Jesus, Remember Me

11-24-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

When driving around, I observed that some stores, especially mall areas, are putting up their outdoor Christmas decorations. I also saw one house in a nearby town that also is undergoing extensive outdoor decoration. This house is always a magnificent display of Christmas light and joy. I look forward to seeing it in mid-December. I also noticed that advertisements are now stepping up to a higher level of announcing gifts for Christmas. The subtlety which is used in the Summer and Fall about Christmas has been replaced with much bolder announcements. This start up and rev up to Christmas is a sign to me that our Church year is at a near end. Indeed this Sunday is the last Sunday of our Church year. Next Sunday we also start our roll up to Christmas with the First Sunday in Advent. Our scripture at Mass will start to hint about the meaning of the Birth of Jesus Christ, often called the Incarnation. Much like society, we start to dress our church and our life with the possible meaning of Christmas for us. This Sunday, however, the last Sunday of our Church Year, is the great and grand Feast of Our Lord Jesus Chris, King of the Universe; often called simply the Feast of Christ our King. Although our popular culture is fascinated by the daily lives of the Royal Windsors today in Great Britain, we really do not understand what a king or royalty is. We are blessed to live in a democratic republic with everyone as equals. Our faith tradition says that we all are children of God and made royal by our baptism. Our faith tradition tells us that there is no exclusive set of “better people” born by family blood. Indeed, for many of us royalty is an outdated notion. Thus, our Celebration of Christ as our King takes only the good symbols and elements of royalty and kingship. We must leave aside the lesser and darker history of royals and kingship.

Jesus is a descendant of the second and greatest king of Israel, David. Our first passage at Mass reminds us of this royal lineage. Recall that King David inherited a divided kingdom. We learn in this section that David is anointed by the elders of the northern kingdom, Israel. He had already been anointed in the southern kingdom, Judah. It is hoped and dreamed that David, who is the Lord’s anointed, would restore the two kingdoms’ faithfulness to their one God. This great leader would restore them to their former glory, which was lost during the troubled reign of King Saul.

Strategically, King Saul decided to move the capital from Hebron to Jerusalem to unite the north and south. His time as king was a period of relative peace and solidarity. Looking back, the people would conclude that David’s reign is a high point in the history of God’s people. Sadly, in later times the two kingdoms would finally divide. The people would be exiled to Babylon, then return, and then be conquered by the Greeks and finally by the Romans.

And then in the fullness of time, in the town of David, Bethlehem, a child would be born. We also know that in Jerusalem some thirty-odd years later, that child would be crucified. The inscription would read, “This is the king of the Jews”, as Luke records.

This story of the crucifixion is a high dramatic point of our Gospel story. Indeed the un-named one who questions Jesus and seeks repentance: What does he see in Jesus? He sees a king, a Messiah, the righteous one and the ultimate powerful person in all of life. This thief is portrayed in strong contrast to the mob and soldiers. This story tells us truly how powerful Christ is. The analogue of kingship helps us to grasp the greatness of Christ and His grace for us.

Father Brian