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CHRIST THE KING 2019

As another epic movie opens, we watch as two kingdoms wage war against one another. In one kingdom, there is an evil prince whose goal is world domination to satisfy his desires for ultimate power. The prince is ruthless in his actions, destroying anyone interferes with his need for superiority. He conquers by brutal force, painfully subjugating the people of the lands he invades. The prince lies, cheats, bribes, and uses every other vile deed to set his subjects against each other much to his glee. In every scene, we can observe the darkness and despair that surrounds the evil prince as he skulks through those he has enslaved. If the prince wins the war, there is the assurance of destruction and death to the world.
In the other Kingdom, the leader is a mighty King who rules his people through acts of love. The King also wants world domination but not to subjugate but to rid the people of every encumbrance, to create a paradise where there are no needs or wants. In his kingdom, there is the purity of light where people live, savoring the King’s mercy and grace. We often see the King walking amidst his subjects who give him praise and thanksgiving for all that he as done for them.
The King’s love for his people is so enormous that he takes on their debts and dies for them at the hands of the disciplines of the evil prince. However, the King does not remain dead but is resurrected. He rides into the kingdom of the evil prince, waving the torch of truth, to drive the evil prince into hiding and freeing all those who have suffered at the hands of the evil one.
By now, you recognize that these events are not the scenes of a movie, but our reality. In our world, since the day when Adam and Eve fell victim to sin, a battle has waged between two kingdoms, one of light and one of darkness. From that time to this very instant and into the future, our souls are the prize in the fight between good and evil.
Satan, the Prince of Darkness, is always attempting to claim us as his subjects by leading us into sin. He tries to recruit us by various enticements that are only empty gestures. He demands our souls in trade for evil earthly delights we think we desire. His promising offers, however, are only trickery, smoke, and mirrors, to delude us into chasing quick gains and empty titles. In his realm, self-centeredness, earthly cravings, and sin prevail. If we follow the dark prince, we will discover his false assurances lure us into the abyss of hell, where there is no hope.
Christ the King reigns in the Kingdom of the Light, where faith, hope, and love triumph. We describe him as the King of Truth, the highest accolade that we can give. He is the one who has come to save us from the depths of hell. Those who enter his Kingdom know that the King welcomes them with open arms of love. There are no acts of deception. No enticements are necessary, for those who follow Christ need only faith that he will provide. In his Kingdom, the words of Christ are true and are our hope for salvation.
Christ, who is our King, does not sit on a majestic golden throne bedecked with jewels but hangs from a wooden cross bejeweled with nails. A glittering crown does not rest lightly on perfectly a combed head, but instead, there are thorns embedded in his scalp, causing rivulets of blood to flow down his face. His costly robe is nothing more than rag around his waist. Instead of the finest wine at his table, he is offered vinegar. The Romans mocked Jesus by place a sign on the cross over his head stating, he is “King of the Jews,” and yet that is what he is, the Messiah, our Savior. This king is different from any that we know for every act he did on earth was for our behalf.
Therefore, in Luke’s Gospel today, we read of Jesus, our King, an innocent man hanging on the cross with two criminals because of our sin. He took responsibility for our sins, all of them, even though he was without sin. We nailed our King on the Cross because of our sin. Jesus, as King, did not come in the world to save himself from death; he came to save us from death. Jesus became our sacrifice so that we would not have to die. Even in his death, Jesus’ arms remain extended on the cross, wanting to embrace us in his forgiveness of our sin.
If faithfully following Christ, the King, is the solution for our immortal happiness, why then do we resist that embrace? Jesus asks very little of us; to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The issue is our humanness. We are too interested in satisfying our current desires and not realigned our sights to the glory of heaven. We are too easily distracted by the tricks and the smoke and mirrors of Satan to think that we have priority over everything and everyone, including God.
Prayer and learning to centering our lives around Jesus are necessary to protect us from falling victim to the Evil One. As humans, we will continue to fail to resist the attractions of Satan. However, our King never stops loving us. He still carried the cross to Calvary even though we continue to sin. Therefore, let us stay the course, to seek out the Kingdom to experience paradise, where Christ, the King, awaits us with open arms.


THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME 2019

Passing through Western Nebraska, it is not uncommon to drive by a dilapidated farmhouse surrounded by a few straggly trees. Once a pride and joy for a family, one can imagine a whitewashed home with gingham curtains showing through well-washed shiny windows. In the yard suspended from one of the trees hung a swing where the children played after finishing their daily chores. On the clothesline hung sheets drying in the bright sunshine. Behind the house, a garden grew rows and rows vegetables. Nearby chickens scratched the dirt, and a milk cow chewed her cud. In our minds, we can see an idyllic scene filled with safety, enveloped by the warmth of fire, food, and family.
Now, however, there only an empty house of a dreary gray weather-worn color. A moaning wind blows through the broken windows rattling the loose clapboards. This derelict of a home is even more troubling to look at, for at one time within these walls resided the optimistic promise for the future. Now there is the only discomfort as one only sees a loss of hope in this desolated, rotting structure. No longer can one feel consolation or security in this bleak scene. In our lives, the promise of a safe and comfort is one of our greatest desires.
Therefore, when Jesus, in today’s Gospel, describes the days before the Last Judgment, we are filled with anxiety and feel defenseless. How can we combat disruptions that nature hands us, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, droughts, and volcanos? How successful have we been at halting wars, poverty, famines, and plagues? Our ability to control these aspects of our lives leaves us in distress. Jesus tells us that as time progresses, we will experience more threats to the comfort and security we desire.
Jesus is reiterating to us that the earth is not our paradise. He is reminding us that the buildings we build of wood, stone, and steel will not last the winds of time. He is stating that no action of humans can alter the events of nature. Jesus is telling us that humans alone will not resolve the strife between countries and people. He is confirming that when we live without God in our lives, our human capabilities will fail.
In recognizing the forecast of gloom and doom predicted for this world, it easy to take up the thought of despair. It may seem that we should give up and stand on a street corner with a placard reading, “The End is Near,” awaiting death. If we do this, then we are deceiving ourselves, for we have lost hope in the power of God.
Maybe we have lost hope if we are not listening to the whole meaning of Jesus’ predictions. While the end of the world will certainly happen, that does not mean that Jesus has left us to our own devices. Lest we forget, Jesus came to earth to establish a New Covenant. God’s love for us is so great that he sent his only Son who became man bringing us to salvation. This everlasting covenant is the promise that God will always take care of his children. Therefore, in no way has the Lord walk away from us even though the world seems to be gasping its last breaths.
Instead, Jesus tells us to have faith, to persevere in following the Word, although evil will continue to pursue us. Even if we profess our allegiance to Jesus, we should still expect to encounter many woes in proclaiming ourselves Christian. Civic leaders may persecute us for our refusal to deny Jesus. We may find ourselves in prisons because of hatred for our Christian beliefs. Even family and friends may turn against us when following Jesus becomes our greatest desire in life.
Jesus reminds us that we are to live our faith, confident that he knows of our love for him and our neighbor. He tells us that we should not be concerned about those that threaten us. They may kill us for our dedication to Jesus, but they cannot destroy the comfort and security we feel being in his presence. He knows of our faithfulness and perseverance, so that even though we may lose our life in his name, but we will be rewarded with the promise of eternal life where no one will ever harm us again.
Safety and comfort are desires we often dream of as we continue to encounter the violence and suffering in this world. The evils of this world often leave us fearful when it seems almost impossible to endure one more event that shakes our faith. However, even in the deaths of what we hold as dear in this life, following Jesus will bring us into the everlasting love of God.
Enduring in faith regardless of natural and man-made disasters will win for us eternal life. Enduring in our efforts to pray from the depth of our hearts will enable us to come to know God’s will. Enduring in our persistence to live our lives in the presence of God, will enable us to love him and our neighbor. “By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.”

THIRTY-SECOND SUNDDAY IN ORDINARY TIME 2019

What words would you use to describe heaven? No matter the words we use, we would fail in giving an accurate description of God’s paradise. The reason is that we reference everything from what we have seen or imagine as perfection. However, that is the problem, for we have never encountered perfection, nor will we until we encounter God in heaven.
Therefore, whatever we perceive here on earth is not the experiences we will have in heaven. Jesus is trying to explain that to us in the Gospel today when he responds to the Sadducee when asked which of the seven men will be the woman’s husband in heaven. Jesus, in his response, tells us that even those things we cherish the most on earth, for example, marriage, will not be retained in the same way in God’s Kingdom.
The understanding of spousal relationships, which is among the strongest that we know will be nothing to the interconnection we will have between all souls in heaven. For married couples, this is hard to imagine. For much of their lives, they have communicated the most personal feelings from depths of their hearts to each other. However, Jesus tells us that even the bond of marriage is nothing in comparison to what we will discover in heaven.
For spouses who have lives so closely together and for so long, this pronouncement by Jesus seems very frightening. After being together here on earth and then idea changing their relationship in heaven does not appear righteous. The love that two people had throughout their lives is a love that they expected to have also through eternity, together forever.
Jesus is well aware of the intensity of the spousal love that couples have, and he does not deny the quality of that relationship. As the spouses will discover, upon entering heaven, God’s love will not fail them. In the showering down of God’s love upon the couple, they will know a more intense love than happened during their earthly existence.
Keeping in mind that the Lord never does anything to harm us, then our death may not seem quite so frightening. When a loved one dies, the loss of physical connection is unbearable, all the while there remains connections that do not disappear. Memories of events, of smells, of touch, and his or her voice expresses a love that cannot be erased by death. God knows of that love and will allow us to reunite at our death. After we enter God’s Kingdom, death will never again lead to the separation of a loved one.
This reuniting of loved ones in heaven is not reserved only for spouses. Parents and children and friends, all of God’s faithful, will also experience the joys of heaven. The possibility of eternal separation of parents from their children is a heartache that many parents know. Parents may question how they failed in their efforts to religiously educate their sons and daughters when their children fall away from the Church. These parents continue to struggle with the horror of their children not being able to enter heaven because off their indifference to the faith. Therefore, a universal prayer that erupts from the hearts of a parent is, “Help my child to return to the Church so that they may experience the joy of heaven.”
That is the intensity of the love parents have for their sons and daughters. So in not difficult to understand how a parent wants to go to any lengths to preserve the eternal life of a child by urging, pleading, and demanding that he or she start going to church again. However, as a parent soon discovers, these actions usually cause more obstinance that increases with intensity from each forced religious discussion.
The parents cannot continue to think their adult child as still being five years old, unable to correctly apply his or her moral judgment and free will when facing a choice. Parents must accept that their child has become an adult, with his or her opinions about everything from politics to sexual activity to religion. While some of his or her thoughts are morally wrong, as an adult, the son or daughter will need to accept responsibility for his or her decisions.
The most effective effort for parents to assist their adult children in reconnecting with the faith is through prayer and being open to discussions, not arguments, about religion. If we trust in the Lord, then we believe that God will provide, even for the salvation of errant children. We need to believe that God will continue to reintroduce the challenge of our wayward children to turn to the faith as he challenges us to grow closer to him, for he will lead us to salvation.
Remember it is Jesus, not us, who will determine the eternal fate of each person. Therefore, let us never cease to pray, asking Jesus to be merciful to us and those that we love. God’s love is beyond our knowledge, and his love is never ceasing even for the fallen away. As we cannot know the perfection of heaven, we cannot know what God has in store for our loved ones and us at our death.

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