Category Archives: Christ the King

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?

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An invitation from the King

Christ the King
Year C
20 Nov 2016
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

Today, the Church celebrates with great joy the Feast of Christ the King. It is the last Sunday of the liturgical year and, in many ways, the culmination of all the feasts of the past year – the intent of Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, Pentecost and Corpus Christi, and all the Sundays and feasts. They have all pointed toward this reality, that Christ is the King of the Universe, the Lord of all. All of time, all of history is heading toward this climax when Christ will be proclaimed as the universal King of Kings.

We also celebrate today the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the Jubilee Doors of Mercy that were opened on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in December last year are being closed in cathedrals and shrines throughout the world this weekend.

The introduction of the Feast of Christ the King is a relatively recent addition to the liturgical calendar. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

Some weeks ago I spoke about how our human experience and understanding of the role and behaviour of a ‘Father’ in our own lives and in society can often be an obstacle in our relationship with God, the Father because we project the picture that we have in our heads of a father onto the persona of God who is far beyond the scope of our experience and imagination.

The same could be said for our understanding or misunderstanding of Christ the King. We normally associate kingship with political and economic influence, majesty and pomp, wealth and elevated status, privilege and prestige; words that are quite contrary to the kingship of Christ. In the Gospel reading we are presented with the king of the universe nailed to a cross; condemned and humiliated; naked and powerless; dying. He dies that we may enjoy eternal life. He rescues us from a kingdom of darkness and opens the door to his kingdom of light.

The values that best describe the kingdom that Jesus proclaims would include humility and love, service, sacrifice, charity, mercy and forgiveness. And so it’s no surprise that the kingdom of God and our secular world are at extreme odds with each other. It was this vast gulf between the two and the ever consuming power of materialism and greed, a turning away from God, that motivated Pope Pius XI to introduce this feast seven year after the end of what is referred to as the Great War; WW1. It was a bleak time in the history of the world when the dark clouds of dictatorship and communism cast their shadows over a world desperate forpeace.

Pope Pius wrote at that time  “As long as individuals and states refuse to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there can be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations” Those words are as frighteningly true and prophetic today and they were in 1925.

We celebrate today a king who reigns from the cross. The rulers of the people at that time and the roman soldiers insult him with the title ‘King of the Jews.” It’s a picture of a man whose life has ended in disgrace. The only one who does recognise Jesus’ kingship is the so called ‘good thief.’ Hanging next to Jesus, this man knows himself and he accepts that his crime has brought him to crucifixion. He knows that Jesus is innocent and makes a profound cry for mercy which becomes an act of faith “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

From this gospel portrait we can take away a simple truth about Christ our King. The world will not always recognise him. His kind of kingship is revealed in the midst of suffering and death and those that do recognise him do so when they understand that truth.

As we prepare to start a new year in the life of the Church, we each today could think about our personal history; our mistakes, our sins, our fears and joys, our successes and failures in our relationships with God and with each other. We know that we are truly not worth of the love of Christ and his sacrifice on the cross; not one of us has cleans hands and a pure heart. But we also know with absolute certainty that we’ll find forgiveness and redemption through God’s infinite mercy if we seek it with a contrite heart. The repentant thief, crucified at Jesus’ side, accompanied him into paradise.

We should not allow ourselves to be held captive by the past!

Even if we wanted to, we can never rewrite the past. But the history that starts today, and looks to the future, has yet to be written. It will be written by the grace of God and by the choices we make from this day on. By learning from past mistakes, we can open a new chapter of your lives. Let us never yield to the temptation of thinking that we cannot be forgiven. Whatever our weaknesses and failings, great or small, whatever accusations we level at ourselves in our hearts, God’s love and grace is greater and knows no limit.

We need but entrust ourselves to his mercy; to allow him to rule over our hearts as our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.So long as our hearts continue to beat, the invitation of Christ to join him in paradise, still stands.

——–

Deacon Les 19 November 2016

Christ the King

Year
24 Oct 2013
Les Ruhrmund

Today concludes the liturgical year that began with the season of Advent a year ago. After Advent we celebrated Jesus’ birth at Christmas. Then at Easter we celebrated his resurrection. At Pentecost in May we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church. And in the months since May we’ve reflected on the mystery of Jesus’ mission and life on earth and its relevance to us in our lives today. Now we are ready to start the cycle all over again, but as we conclude this year, we take a moment to consider what it all means.

On first reflection, the gospel reading on this joyful feast of the Solemnity of Christ the King may seem inappropriate.

The verses from Luke’s Gospel present Jesus, battered and bleeding, helplessly dying on the cross pinned between two criminals; the spectators jeering and mocking him; hardly a plausible picture of a king of the universe.

Our notion of kingship is a product of history, fiction and the media who feed us with continuous trivia about the comings and goings of the members of the ‘royal’ families of the world. The kings, queens, princes, grand dukes and sultans of the world are usually associated with wealth, luxury, privilege and social status;
and in some cases political power.

None of these words would suitably describe Jesus’ life or death. So Christ the King is not a king in our usual understanding of the word.

It’s nearly impossible to find an adequate word. It’s like trying to describe the vastness and complexity of creation or the endlessness of eternity; our minds cannot grasp fully the infinite power, love, mercy and grace of Christ the King.

I have recently finished walking, with Greg Solik a fellow parishioner, part of the Camino de Santiago starting from Porto in Portugal. By Camino standards it wasn’t a particularly long journey but it was nevertheless 250 kms walked over a period of 12 days.

Our journey as Camino pilgrims was uncomplicated.

After morning prayers and a simple breakfast, we set out on the road to walk perhaps 5, 6 ,7 or 8 hours through the countryside, vineyards, forests, villages and hamlets of Portugal and Spain with a light backpack, walking stick and the Holy Spirit for company.

Sometimes we walked together sharing thoughts, ideas and our faith but often found ourselves just simply talking happy nonsense and laughing like children in a playground.

Much of the time we walked separately in reflective silence; reflecting on the past, the present and dreams of the future; perhaps remembering happy childhood moments, the people we love, thinking about the journey of life ahead.

And as the days progressed and we left the noisy clutter of our busy lives behind, we began to appreciate the presence of God in every moment and in everything; in the people, the autumn leaves, the strong flowing streams & waterfalls, the rain, the ancient Roman roads and bridges and the simple pilgrim meals prepared for us each day.

After the day’s walk, a shower and a strong cup of coffee, we’d spend a few hours writing in our journals, in prayer and quiet meditation; then a late supper (the Portuguese and Spanish only start thinking about supper at 8.30!) and finally a good night’s sleep.

On this journey I came to understood better and feel in my heart rather than my head, the reality of Christ the King; greater than anything we can imagine; king of all created things; a king who loves us even more than we dare to hope.

He was crucified between two thugs (that’s the word Luke uses). He died for them as he died for me and for each one of us. This is not a new thought or new words but when they sink into one’s heart, that’s an awesome realisation! He wants me and each of us with him in Paradise not because we deserve salvation –
but because he loves us so much more than we can imagine.

He loves us in our poor attempts to be good people and he wants us to love him and our neighbour in the same way. We can only do that when we enthrone him in our hearts as Christ the King.

The feast of Christ the King was institute by Pope Pius XI in 1925 during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning as the world witnessed the rise of non-Christian dictatorships in Europe. In his encyclical he said that he hoped for three things in and through the celebration of Christ the King.

They were:
1. That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state
2. That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ
3. That the faithful would gain strength and courage as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies

Pope Pius wrote:
“In my first Encyclical Letter ……I referred to the chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind were labouring. And I remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of (people) had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and I said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.

” With God and Jesus Christ excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man,
the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation.

“When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.

“While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim his kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm his rights.”

That was written nearly 90 years ago and I dare say that the situation has deteriorated considerably since then. Today the use of the Lord’s name is suppressed in public gatherings and official circles of authority but used freely without reverence or shame as a swear word.

This weekend, the feast of Christ the King will be celebrated by billions of Christians around the world; Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and many Protestants. Christians will celebrate for an hour in churches throughout the world but the significance of the feast will soon be forgotten by most before they have even reached home. There are few who will affirm the rights of Christ the King in public. We have largely excluded Christ the King from our public lives.

Our celebration will receive very little media coverage or comment. There’s little place or space for Christ the King in the media.

A final thought on the Gospel reading:

At this Mass we are at the foot of the cross.
Are we challenging Jesus to save us as did the one criminal on the cross next to him,
or do we see him as did the other criminal, as Christ the King and in humility ask him to remember us in his kingdom?

Witness to the Truth

Christ The King
Cycle B
John 18:33-37
Tony van Vuuren

The Church’s liturgical year comes to an end this week, starting this weekend with a great feast in which we rejoice in calling Christ our King. We owe Him an allegiance we would not give to any other power on earth. Today’s feast unites all Christian believers, no matter our national or political allegiance. All human deities and powers, even the very best, will fade. But our primary citizenship is as members of the world (dominion) over which Christ rules. With Him as our King and model we are citizens of His reign trying to live as He did; not by exerting power and influence over others, but as servants, whose King gave His life in service for us all. Our lives are meant to bear witness to His Kingdom.

In today’s gospel we are listening in on a private conversation between Pilate and Jesus in the praetorium. We hear, for the first time, the charge that Jesus is the King of the Jews. Pilate doesn’t know this of his own accord, but has been told by the Jewish authorities. His only understanding of kingship is a political one. He must wonder; is Jesus really the King of the territory occupied and ruled over by the Romans? Is Jesus a threat, someone who will gather an army and revolt against the Romans? Of course Jesus wouldn’t be the first to try that.

Suddenly Jesus starts interrogating Pilate; inquiring whether Pilate thinks that He is a threat to Roman rule, or have others been telling him that? So who’s on trial here now? Obviously Jesus is in control and is actively choosing the path ahead of Him. This King is subject to no political force, as He has said earlier in John’s Gospel, “… I lay down my life….No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own” (10:18).

Pilate asks Jesus directly, “So you are a King? Jesus seems to accept the title, but not in the worldly way Pilate is suggesting.  Instead Jesus distances himself from what Pilate is asking by responding, “My kingdom is not of this world.” When Jesus explains His rule He distinguishes it from the type of rule whose origins, values and methods Pilate knows well. Jesus says He will not use force to defend Himself.                                                                                                           The kingdom to which Jesus refers is not a location somewhere; it is neither of this world nor some place in the clouds. Jesus’ kingdom is His way of being; totally and completely within and for God.                                                                                                                                                                     It is not Pilate’s world of oppression and fear, but a place where humans are respected and treated with dignity. The world of Pontius Pilate, and rulers like him, is ruled over by force of arms; whereas citizens of Jesus’ kingdom are members because they “belong to the truth” and listen to His voice. Jesus is redefining the very notion of what “king” and “kingdom” mean. This “King” is not ruler of any piece of territory, but His domain is the truth. The truth we witnesses have discovered and accepted through John’s Gospel.

Throughout John’s gospel Jesus draws members to His kingdom and to Himself through the truth of His words and the love He engenders in those who hear and receive His message. He has come from the Father to share love with us and He has made it clear that we experience this love when we love one another.                                                                                                                                                      The kingdom that Pilate represents and rules over and the one in which Christ is our King, represent two very different ways of experiencing and living in a world. Which rule shall we choose and live in? Will we live a compromise and choose the one where the strong triumph and the less powerful are exploited; where competition creates winners and losers; where society is fragmented and divided between the “haves” and the “have-nots”; where the privileged are secure and those who lack are always vulnerable?                                                                                                                                         Or, shall we recommit today to the world where Jesus reigns and has sway over our hearts? Will we continue to accept His life of self-giving love as our way of life as well?                                                            Jesus says to Pilate:  “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  We need to listen to the voice in our hearts that guides us in our relationship with Christ the King.  We need always to seek the truth so that we may become truth ourselves.  We pray that we be guided to treat others as Jesus did, and may we give Christ the King glory and praise by how we live our lives.

The kings of our time, and all those who rule or guide nations, organizations, churches, communities, and even families, should take heed to act likewise.  The glory, dominion, and kingship of Christ the King accompanies His caring for, and right treatment of others.  The image of a king or royalty is one of privilege… the privilege to care for others, not just to be cared for oneself. We all have “privilege” of some kind; a job or a home or a family or friends or even education or financial wealth.  Our faith is a privilege.   In truth, we are all brothers and sisters of the King of Kings, making us royalty as well.  How do we share that privilege with others?  The task of all Christians, as we approach the New Year and new beginning, is to help the Kingdom of God to find a place in the hearts of all of mankind. It is a sacred duty, an honourable task, a privileged undertaking.                                                                                                                                                           Christ’s kingdom will finally triumph when he comes again. And so on this great Feast day, let our hearts be filled with hope and optimism. This is best summed up in the words spoken by our priest (Fr Harry) as we greet the flame of the new Easter candle on Holy Saturday Night:

Christ yesterday and today,                                                                                                                        the beginning and the End,                                                                                                                                     Alpha and Omega.                                                                                                                                                           All time belongs to Him and to all ages.                                                                                                                             To Him be glory and power                                                                                                                                           through every age forever. Amen.

Exam Prep Time

Christ The King Year A
20 November 2011
Rev Les Ruhrmund

We’ve come to the end of another liturgical year and today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King; Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Universal King. The Resurrection set up a situation that affected the whole of humankind for all time. There is no place or situation that is outside Christ because there is no place or situation that is outside grace and the Holy Spirit. God’s grace is offered to all and since all grace comes from (and leads to) Christ, Christ is present to all; even to those who do not know and acknowledge him. Christ is the Universal King.

The readings for this glorious celebration of Christ the King are appropriately and particularly beautiful.

Ezekiel in the first reading, written about 550 years before Jesus was born, uses the much loved image of God as the good shepherd tending the flock, leading them to rest in good pastures where the lost will be sought after and those who stray brought back, where the injured will be bandaged and the sick restored to health. And being a good shepherd he separates the sheep from the goats. In ancient times sheep symbolised honour, virility and strength because they could withstand the cold of winter and they suffered in silence. Goats on the other hand are physically vulnerable to inclement weather and were considered lascivious animals because the males mated indiscriminately. Goats came to symbolise shame and shameful behaviour.

In the gospel reading, Jesus also uses this image of God as shepherd separating the sheep from the goats as he describes the final judgement at the end of time. In Matthews’s gospel this passage comes at the end of Jesus’ time on earth. In the very next verse Jesus says “You know that in two days time it will be Passover, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” introducing Matthew’s telling of the Passion.

The last few weeks have been a trying time for many of our parishioners writing exams. Many of them I’m sure would have been happy to sacrifice much to have had a preview of the exam questions so they could better prepare. Today’s gospel gives each of us a privileged preview of the final exam we will encounter after we have died and are assembled before God where we will be judged to be worthy either of eternal light or eternal darkness. If we fail the exam we have only ourselves to blame.

I imagine there will be many surprises when the final results become known. In the gospel reading even those who Jesus judged to be virtuous seemed to be surprised by their selection. I think it’s fair to say that the majority of us are sinful people and that if saintliness is the only criterion for eternal life then few of us will qualify. Jesus says something quite different. He says we will be excluded from heaven not because of the sinful things that we have done but because of the good things that we have not done. Living a squeaky clean life that follows all the laws of church and state is not enough to pass the exam.

Jesus says that the sole criterion for citizenship of heaven is love.

Everything we do in our lives and relationships – work, play, prayer and worship – must be directed by and towards love. We are created in love, to love and to be loved. Doctrine, prayer and liturgy in themselves are of little value if they do not inspire and motivate us to love.

The opportunities to express and experience love are all around us in simple acts of kindness.

We cannot touch and know Jesus as the disciples did but we meet Jesus every day in others. Jesus says we will find him very specifically in those who are suffering. In meeting and caring for those who suffer we meet and are graced by Christ. Wherever there is suffering, there is Christ. Wherever there is suffering, we can be Christ.

I don’t think we have to take the examples of suffering that Jesus uses as absolute or literal. If we use the examples as our guide we will find suffering close at hand.

Jesus refers to those who are hungry. Some of us are able to assist those who are hungry for food through charity or employment. But many more of us can bring comfort to those who hunger for understanding, companionship, acceptance and respect.

Thirst can mean more than a desire for something to drink. For some thirst may be a craving for affection or friendship to bring some life into the desert of their loneliness.

Jesus talks about welcoming strangers. Strangers are not only those whom we have never met before. Do we have friends or family members that we treat as strangers because we can’t find it within ourselves to love them just as they are? If that’s true, we’ll fail this question.

And then the question of clothing the naked. Do not most of us have cloths in our wardrobes that we never wear but which would bring much comfort to others who have very much less? Imagine how many people we could bless, mostly strangers, if we each went through our wardrobes this week and donated all our excess clothing to charity. We should be able to score bonus points on this question.

Jesus talks about visiting the sick and those in prison. This would include people who suffer from mental illnesses and depression, anxiety, fear; also those imprisoned by addictions and poor self-image. It includes those who are feeling isolated from God and to whom we can show the face of Jesus through our love, kindness and understanding.

We find Christ when we go looking for him.
We know the questions that will be asked of us in our final exam and we have been given the rest of our lives in which to prepare. It is only the date of the examination is unknown.

Deacon Les 19 November 2011
A thought for the new liturgical year:
Next weekend we start a new Church year with the first Sunday of Advent. The liturgical calendar is one of the treasures of our religious tradition and one that we should carefully and judiciously protect and observe both in our daily lives and in the Mass. The different seasons through the year celebrate the full mystery and miracle of our Christian faith; the life of Jesus as Christ and Jesus the man. As we remember each year the cycle of Jesus’ Nativity, Passion and Death, Resurrection, Pentecost with the birth and growth of the Church, we are renewed and encouraged on our pilgrim journey. If we disregard the seasons, the feasts and the solemnities of the liturgical year in our daily lives and in the Mass, then every day and every Sunday becomes the same and we risk losing both the intrinsic beauty and value of our faith tradition and the perpetual stirring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.