First Impressions CHRIST THE KING -C-
November 25, 2007
Samuel 5: 1-3 Psalm 122 Colossians 1: 12-20 Luke 23: 35-43
Jude Siciliano, OP
Pre-note: Advent begins next week and we enter into a new liturgical year.
We have two CDs available preachers, liturgists and worshipers will find
helpful—one for the new "Year A" and a combination CD for all three years, A, B
and C. Go to our "Preachers’ Exchange" webpage at
http://www.judeop.org/ and click on the "First
Impressions" CD tab on the left.
I saw my first Christmas ad on television the day after
Halloween. They are rushing the season again and have us thinking about
Christmas—mostly about buying and receiving gifts. So, with "Jiggle Bells" soon
to invade our ears on our car radios and our minds already racing towards
Christmas, doesn’t it jar you to hear today’s gospel scene from Jesus’
crucifixion? Today the "King of the Jews" is hanging on the cross suffering the
jeers of the worldly powers, the "rulers" and the soldiers who are looking on
their tortured and dying victim. Little did they know the truth of that
inscriptions they placed over his head, "The King of the Jews."
What kind of royal scene is this for the feast of Christ the King, this last
Sunday of the liturgical year? The year seems to be ending not with a bang, but
with a whimper. The king isn’t ruling from a throne, but from a cross, a place
of defeat and abandonment. Do we want to accept his rule in our lives? Do we
want this king to have sway over our affections and loyalties? What’s in it for
us? Nothing—he’s defeated and on the cross. What’s in it for us? Everything—his
death opens the way to a whole new life for us.
The Jews of Jesus’ time were under the brutal rule of king Herod, who was
backed by the excessively harsh Roman emperor and his armies. The present looked
desperate to them, so they clung to the only things they had---the past and the
future. Our first reading from 2 Samuel recalls their great past, personified by
King David. Under him God had gathered the twelve tribes into a great nation.
This unification happened at Hebron where the tribes recognized David as their
Jesus’ contemporaries also looked to the future with the hope that once again
God would raise up a king like David and restore the nation and religion to its
former greatness. This messiah king would rule over a new and glorious kingdom.
How ironic then that, as Luke tells us, an inscription was placed on the cross
over Jesus’ head which read, "This is the King of the Jews." Pilate ordered that
inscription placed there and the insult was not lost on the Jews. Rulers wear
gold and bejeweled crowns, while our king has a mocking inscription over his
head. Not exactly the kind of king the people were hoping God would send them.
We are a people who admire power. We are quick to react if we think we are
being infringed upon in any way. Our country began with a rebellion against a
British king’s power. We wanted our national and individual liberties and would
accept no king or queen over us. We boast of being the most powerful nation in
the world and we have the economic, military and political might to prove it.
Yet today we celebrate Christ the King who identified himself, not with David’s
kingly rule and grandeur, but with the Suffering Servant depicted in Isaiah. He
came, he said, not to rule, but to be the servant of all. He came, not to exert
power over people, but to build relationships between them. Those who accept the
rule of this king are invited to put aside worldly thoughts of power and
dominance and commit themselves to Jesus’ rule, which calls them to live guided
by the law of love: to forgive enemies, empower the disenfranchised, and welcome
the stranger. It is a strange kingdom indeed that Christ came to establish.
This feast challenges us to reflect on the power each of us has and how we
use it. Are we first world citizens who are economically comfortable, educated,
articulate, etc.? There are many ways we have and use power; many ways we have
influence over individuals and as members of communities and organizations. As
citizens we also have voice in local and even national policies. In our country
political candidates are already vying for our attention as election time draws
closer. Our vote is an expression of our power. What values will we voice by our
vote? When we choose our candidates during the upcoming primary season we will
have to take into consideration the priorities we have as members of Christ the
King’s dominion. We will have to remember that he was God’s servant who ruled,
not from a worldly throne, but from the cross.
As individuals and as a nation we also exert power over our natural
surroundings; over water, air, animals, fish, birds, etc. We have power over,
not only what is above the ground, but what is below as well. When I lived in
the coal mining regions of West Virginia I saw massive earthmovers ripping off
tops of mountains and dumping the soil into valleys and streams below so they
could get at the seams of coal beneath the earth’s surface. Land and rivers were
polluted and the lives and health of local people were disrupted by the ravaging
of their surroundings. We have enormous power over nature and our growing
concern about the environment causes us to reflect on this feast about how we
use that power. Are we responsible stewards of the gifts God has given us, or
are we irresponsible despots of what we can manipulate for our own use and
Those who mocked Jesus expressed the usual understanding of what it means to
be favored by God. They say, "Are you not the Christ?" In other words: "Are you
not the chosen one God specially anointed to save the people?" They are saying,
in effect, that a favored one of God should experience no pain and no death,
especially not death on the cross. That is an issue that tempts our own faith.
If what Jesus said about God’s love for us is true, then why do we and those we
love have to suffer? Where is Christ’s kingly power for those he has called to
be his followers? Why doesn’t God exert force and come to the aide of all God’s
beloved? Why doesn’t God come to the rescue of the ravished creation that the
Creator declared "good?"
The dying criminal who reviled Jesus summed it up. "Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us." If you have power, why not use it to get us out of our
suffering and life’s harsh predicaments? But Jesus does want to save that
criminal and us and so he remains on his "throne" all the way to his death. We
don’t hear from the other onlookers, those who greeted Jesus at his triumphant
entry into Jerusalem and his followers, who would have been in his royal
entourage that day. Surely some of them would have been in the crowd that
witnessed his execution. Were they asking as we do, "How can this be? How could
God’s anointed and chosen one be so humiliated and defeated in this way? What
kind of King of the Jews do we have anyway?"
What kind of kingly power does Jesus exert from the cross? He certainly can’t
order the Roman army to come to his rescue. But he does "issue" a decree. He
addresses the criminal at his side, the one who acknowledges Christ’s innocence
and the injustice done against him. (Our tradition has named him Dismas, the
Good Thief.) This criminal asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his
reign. Jesus, the Shepherd King, the new David, who has described himself as the
one who has been sent to find and save the lost, now shepherds this lost sheep
on the cross next to him through the gates of Paradise.
ONE GOOD BOOK
FOR THE PREACHER
THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE, Edited by
Donald Senior. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Along with
the scriptural text of "The New American Bible," this study bible
has over 600 pages of study materials written by outstanding
Catholic scriptural scholars. There are reading guides to each book
as well as overviews of biblical genre, archaeological methods, a
glossary and listings of the weekday and Sunday lectionaries.
|[Concerning the penitent thief]
"This episode is recounted only in this gospel.
The penitent sinner receives salvation through the crucified Jesus.
Jesus’ words to the penitent thief reveal Luke’s understanding that
the destiny of the Christian is ‘to be with Jesus.’"
----THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE, page 142
"He is the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15)
On this feast of Christ the King, we are called to abandon our fidelity to
"earthly kings" with their powerful armies and messages of fear. We are invited
to pledge our loyalty to Jesus, the image of our all compassionate God. He is
our King, this "image of the invisible God" who ended His life enthroned on a
Jesus’ description of His Kingdom was simple: "I was hungry and you
gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, naked and you clothed
me, sick or in prison and you visited me. It is by our own compassion,
by reaching out to others and treating them as brothers and sisters, that we
reflect the compassion and the love of God that became incarnate in Jesus
Christ. We are called to build "The Kingdom of God" here on earth,
a Kingdom which is judged by how the least among us are treated.
The Gospel is not only about our own individual goodness or charity. It is
about our responsibility to help change social structures and national policies
to make them more compassionate. We must ask the Gospel questions and
struggle to change the answers.
Does our nation feed the hungry? Or do we
cut support programs in order to fund an ever increasing military
Does our nation welcome strangers? Or are
our immigration limits and laws making it more and more difficult
for those seeking a better life to find one here in our country?
Does our nation clothe the naked? Or do we
support the sweatshops, which make the lives of the poor a misery
while making cheap clothing more available for those who already
have an abundance?
Does our nation care for the sick? Or are
health care plans and medical care available only to those who can
Does our nation visit Christ in prison? Or
as the nation with the highest percentage of its population behind
bars do we ask why these brothers and sisters of Jesus come mostly
from minority groups and situations of extreme poverty?
What can I do?
Read the Gospel from the perspective of
Be Informed. Get involved in advocating
for "The Kingdom of God".
Pray that "God's kingdom come" for all
(Submitted by Anne and Bill Werdel, from the parish bulletin of
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC)
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each
week I am posting in this space several inmates’ names and locations. I invite
you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know that: we have
not forgotten them; are praying for them and their families; or, whatever
personal encouragement you might like to give them. If you like, tell them you
heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death
Penalty." If the inmate responds, you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:........................................
Christopher Goss #0150949 (On death row since 2/8/05)
Dane Locklear, Jr. #0245105 (6/14/05)
Eric Glenn Lane #0667195 (7/11/05)
---Central Prison 1300 Western Blvd. Raleigh, NC 27606
1. Two new CDs Available: "FIRST IMPRESSIONS PREACHING REFLECTIONS"
"Liturgical year A," which begins in Advent and contains two
reflections for almost all the Sundays and major feasts for the year. It also
has 15 book reviews and additional essays related to preaching.
"Liturgical years, A, B and C," reflections on the three-year cycle.
If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a
member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation
process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they
prepare for Sunday liturgy.
You can order the CDs by going to our webpage:
http://www.preacherexchange.com/ and clicking
on the "First Impressions" CDs link on the left.
2. I get notes from people responding to these reflections. Sometimes they
tell how they use "First Impressions" in their ministry and for personal use.
Others respond to the reflections, make suggestions and additions. I think our
readers would benefit from these additional thoughts. If you drop me a BRIEF
note, I will be happy to add your thoughts and reflections to my own. (Judeop@Juno.com)
3. Our webpages:
(Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions"
and "Homilias Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews and quotes
pertinent to preaching.)
4. "Homilias Dominicales"-- these Spanish reflections are written by three
friars of the Southern Dominican Province, Jose David Padilla, OP, Wilmo
Candanedo, OP and two Dominican sisters, Regina Mc Carthy, OP and Doris Regan,
OP. Like "First Impressions", "Homilias Dominicales" are a preacher’s early
reflections on the upcoming Sunday readings and liturgy. So, if you or a friend
would like to receive "Homilias Dominicales" drop a note to John Boll, O.P. at:
5. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those
wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Southern Dominican
Province, U.S.A. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend,
send a note to John Boll at the above Email address.
If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible
contributions to Jude Siciliano, O.P., whose address is listed below. Make
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Blessings on your
Jude Siciliano, O.P.,
Promoter of Preaching, Southern Dominican Province, USA
P.O. Box 12927,
Raleigh, N.C. 27605, (919) 833-1893, Email: