as good people, doing what is right with generous and loving hearts.

Just as we take on life through birth, so our supernatural life is born in baptism; we are born again into spiritual life with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; God’s magnificent gift of grace revealed through Jesus.

Baptism is our most ecumenical sacrament uniting almost all the world’s Christians in Jesus Christ.

The sacrament of Baptism is the gateway to the other sacraments; it’s the power that makes the other sacraments effectual. As an analogy, imagine that the other sacraments are devices in the kitchen; toaster, microwave, kettle, stove, fridge, etc. Until they are plugged into a source of power, they are useless and ineffectual. Baptism is the source that powers all the other sacraments.

St Paul saw baptism as the fulfilment of the ancient Hebrews ‘practice of circumcision on the eighth day of life; in his words baptism was “a circumcision without hands”.

In the Jewish faith, through circumcision an infant boy enters into God’s covenant with the family of Abraham.

In the Christian faith, through baptism we enter the new covenant into the family of God as sons and daughters, calling God, our Father.

From the very beginning the Church has welcomed infants, children and adults, male and female, into a covenant relationship with Christ, through the sacrament of Baptism.

We are reminded of this covenant every time we enter a church and dip our hands into the water font and make the Sign of the Cross.

The sign of the cross is the most common prayer of Christians and has been since the founding of the Church.

Tertullian, the notable North African theologian writing in the second century (in modern day Tunisia), wrote: “In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down and sitting down, whatever task occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross.”

We make the sign of the cross as a public profession of our faith, a reminder of our baptismal promises and our resolve that evil will have no place in our lives.

It is a physical reminder of God’s love for us and the greatness of our human dignity that flows from this love.

Let us always be mindful of the powerful significance of this simple prayer and make the sign of the cross over our bodies purposefully and thoughtfully with care and sincerity.

And in our hearts let’s be conscious of the Father’s voice:

“You are my beloved one. In you I am well pleased.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Prepare the Way

2nd Sunday of Advent Cycle C
8 December 2018
Prepare the Way by Deacon Les

We are already into the second week of Advent.

Was the past week any different in our hearts from the week before? Did we spend time thinking about the meaning and relevance of Advent in our lives as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas? The answer for many of us is ‘Probably not’.

It’s very difficult to make Advent meaningful in a society that is focused on the synthetic glitter of commercialism and the anticipation of the holiday season.

All the more reason why our liturgy during Advent should be noticeably different from other seasons to remind us, if only once a week in our worship, that Advent is a time of quiet reflection in anticipation of Christmas; no flowers, no “Gloria”, purple vestments, and music kept to a minimum and noticeably subdued.

It’s quite likely that our time and energy over the next few weeks will be consumed by a sense of nervous anxiety; gifts to buy, preparing for Christmas lunch, a list of things to be done before the holidays start, concerns about money, perhaps some apprehension about spending time with difficult family, in-laws or friends, etc.

If we want this Advent and Christmas to be more meaningful, we are going to have to make that happen. If we do nothing, Advent will fly past without notice and Christmas will mean little more than an expensive meal and an exchange of gifts.

We could use today’s Gospel as a guide for some action to make Advent and Christmas more meaningful.

Luke tells us that “the word of God came to John (the Baptist) in the desert.” And John’s message was:

  • Repent and
  • Prepare the way for the Lord:
    • Make crooked roads straight
    • Fill in the valleys
    • Level the hills
    • And smooth out the rough paths

Let’s look at John’s urgent call in terms of our lives today.

Repent.

Repentance as we’ve heard many times before is not about being sorry; it’s about a determination to change.

I’ve recently read Tara Westover’s astounding memoir “Educated.”

She was born in rural Idaho in the northwest of the Unites States in 1986 to radical survivalist Mormon parents. She didn’t get a birth certificate until she was nine. She never went to school and she was seventeen the first time she entered a classroom. Remarkably within 10 years she’d earned a PhD from Cambridge.

As a girl and young woman she was repeated beaten and abused viciously by an older brother who was always really apologetic and sorry afterwards. He was always sorry but he never repented; he never changed his behaviour.

In our relationship with God and with our friends and family, where do we need to repent? What are the behaviours that we need to change?  Is it the words we use or perhaps the words we don’t use? Is it something we repeatedly do or fail to do?

When we are ready to say ‘I’m sorry” and are determined to change, we should seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation to give us the grace to do better in all our relationships.

How do we make the crooked road straight?

There’s a delightful animated movie called ‘The Star’ which tells the story of the nine months leading up to the birth of Jesus through the eyes of a donkey. A telling of the Nativity that is as appealing to adults as it is to children. I’ve been cajoled by my two Grandchildren (3 and 6 years old) into watching this movie with them umpteen times in the last few weeks.

We’re more likely to walk in a straighter line if we keep our eyes on “the star” that leads to Bethlehem.

When we take our eyes off the Star, we’re easily side-tracked and soon find ourselves wandering in the wilderness rather than kneeling at the manger.

How do we fill the valleys and level the hills?

Perhaps our valleys would be the times when we are discouraged or unwell or facing hardship or spiritual drought. We could try and fill these valleys with hope and trust; trust in God. Focus on our blessings rather than our burdens.

The hills might be those times when everything is going well and we feel on top of the world. We need some temperance here as well and again to give thanks for our blessings rather than bask in our accomplishments.

And finally, how do we smooth out the rough paths?

We could start by identifying the bumps in the road; the spiritual potholes.

What are the obstacles in our relationship with God and other people? When we look into our hearts, what do we see there? Are we honestly able to see the potholes?

Is it selfishness; wrapped up in our own world of needs and desires? Is it fear of commitment; perhaps a fear of putting our trust in God and giving up some control? Is it laziness or lack of self-disciple; perhaps inertia or apathy? Is it a cold heart that can’t forgive or get over past hurts?

Without conscious effort, nothing will change, nothing will get repaired. If anything, the potholes will multiply and the path to God will become bumpier.

We could try and fill a few potholes over the next 2 weeks of Advent:

  • Talk to God; frequently every day about everything
  • Do a frank examination of conscience and commit to making a good confession
  • Share some time and bring some joy into the life of someone who is lonely or depressed or seriously ill
  • We could share some of our things; raid the wardrobe and generously give away clothes that are in excess to our needs. Children could raid their toy baskets and give away toys that they no longer use. Donate generously to the Advent Appeal, buy vouchers for the poor, buy a gift for an underprivileged child.

There are many ways to smooth the rough path.

The only thing that is holding us back from repentance is ourselves.

If we choose to, over the next two weeks of Advent, we can bring about small but meaningful changes in our lives that will bring us closer to the Lord whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

————

Christ the King (B) 2018

 

Solemnity of Christ the King

Cycle B

25 November 2018

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

The Feast of Christ the King is a relatively recent addition to the liturgical calendar established by Pope Pius XI in an encyclical titled Quas Primas published in December 1925.

Originally the feast was celebrated on the last Sunday in October each year just prior to the Feast of All Saints but Paul VI in 1969 moved it to the last Sunday in the liturgical year just prior to Advent lending a stronger emphasis on Christ the King in his Second Coming at the end of time.

The feast was first introduced at a troubled time in the world as an antidote to increasing secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of politics, government and education; basically society governs itself as if God doesn’t exist. In many ways perpetuating humankind’s original sin.

Events happening around 1925 that prompted Pope Pius to institute the Feast of Christ the King included:

  • The publication of Adolf Hitler’s personal manifesto Mein Kampf following his release from prison the year before
  • Benito Mussolini had established a dictatorship in Italy
  • Spain had experienced a coup d’état and a military dictator and seized absolute power (Miguel Primo de Rivera).
  • And Joseph Stalin, on the death of Lenin, had begun the purge of his rivals to clear the way for his dictatorship of the Soviet Union

Troubled times indeed; the rise of new dictator kings with little respect or consideration for the sovereignty of God.

In the opening paragraph of Quas Primas, Pius wrote: “These manifold evils in the world are due to the fact that the majority of (people) have thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these have no place either in private affairs or in politics. As long as individuals and states refuse to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there will be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.”

Prophetic words that ring true today in our disordered world that largely excludes and does not acknowledge the authority, often not even the existence, of Christ the King.

A question for each of us on this feast day could be: In our lives, do we submit to the sovereignty of God in our thoughts, words and deeds?

There’s a great difference between believing in God and submitting to God.

If Jesus is king of our lives and really important to us, how often do we think about him? Or talk to him? If we only pay attention to Christ for an hour a week during Mass, we’re just paying lip service in our practice of Christianity and Christ is not our king.

If we keep Jesus out of our homes, work, play and social lives – he’s certainly not our king.

In the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus that we heard in the reading from John’s Gospel we get a glimpse of Pilate’s dilemma in encountering Christ which may well resonate uncomfortably in our own lives.

We know that Pilate was about the same age as Jesus and he must have had mixed feelings about his appointment as Governor of Judea. It was one of the most difficult places to govern in the Roman Empire because of the religious sensitivities of the Jews.

On the other hand, he probably thought that if he did a good job in Judea, it would set him up for greater success in the future.

But from the beginning almost everything went wrong for Pilate. At first he tried the strong-arm approach with the Jewish people who hate the Roman government with a passion. In an attempt to force Rome upon the people he ordered his soldiers to carry images of Caesar into the Jewish Temple.

In retaliation, 2000 praying Jews surrounded Pilate’s palace for 6 days and nights. Pilate threatened to massacre them, and in defiance these Jewish protesters knelt before him, stuck out their necks and dared him to do it. They had called his bluff. Enraged and humiliated, he ordered the images of Caesar in the Temple to be taken down.

Next Pilate tried the benevolent approach. Jerusalem needed a fresh water supply and Pilate agreed to build an aqueduct. But he financed this project with funds from the Temple treasury.

There was a riot, soldiers were called in, people were killed and Pilate received a scathing rebuke from Rome.

The Jews had the measure of Pilate and so when he was confronted with the problem of Jesus he was a little apprehensive, knowing that he couldn’t afford to make another mistake; afraid to prompt another riot.

He wasn’t looking to make the right decision; he wanted to make a decision that would best protect his own interests; not unlike many politicians.

In our lives, do we make decisions based on the integrity of our faith or rather decisions that are most expedient to our personal needs, desires and interests?

Pilate stands face to face with Jesus – but he doesn’t see him for who he is. We come face to face with Jesus in the Eucharist; do we see him as Christ the King of our lives or as an innocuous religious symbol?

Pilate questioned Jesus’s authority; his kingship. When we choose to follow our own road and play by our own rules without deferring to God, we too are questioning his authority.

In the closing paragraph of Quas Primas, Pius XI writes:

“If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all (people), purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all people, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds ….. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts …. (we must) love God above all things.”

That brings us back to today’s question: Do we truly acknowledge and pledge our allegiance to Christ the King in everything we say, think and do?