The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time year C: The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

First reading 2 Samuel 5:1-3

Psalm 122

Second reading Colossians 1:12-20

Gospel Luke 23:35-43

At the end of each liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. This solemnity is considered as the climax and the summit of all feasts and solemnities in the Catholic Church. It proclaims and recognizes the Divine messianic and kingship of Jesus. Saint Cyrille from Alexandria said that the Savior is really a king, he himself did not deny this fact before Pilate, he affirmed his kingship which is peaceful and different from humans’ kingships “So Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” “You have said so,” [Luke 23:3].

The Feast of Christ the King, also known as Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, festival celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church.  It was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. Originally, it was celebrated on the last Sunday of the month of October, but in the revised liturgical calendar promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969, it was moved to the last Sunday of Ordinary Time (immediately preceding Advent). As we celebrate this Solemnity today, the liturgical readings invite us to reflect on the theme “Jesus Christ the king”.

In the first reading, we hear how the elders of Israel asked David to rule over them. This took place while Saul was still a king over the twelve tribes of Israel. King Saul knew about this, and he realized that his kingship was in danger; so as any modern king or president, he exiled the future king David. However, his subjects went to look for David in his place at Hebron. David’s kingship is approved by all the tribes of Israel but also by God. The people saw David as a potential leader because he was anointed by Samuel to be a king. David did not fight for power like Saul or what modern leaders do. He was elected by God himself and all the tribes agreed to that.

            David’s kingship was a prefiguration of Jesus’ leadership. David ruled over only the tribes of Israel but Jesus’ kingdom was extended to all; it’s in this sense he is the king of the entire universe. But his kingdom and his leadership are beyond human understanding. For this reason, there was a misunderstanding about his kingship while he was on the earth and this misunderstanding still continues up today. Saint Luke in the gospel of today is talking about this misunderstanding and incomprehension about the kingship of our Lord Jesu Christ. There are three categories of people who have rejected the kingship of Jesus and these people are first the Jewish his own people, second, the Romans represented by Pilate, and the third category of people is the group of bandits. These three groups have mocked Jesus saying to save himself if he is Christ the messiah. The mockery of the ones of the bandits crucified with Jesus caught attention; as a reaction, the second bandit rebuked him by summoning him. His sermon can be summarized in threefold: (1) he pointed out to him that he has maligned God, (2) he claimed the innocence of Jesus, and (3) he reminded him of his sinfulness. At least not all people have rejected him there were some groups of people who acknowledge the power of Jesus over the universe among which the second bandit belong to.

The Jews and Romans spread false information about the kingship of Jesus, and the Gentiles Christians found it difficult to perceive Jesus as King. In order to correct this, saint Paul in the second reading teaches the Colossians about the nature and the roles of Jesus in the creation.  According to the apostle, Jesus has played two significant roles in the creations which are: redemption and forgiveness of sins. There is no king on earth who can give redemption to his subjects except the divine king and beyond this, he has forgiven sins because “he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

As we are celebrating this solemnity today, I would like to stress three things based on the readings: (1) kingship comes from God, (2) misunderstanding of Jesus’ kingship, and (3) the work of Jesus as a king.

  1. Kingship comes from God: David was not king on his own on the contrary he was elected by God himself and the elders of Israel acknowledged this. This explains why they went to Hebron to remind him of the words of the Lord “You shall be the shepherd of my people Israeli, and you shall be prince over Israel”. Dear friends, the first reading is inviting us to let God decide or chose people whom he wants in the right places.  Due to corruption in the secular world, people get power by force and they are ready to exterminate whoever talks.  May we be Christians who do not impose things on God but Christians who allow the Holy Spirit to blow wherever he wants!
  2. Misunderstanding of Jesus’ kingship: In one of his teachings, saint Ephrem said that Jesus Christ is the peaceful king who has the cross as his scepter. This cross is the bridge between death and life upon which souls pass to enter life. Dear friends, the peaceful king was among the Jews and the Gentiles but they did not recognize him because they were not ready to accept him as the Son of God. Suppose that Jesus is in our midst today, would we accept him or behave like the Jewish?  Do we really understand the solemnity we are celebrating today and what it entails? The gospel is inviting us to bear in mind two things: one to go beyond the appearance; those who crucified Jesus judged him based on the arrival without knowing that they have actually mocked and crucified the divine king. The second bandit is teaching us a lesson by saying to Jesus “remember me when you come in your kingly power”. He has seen in Jesus the perfect king, the only one who save him and the entire universe.
  3. The work of Jesus as a king: through Jesus, we have received redemption, and our sins have been forgiven. A true king must be ready to die for his subjects; this is what Jesus did on the cross on our behalf. Jesus has set an example of how to conduct our leadership; being a leader in the secular world or church does not make us superior to others.

            May we be humble enough to learn from Jesus the divine king who accepted the cross for our sake as men and women of faith?

Fr. Issere Agre, SVD

When that day comes

Sunday Readings in brief 33 C

Mal 3:19-20; Ps 97(98); 2 Thess 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19

When that day comes

Dear friends, today is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time C. Next Sunday will be the feast of Christ the King and the end of the liturgical years C. During this season, we learn a lot about the kingdom of God and what is required of us in order to enter it. Towards the end of the season, the readings focus on the end of times and that day when we will all be required to give an account of our lives as baptized Christians.

In the first reading describes that day as a burning furnace that will consume the arrogant who will be like firewood. However, for the righteous who will have kept the faith and the fear of the name of the Lord, that day for them will bring healing and restoration. As St. Augustin of Hippo reminds us, God created us without us but he will not save us without us. Our attitude towards the kingdom of God preached to us by Christ will determine whether we will rejoice or weep when that day comes. The time to prepare is here and now.

During the time of St. Paul, many false prophets emerged and started preaching about the end of time. They went around Thessalonica instilling fear in people and demanding sustenance from them. St. Paul is distancing himself from such people and stating that no one should be given food without work.

Today, many have turned to preach as a source of easy income that is not even taxed. Many have taken the advantage of the freedom of worship and the democratic space for religious activities without interference from the state. Instead of teaching people the values that will improve their lives on earth and help them attain the kingdom of God, many have turned worshippers into customers. Instead of Catechesis on positive transformation of individuals and society at large to foster, peace, love, and justice, many have resulted into merchants of miracles and fortune. The Gospel of repentance of responsibility is out of fashion.

Sunday preachers, occasional healers, and visiting miracle workers have replaced continuous catechesis with Christian basic values of honesty, humility, love, non-violence, etc. Idleness has invaded many religious people who instead of working in the vineyard entrusted to them are waiting in worship places for the people to work and bring them their upkeep while interfering with everyone else’s business. St. Paul says that this is unacceptable and anyone who does not work should not also eat.

Jesus warns us not to be deceived or frightened by such false prophets who even at times claim to be him. The way they instill fear in people, one would think that they would be themselves seated at the judge’s seat on that day. Surprisingly many rich and powerful people who are afraid or unprepared to die as well as poor people who are afraid of work, are turning to them and offering huge offerings seeking divine protection. They are repeatedly being swindled of their money and death has never had a cure or vaccine.

Salvation is not waiting for us at the end of the road so we can buy it when we arrive. Salvation is a process that begins with baptism and ends with Judgement. How we live our lives in between is the evidence that will determine our fate when that day comes. The only question that should bother us every day is whether when that day comes we will have our accounts balanced to render them to the just Judge.

Dear friends, as we conclude this liturgical year, I invite us to look back and see what improvement we have made in our lives through the help of scriptural lessons throughout the year. Let us also prepare to start the coming liturgical year A with the resolve to be better learners.

Have a blessed Sunday.

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

33rd Sunday in ordinary time year C

First reading Malachi 4:1-2a

Psalm 98

2 Thessalonians 3:7-12

Luke 21:5-19

On the eve of the year 2000, some churches predicted the end of the world. They have asked their faithful to donate all their possessions. But we are in 2022 now and the world has not yet ended. Let us be alert and not to allow the false messengers to distract our minds with the end of the world. Brethren, today is the thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, year C and the word of God is inviting us to reflect on the theme: “The day of the Lord is coming”.

            Thus in the first reading of today, Malachi summoned his audiences about the day of the Lord. In the prophetic writings, the prophets emphasized the day of the Lord. On the one hand, this day is known as the day of judgment for the wicked and evildoers and the day of blessing for the righteous ones. Prophet Malachi who lived around 515BCE after the rededication of the second temple of Jerusalem, reminded his contemporaries and us today that the day of the Lord is coming and that each individual will face God’s judgment. This day will be a moment of suffering for some while for some it will be a moment of joy. In Malachi 3: 2, we are already informed about this day “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?”

But before that moment, the righteous and the faithful ones will experience great suffering. And this is what Jesus has reminded his disciples in today’s Gospel. The Gospel reading is divided into three sections: section one is talking about “the sign” verses 5-7 whereby Jesus prophesized about the falling and the destruction of Jerusalem temple. The second section began from verse 8 until verse 11. In these four verses, Jesus draws the disciples’ attention to the coming conflicts and the pretenders who will claim themselves as being “Christ”. The third and last section starting from verse 12 up to verse 19 is focused on how the disciples will be persecuted. Dear friends, there will be the end of the world however no one knows when that will be not even the Son of man Matthew 24:36. This should not create panic nor fear in us for as long as us we adore and worship God faithfully and keep his commandments, we shall triumphant.

In the second reading, the apostle Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to take responsibility in regard to work. Some of the faithful in the community refused to work, they were idling. The word “idle” in Greek has a deeper meaning than the English word; thus it refers to “to be undisciplined” or “to live in a disorderly manner” and is used to describe those who do not fulfill their obligations. Those who were living idle were going against the essence of their faith. It’s in this sense that Paul as a leader of the community commanded them to change immediately.

 Reflecting on the readings, I would like us to keep in mind three things: (1) God pays each and everyone according to his or her deeds, (2) the righteous ones shall experience persecution, and (3) Christians’ duties.    

  1. God will pay each and every one according to his deeds: Dear friends, whatever we have done on this earth, we are responsible for it. On the day of the Lord, each one of us will be held of our actions. God has given us freedom and the opportunity to do whatever we want but we are responsible of our actions. Unlike the judgment of human Beings which is corrupted, the judgment of God is perfect and full of mercy, therefore there is no favoritism nor corruption. Today, prophet Malachi is reminding us about the great day of the Lord; while we are still on earth we can still change our minds and actions from evil to good. May the Spirit of the Lord touch our hearts in order to make a good and right decision.
  2. The righteous ones shall experience persecution: There is an expression in one of the vernaculars of Togo the country where I come from which says “the white porridge comes out from the black pot”. Those who will experience God’s blessing and favor on the day of the Lord have experienced persecution in this present life. Persecution in this context might not be the same as what the apostles and the first Christians had experienced but persecution in diverse forms. Today, Jesus is inviting us to trust and to hope in the Lord for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict; above all men will hate you because of me but not a hair of your head will perish. Brethren, we have received a call of perseverance and endurance, let us, therefore, hold on to God during persecutions.
  3. Christians duties: I know one guy when I was doing pastoral year experience as part of priestly formation in 2018. At the age of 32, he had a master’s degree but was idle throughout the day and he was under his parents’ care; they provided everything. His parents encouraged him in his idleness.  Dear friends, many people think that if they become Christians, the bread will fall from heaven, as in the desert with the Israelites. According to the apocryphal gospels, our Lord Jesus Christ himself worked he did not burden his parents at the age of adolescence. Many Christians today are living in idleness, they are always in the church compound praying the whole day living behind their works, businesses, and so forth. Let us remember this famous quote from “Ora et Labor”

May God help us to be faithful to him despite what we are experiencing and may we be men and women of good reputation in our societies by taking our responsibilities seriously, amen.

Hope in the ultimate Promise

Sunday readings in Brief 32 C

2 Mc 7:1-2,9-14; Ps 16(17); 2 Thess 2:16-3:5; Lkn20:27-38

Hope in the Ultimate Promise

Dear friends, today is the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C. The readings today are talking about the promise of the resurrection. Resurrection is simply new life after our physical death. The creation story in Genesis 2 shows that the creation of human beings was different from that of all other creatures. Whereas God said, “let there be” and all other creatures came to be, when it came to the human being, it is said, “And then the Lord God formed man from the clay of the earth, and he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7). Consequently, it is logical to conclude that when God takes back his breath the human body remains lifeless. 

It is a common experience that things come to be and then after a certain period, they cease to be both flora and fauna. All that lives one day will cease to live. However, for human beings, physical death is not the end of life because the life we have did not come from the earth but from God. Even without the question of faith, all human beings know deep within themselves that they are more than other creatures. Even without knowing, we all strive to preserve ourselves in life and hope for the next life. St. Augustin of Hippo puts it in simple terms, “You have made us for yourself oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”.

Faith in God can be summarized as the hope for the promise of life even after death. This hope is what defines how we conduct ourselves in this life. The stronger the hope the better the conduct. Even in our day-to-day undertakings, people who hope more accomplish a lot, and similarly those who hope less accomplish less. Those who lose hope accomplish nothing and may even take their own lives. St. Paul in the second reading writing to the Thessalonians urges them that the hope they have may comfort and strengthen them in everything good that they do or say. 

In the first readings from the book of Maccabees, the story of the seven sons and their mother is a powerful demonstration of how hope can instill courage even in the face of death. Rather than profane the laws of their ancestors and preserve their lives disgracefully, they found it much better to remain faithful and die with dignity. 

In the Gospel reading, the Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection came to Jesus with an imaginary case scenario to prove their disbelief. They anchor their first premise in their traditions of wife inheritance and the assumption that in heaven people marry. “If a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise children for his brother”. They then present a case of seven brothers who inherited the same woman. Then they arrive at the absurdity to mock the whole concept of resurrection. “At the resurrection of the dead, whose wife will she be?”

Jesus replies by first debunking their assumption about marriage after the resurrection: “The children of this world take wives and husbands…but in the resurrection from dead they do not marry because they can no longer die…” This upholds procreation as one of the purposes of marriage. Jesus further explains that even Moses himself implies that the dead continue to live when he refers to God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

Dear friend, the greatest dividend when get from believing in God and the resurrection of the dead is Hope. Hope is a supernatural force that makes us defy all limits to release our maximum potential and accomplish wonderful things in the world. St. Paul talks about faith, hope, and love as the greatest virtues of all times. Without faith, we have no hope and without hope, we have no drive to love. 

Dear friends, I invite us to introspect and see if our sluggishness in performing our due responsibilities is because we have a deficit of hope. Hope can be regained by seeking instructions about the things we ought to believe in. What does your faith demand of you?

Have a blessed Sunday

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

32nd Sunday in ordinary time year C

First reading 2 Maccabees 7:1-2.9-14

Psalm 17

Second reading 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5

Gospel Luke 20:27-38

 Last Tuesday we have celebrated the solemnity of all saints and the following day Wednesday we prayed for all the departed souls. These two events reminded us that we are in transit on this earth going to the dwelling place of God. It means that there is another life after the earthly life. Dear friends, today is the thirty-second Sunday in ordinary time year C and the liturgical readings are inviting us to reflect on the theme: “Life after death”.

Thus in the first reading taken from the book of the Maccabees, we are told how king Antiochus Epiphanes VI persecuted the Jews. He compelled them to go against their faith. However, many of the Jewish resisted and were ready to die rather than to abandon the faith of their ancestors. This is what the seven brothers and their mother did in today’s reading. They have embraced suffering with joy on account of their faith.

In the Gospel of today, the Sadducees have asked a vital question to Jesus, “In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as a wife”. The Sadducees a small group within Judaism believed that there is no resurrection after death. Unlike this group, in many African cultures, there is a belief in life after life, meaning that those from the earth after death will join the ancestors on the other side. Jesus’s teaching on the resurrection is similar to the African’s believes but has a deeper understanding of what we shall look like after death. He said we shall be equals to angels.

Most of saint Paul’s letters are concluded by prayers and exhortations, this way of writing is peculiar to Paul. Thus in the second reading of today, the apostle Paul prayed for the Thessalonians on the account of what they were experiencing in their community. He said, “May God comfort your heart and establish you them in every good work and word, may the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” God is able to comfort broken hearts by putting his love in them.

Reflecting upon the readings, I would like to highlight three points: (1) Perseverance in tough situations, (2) Living a worthy life on the earth, and (3) God comforts the desolate hearts

Perseverance in the tough situations:  The second brother before dying said: “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life but the king of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life because we have died for his laws”. Dear friends, this is a word of faith; the seven brothers together with their mother have understood their faith. They know that there is everlasting life even if they die under persecution. Today, we are called upon to follow in the footstep of these Jewish martyrs who sacrificed their lives in order to preserve their faith.

Live a worthy life on the earth: Dear friends, many of us are aware of life after death however, how do we live? From the response of Jesus to the Sadducees, we could have deduced that those who will experience resurrection are those who have prepared themselves on the earth before death “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are account worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage”. Through this phrase, Jesus emphasized on living worthy life on earth. Just like the seven brothers and their mother in the first reading, we are also called upon to live an upright life.

God comfort the desolate hearts: Saint Paul has noticed the situation of the Thessalonians and he prayed to God to assist them. Dear friends, during difficult moments, to whom do we turn? Do we go to our knees and pray to the giver of life or do we lose hope? The second reading of today is inviting us to put our hope into the Lord for he alone can comfort hearts and give us joy.

The readings of today have helped us to reflect on the theme of the life of the after, meaning that our sufferings on this earth are not eternal on the contrary temporary. Brethren, let us embrace and keep our faith with love and passion for we know that our God is the God of the living not the God of the dead, amen.

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