Sunday, November 20, 2016

Solemnity of Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King. November 19th, 2016

The past few weeks, our readings have been about the end times. And the ultimate end of these readings, and the ultimate end of everything for that matter, is the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ. And so, this week’s Solemnity of Christ the King brings the Church’s “Liturgical time” or Liturgical year, to a close.

Over the past months of time we have celebrated the mysteries of the life of the Lord. Pope St. John Paul II taught that, “While the feast of the Epiphany, Easter, and the Ascension all relate to Christ as King and Lord of the Universe, the Church has desired to have this great feast to be a special remembrance to modern man, modern man who seems somewhat indifferent to truth and his supernatural destiny, that his earthly life, all earthly kingdoms, and all time, will end in front of the Kings of kings.”

So on this special feast day, we now contemplate Christ in his glorified state as King of all creation and as King our souls. This feast day serves as a reminder to us that the Lord should truly reign in our life and over every aspect of it. The Lord Jesus needs to be sovereign over our hearts and minds, by being present in our families, among our friends, neighbors, and with our colleagues at work.

Christ’s kingship in our daily lives should be a witness against those who would reduce religion to a set of negative statements or to some kind of “pick and choose” Catholicism. Many would like to limit Christ’s sovereignty to just a corner of their lives and make their faith solely a private affair, claiming that they can’t take their faith in Christ out into personal relationships or out into the public and so political sphere. Contrastingly, this feast day is a call to each of us that we must affirm with our words and especially with our deeds, that we aspire to make Christ the King, reign indeed, over all hearts, both our own and other’s as well.

When we think of a sovereign, we can easily think of an absolute monarch or dictator, who commands without question. We are reminded about the crimes against humanity, the many injustices that these types of tyrants have committed and we can immediately think that sovereignty is a bad thing. Certainly, the foundation of our own country was against a sovereign; and in fact, this week we will celebrate thanksgiving and the blessings of freedom in our country. Jesus is a sovereign, it is true, but not in the way of earthly tyrants, for He has come to serve and not to be served.

Jesus established a kingdom of divine love and truth, whose demands go much farther than mere justice to mercy. Love demands that we give our all, without ever counting the cost. Mercy demands that we put the other before ourselves. This is difficult of course, because it means that we must give up our own self importance and self will and ascent to Jesus’ truth and His Will in order to open our hearts to receive His Divine Love. And Mercy demands that we share this Love and so this Truth with others.

The call to make Jesus our sovereign King can then make us hesitate. In fact, this call goes against our modern society. We live in a society that has dethroned God that no longer sees Him as Almighty (for an almighty God has a claim on our lives, a claim which demands absolute obedience to His Will and to His truth). But our world is one that has all but abandoned God, has especially abandoned Jesus Christ as King, maybe not in word, but in deed. If anything at all, it pays Jesus lip service.

It is a world that, not only no longer searches for the truth, it has abandoned any notion of absolute truth. For modern society based on radical individualism, truth has been replaced with feelings, emotions, and opinions; it is all about one’s personal “feelings” or one’s personal opinions. Deep within our society is a hatred for the very notion of kingship, of serving Christ the King by serving others; in stead it is, “I want to be king; I want to be served, I want to define truth.” It is no longer about obedience to the Holy Will of God, it is now about the “will of the people,” about our own will over and above the Holy Will of God and others. It is the kingdom of man without any reference to the Kingdom of God (a good definition of Atheistic Communism).

Jesus, however, manifests to us the Will of His Heavenly Father by obediently accepting death, even death on a cross. Hence, the cross is Jesus’ throne, the crown of thorns His royal diadem. While all those at the foot of the cross expected Christ to show a spectacular demonstration of His Royal claims by coming down off the cross, Jesus instead shows forth his divine authority by commanding the forgiveness of sins, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do. While Jesus in His sacrifice atones for all of the sins committed by mankind, He chooses to manifest the greatest act of sovereignty the world as ever seen by being concerned with just one man, and a criminal at that. “Jesus remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you today you will be with me in paradise. In this Jesus shows, not just strict justice, but Divine Mercy!

And so, the most important question one must ask on this Feast of Christ the King is not whether He does or does not reign in the world, but does He or does He not reign in me; not if His royalty is recognized by states and governments, but is it recognized and lived by me. Is Jesus Christ, truly King and Lord of my life? Who reigns in me, who sets the objectives and establishes the priorities in my life: Is it Christ or another? To live "for the Lord," means to live in view of Him, to live solely for love of Him, for His glory and honor, and for the spreading of His Kingdom on earth, which subsists fully in the Holy Catholic Church.

Consequently then, The reign of Christ extends so far as there are men and women who understand themselves to be children of God, who are nourished by Him through His Holy Catholic Church and her great Sacraments, children who live only for Him; and as a result, want others to share in this Family of God under the Kingship of Christ and His sweet yoke.

However, it must be clear that, the reign of Christ extends only as far as there are those who realize it is only in being obedient to the Holy Church, to Her leaders and to Her divine teachings, that one is truly obedient to Christ the King.
Holy Mother Church gives us this feast at the end of the Church year, and this end of the Church’s year should be a type of spiritual death for all of us, a death to sin and selfishness, a death to our self will, and a rising to a new beginning, a new life in Christ and in His Holy Will. And just as natural death brings with it the prospect of seeing and standing before Jesus Christ our sovereign king, the end of this Church year brings us this opportunity to stand before Christ the king who is truly, physically, substantially present in the Holy Eucharist and allow Him to renew His divine Kingship over us…This is the Eucharist Reign of Christ the King. (As an aside: the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart as promised by Our Lady of Fatima will be the conversion of the world to true faith in the Holy Eucharist; and so, it will be the coming of the Eucharistic Reign of Christ on earth (conversion of Islam, Judaism and al faiths to the Holy Eucharist as Sacrament of Sacrifice, Sacrament of true Presence and Sacrament of Communion). This will begin a time of great peace on earth, peace that the world had not yet experienced).

Let us pray, “Jesus our Sovereign King, so many times we have been thieves by stealing your sovereignty over our lives. You always grant more than we could ever ask or imagine. The good thief only asked you to remember him but instead You granted Him paradise. So in your infinite mercy, King Jesus, “Remember us when you come into your kingdom. Holy Mary, mother of the King of kings, Queen of heaven and earth, and our Mother and our Queen, Pray for us sinners who have recourse to thee. Amen. May God bless you and Viva el Christo Rey…Long live Christ the King!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

It is the way we live our faith each day that is most important.

As we see the leaves of the trees fall and feel the cold weather coming, we are reminded that we are beginning to wind down another year. We see starting already ads and displays for Christmas, even though Advent is still a few weeks away. The Church, in choosing the readings for this time of the coming of the ending of the year, is helping us to look towards the coming of the end of our life, and so, the four last things of our life -Death, Judgment, Heaven or Hell.

Our death is that moment that each one of us will stand before the Jesus when He comes again as Judge of the living and the dead, as Judge of our own life. We, of course, will speak much more of the Second coming of Christ during the Advent season, but we are being prepared for this focus with our readings today.

Holy Mother the Church, like a good Mother, wants us to realize that nothing, nothing in this life is more important than our faith in Jesus Christ. And nothing is more important than living our life in faithfulness to Him, and friendship with Him as a preparation to meet Him face to face. Now is the time of mercy, but soon will come the time of Judgment. Jesus comes to us now in the Sacraments as Divine Mercy, but at the end of our life He will come as Divine Judge.

To emphasize the importance of our faith in Jesus and His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, this same Holy Church—who is our Mother, this same Church in our first reading, gives us the incredible, moving and true story of another mother who realized the importance of faith. She was willing to see all seven of her sons killed before her eyes rather than see them deny their faith. She like a good mother loved her sons enough to know that their eternal salvation was more important than life in this world or anything this world as to offer. Holy Mother the Church knows this as well.

The modern popes have reminded us that martyrdom, dying in witness for our Catholic Faith in fidelity to Jesus and His Catholic Church is always a distinct possibility for the true believer in any age and in every age. Our pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI said once that, “The possibility (to be martyr) does not seem to be immediate (to us), however, how we should be prepared to die for Christ.”

Sometimes we dismiss this idea for our times, perhaps because it has been so easy for us to practice our faith in the past. How many of us here have had to risk our life or imprisonment in order to make it to Sunday Mass, for example? How many of us have lost all of our possessions for being Catholic? How many of us have seen a member of our family or a brother or sister in Christ killed before our eyes.

The fact is, however, more Catholics today are suffering and dying for their faith than ever before in history, just look at the Middle East…thousand dying for their Catholic Faith. Mothers and fathers seeing even their young children-babies, die for the faith, just like the mother in our first reading. Our age, which will definitely go down in history as the “Age of Martyrs.”

In speaking about the distinct possibility of Martyrdom we Catholics face, Benedict emphasized that it is the way we live our faith each day that is most important.

It is the way we live our faith each day that is most important. This is the point that Jesus is trying to teach us in our Gospel today. Jesus corrects the Scribes and Pharisees because they failed to see how important is the way that one lives one life here and now with regards to how and where one spends eternity. The question regarding marriage in the afterlife was asked to Jesus; “Who of the seven husbands would the one woman belong to?” Jesus tells them that they missed the main point. And the main point is: the way we live today in our life of faith will be the way we will live life forever. In other words, how we live today and every day will determine how we will live in the next.

On a daily basis, we may not be brought before magistrates to witness to our faith (although that might becoming sooner than we may think) but we are called to witness to the truth by living our Catholic Faith. This means of course much more than just coming to Holy Mass. It means this of course, but it also means conforming our lives more and more to the all of the Teachings of the Catholic Church; teachings that come not from man, not from the pope, bishops or priests, but that come from God Himself. The teachings of the Catholic Church are the teachings of God.

One such example of how we live our catholic Faith, that is relevant in this election week, is by how we vote and our responsibility to vote ethically. We live our Catholic faith by the way we vote. I recently read an article by a priest who is a prolific thinker and author. In speaking about the upcoming election he said:

It is incorrect to say that the coming election poses a choice between two evils. For ethical and aesthetic reasons, there may be some bad in certain candidates, but badness consists in doing bad things. Evil is different: it is the deliberate destruction of truth, virtue and holiness. While one may pragmatically vote for a flawed candidate, one may not vote for anyone who advocates and enables unmitigatedly evil acts, and that includes abortion. “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it'" (Evangelium Vitae, 73).

 At one party’s convention, the name of God was excluded from its platform and a woman who boasted of having aborted her child was applauded. It is a grave sin, requiring sacramental confession and penance, to become an accomplice in objective evil by voting for anyone who encourages it, for that imperils the nation and destroys the soul.

By the way, the priest went on to rightly say:

“It is also the duty of the clergy to make this clear and not to shrink, under the pretense of charity, from explaining the Church's censures. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are dangerous, but worse are wolves in shepherd’s clothing. While the evils foreseen eight years ago were realized, worse would come if those affronts to human dignity were endorsed again. In the most adverse prospect, God forbid, there might not be another free election, and soon Catholics would arrive at shuttered churches and vacant altars. The illusion of indifference cannot long be perpetuated by lame jokes and synthetic laughter at banquets, for there is handwriting on the wall.” (Fr. George Rutler, Pastor of the Church of St. Michael, from his weekly Column of October 30, 2016)

Today the Church as a mother, as our Holy Mother, is even more concerned about the eternal salvation of Her sons and daughters than the mother in our first readings; She wants us to realize what this life is really all about. In fact, Holy Mother Church’s prime consideration, the reason for her very existence and for everything she does, is for the Salvation of Souls (Cannon 1752). Today she is reminding us that the most important thing in this life is our beautiful Catholic faith and our living it out each day faithfully in love, in charity so that we may reach heaven and help others reach it as well.

Like any mother, the Church doesn’t want to instill in us fear. She doesn’t remind us about the last things, Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell in order to instill fear in us; fear doesn’t lead to authentic freedom and so fear doesn’t lead to true love. Faith is not about fear, but about responsibility and love. Our Holy Mother want us to realize that what is needed is responsibility and accountability shown in our concern for our salvation and the salvation of the souls of our neighbor whoever they may be (even if they be our enemy).

Soon it will be night, and we will be questioned about our love. Love is shown not in sweet words, nor in lofty thoughts, not in warm fuzzy feelings or emotional highs. No, love is shown by deeds; Love is shown by how you and I live our Beautiful Catholic faith on a daily basis.

The level of our love with which we die, will be the level of our love for all eternity. If our love is great, then our love in heaven will be great. If our love is cold here on earth, it will be cold in the next, cold not in heaven, but cold by being separated from heaven; that is, separated for ever from the God who is Love (Deus Caritas est—God is Charity 1 Jn 4:8).

It is love of Christ alone, which give the martyrs the strength to face cruel deaths; it is this love that will be lived forever provided we begin to live it more intensely today. And this love can be lived only to the extent we live out our Beautiful Catholic faith on a daily basis. The source of this love is the Holy Eucharist, because the Holy Eucharist is Love incarnate, Jesus the One who truly loves us beyond our imaginings. It is the Holy Eucharist that gives us the strength to live the Church’s teachings, it is the Holy Eucharist that gives us the strength to witness our faith even unto death. Holy Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Mother of the Church, Mother of the Martyrs, be today ever more our Mother. Holy Mary, pray for our beloved country, pray for our parish, pray for our families, pray for us. Amen.