Christ the King/Last Sunday of Ordinary Time – The Son of Man

READING MATTERS:

When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.

Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas: 1925, instituting the Feast of Christ the King.

Holiday Fair And Wreath Sale
St. Charles will be hosting a Holiday Fair, next Saturday, Dec. 1. If you’re interested in being a vendor
(tables are $25) or volunteering contact the rectory. There will also be a wreath sale on Sunday Dec. 2 after all the Masses.

Christmas Midnight Mass Choir

Our Music Ministry is organizing a choir to perform at the Midnight Mass. This is always one of the highlights of our Christmas season. All experience levels are welcome! Please come up to speak with Cantor Ulises Solano after Mass to sign up or email [email protected] .

Upcoming Baptism Arrangements:

Advent: The Sunday Liturgies for Advent are beautiful in and of themselves and alterations are not appropriate. Should it be necessary for a family to have a Baptism during this time, another arrangement can be made.

Christmastime: The appropriate Feast for Baptisms is the Epiphany, Sunday, Jan 6. We encourage people to schedule Baptisms at the 11:15 AM Mass on this day.

Ordinary Time: Baptisms will be scheduled on the regular dates: Jan 27th, Feb. 24th

Lent: As Lent is the time when the church prepares people for initiation into the Church, Baptisms are celebrated only in the case of an emergency during this period and not at a Sunday Mass.

Easter: Baptisms are encouraged on Easter Sunday, April 21st. (There will be no Baptisms on April 28th at the 11:15 AM Mass.)

 

 

CHRIST THE KING

(Thirty fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Daniel 7:13-14

 

When I was a young priest, there were still older ones who spoke about “Representative Men”. It was an Edwardian expression for someone with superior skills who we would want to represent us. This is where we begin with the title: “Son of Man”. Although it is somewhat vague on purpose and will be developed by Jesus in a rather surprising way, we must remember that it has a specific place in the Book of Daniel.

Our first reading last week was also from the book of Daniel and we saw that it was written about 165 BC in Jerusalem. The author wished to show that although pagan kingdoms were dominant for the short run, their power was subject to God – indeed the God of Israel. That reading was at the end of this discussion; today’s brings us back to the beginning.

Daniel is a young Hebrew aristocrat working in King Belshazzar’s civil service during the exile. He has dreams and the ability to interpret them. Chapter 7 opens with a vision of four immense beasts. They represented the four great kingdoms that had oppressed the Jews: the Babylonians, Persians, that of Alexander the Great and his successors, and the kingdom of Antiochus. As we saw last week, Antiochus was a totally despicable man who desecrated the temple in Jerusalem and eventually banned Judaism entirely. Look how Daniel introduces him:

 After this, in the visions of the night I saw the fourth beast, different from all the others, terrifying, horrible, and of extraordinary strength; it had great iron teeth with which it devoured and crushed, and what was left it trampled with its feet. (Daniel 7:7)

He virtually perfected evil. The next passage reveals how he killed off opposition in his own family and how he treated the world.

I was considering the ten horns it had, when suddenly another, a little horn, sprang out of their midst, and three of the previous horns were torn away to make room for it. This horn had eyes like a man, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly.  (Daniel 7:8)

After he is introduced the vision changes:

As I watched,

Thrones were set up

and the Ancient One took his throne.  (Daniel 7:9a)

 

This is God and very much the model for the Old Testament deity:

 

His clothing was snow bright,

and the hair on his head as white as wool;

His throne was flames of fire,

with wheels of burning fire.  (Daniel 7:9b)

 

The image is of a King with his court:

Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,

and myriads upon myriads attended him.

The court was convened, and the books were opened.  (Daniel 7:10b)

 

The first act of business was to deal with Antiochus:

 

I watched, then, from the first of the arrogant words which the horn spoke, until the beast was slain, and its body thrown into the fire to be burnt up.  (Daniel 7:11)

The second was to reveal his successor. This is where we begin today:

As the visions during the night continued, I saw

One like a son of man coming,

on the clouds of heaven;

When he reached the Ancient One

and was presented before him (Daniel 7:13)

 

We need to remember that we are speaking of a society radically unlike our own; They did not believe in the separation of Church and State, and a God was always going to be involved with the institution and the execution of government. There are many interpretations of the figure of the Son of Man and none of them fit into our categories. Indeed, the title may have always been intentionally ambiguous. Although some commenters believe the Son of Man is an angel it is more likely that he is a Representative Man, a person of great nobility who, knowing that his power and authority come from the Ancient of Days, will rule wisely.

He received dominion, glory, and kingship;

nations and peoples of every language serve him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

that shall not be taken away,

his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14)

 

He may have been in some ways a sign of hope that a Jewish kingdom would follow Antiochus and that it would reflect a firm connection with God. This partially occurred with the Hasmonean Kingdom (142-63 BC) which followed the Maccabean rebellion. Yet only partially and as we have seen Daniel was very aware of the foibles of leaders and understood that the Justice of God will be fully seen only in the resurrection of the dead. There is a tension in Daniel between worldly and other worldly leadership that is both creative and perceptive. Not only were the Hasmoneans not effective or just rulers, but they were removed by the Romans who eventually installed the family of King Herod.

Perhaps because of this failure, post-Roman occupation Jews began to see the Son of Man as a fully otherworldly figure. Jesus builds on this and uses the title the Son of Man very effectively. It is not as fixed as Messiah and as we will see many times, including next week’s Gospel, He will adapt it for his own needs. (Luke 21:25-28)

But there are at least two things to learn from the original tension.

As we have seen in our most recent election cycles, religious language can be used by many politicians without a real connection to God. Words are not enough nor are necessary political skills. We have the right – indeed the obligation – to ask for more.  Democracy and the separation of Church and State are gifts to be cherished, but a lively connection with the living God is an even greater if rarer one. We need to search out, encourage and reward with public office those who we can find in our own community and those of other faith groups that bring this dimension.

The task may be more necessary, but it has become a bit easier. This year we have seen many women entering the political pool of candidates potentially doubling the number of recruits. There are more than representative (White, Christian and Jewish) men from whom to choose and build a society that is more representative of the “Son of Man”. It is He who ultimately will return on clouds to judge our efforts. (Luke 21:27)

33rd Sunday Ordinary Time – Awakened From the Dust

Reading Matters

How many times do we see evangelization as involving any number of strategies, tactics, maneuvers, techniques, as if we could convert people on the basis of our own arguments. Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by learning how to welcome them.”

Pope Francis: Asunción, Paraguay, July 2015

 

First reading:

Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Book of Daniel 12:1-3

Nov 18, 2018

 

Last week we were introduced to Deuteronomic History.

Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey. Deuteronomy 6:

It reflected the self-understanding of the Jewish people from Solomon to the reestablishment of the temple in Jerusalem after the exile: roughly from 900 to 500 BC. When they obeyed the law of God they prospered, when they disobeyed, they faltered. This provided a clear focus and much wisdom, but the world was changing rapidly. The Persian empire would be overthrown by Alexander the Great and his empire would soon be divided among his generals. These were not the relatively simple power plays between northern and southern opponents in the middle east but represented truly international –  indeed interconnectional – forces. We see in the book of Daniel the emergence of a wider view of history and a key doctrine for both Christians and Jews today.

The section we read today occurs at the end of a description of 300 years of the rise and fall of empires. It is written in a rather cryptic style but would have been understood by everyone who read it. We can check its reliability with pagan sources, and it is quite accurate. The common thread is that trading one overlord for another, however benign or even well-meaning, does not ensure political or religious freedom. We must look elsewhere.

This history concludes with Antiochus IV, a truly despicable man who had solidified power in Palestine about 200 BC. He decided that he could make a considerable fortune by selling off Jewish religious offices, including the high priesthood, to the most generous bidder. Eventually he gave up all pretense of recognizing anything resembling historical Judaism and in 169 BC sacked the temple and installed the worship of a pagan god in place of the Lord of Israel. This was so traumatic that it was referred to as the “Abomination of Desolation”. At first, he tried to convince the Jews to convert to this religion by offering them positions at court and many did succumb, but in 167 BC he outlawed Judaism entirely.

The Jews faced a serious problem. Should they submit or revolt, and what would revolt mean? Many of the rich and well connected submitted and joined Antiochus. The books of the Maccabees detail the exploits of those who became the armed resistance. The Book of Daniel however reflects those who did not take up swords and spears but who sought cultural resistance. It can be rather accurately dated to 165 BC.

If you decide to read though the historical section of Daniel (Chapters 7 to 12), I suggest that you do so with a Bible with very good footnotes. The New American Bible is excellent despite its truly tiny print. You will also need considerable patience. It is a tough slog, but a picture of social process clearly emerges.  Whatever the rulers and others who benefited from the system said or perhaps even thought their commitment to their own high position and pleasure in using it was the most important factor in their lives. We see this with the #metoo movement. Some of the men implicated in sexual harassment professed, perhaps even to themselves, the most progressive sentiments but abused nonetheless. Once this is permitted it knows no boundaries and its capacity for evil is limitless. This is clearly seen in the American Catholic Church. The institutional dynamics of privilege without accountability were similar to other hierarchical groups. Yet because of our belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and that the priest acts “In Persona Christi”, in the very person of Jesus, the abuse by priests especially against the young became our Abomination of Desolation. Disparity of power without checks and balances inevitably ends in betraying our highest ideas and for religious people in blasphemy.

Some scholars contrast the Book of Daniel with the Books of Maccabees which relate events of the same period.  Daniel is thought to be a cultural and non-violent reaction to Antiochus, Maccabees a militaristic and violent one. There is some truth to this, but it might be better said that having reviewed history, both world and national, the author of Daniel is skeptical about the ability of anyone to resist the temptations of power without what we have come to call conversion: a change of heart. The Maccabees and those who followed them showed great courage and even piety but ultimately fell into the same traps as all the leaders before them. There is no merely administrative fix to the will to and misuse of power. We have seen this as recently as this week. The American Bishops at their semi-annual meeting were told by the Vatican – really by the Pope – not to make any final decisions on disciplining themselves for failures of personal conduct and institutional administration. The outlook reflected in the documents that they sent to Rome was considered insufficiently aware of the problems presented by their own privilege and position. How could they be expected to seriously address problems they seemed not to have seen?

To again use a modern analogy, the system of checks and balances found in the American Constitution are the most effective means of controlling the power of potential demagogues. Yet we have seen it is barely acknowledged much less used in our current national situation. The author of Daniel, although he would not have understood checks and balances, understood the dangers it addresses as well as any political scientist today. Yet he brought a different perspective to this and one from which we could learn. He was looking at God and his actions and prerogatives. Simply if God is all just and all powerful then that justice must be seen and experienced by all, good and bad, ancient and modern. Otherwise it has no human meaning. His goodness and presence must be   vindicated. The vagaries of the historical moment make that impossible in this world therefore it requires another dimension.  After acknowledging that his was a time a great and particular horror reflected in the “Abomination of desolation”, he writes:

 

2 Many of those who sleep

in the dust of the earth shall awake;

some shall live forever,

others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. Daniel 12:2

This is the first time that the resurrection of the dead is mentioned in Scripture. It is important to notice not only the relatively late date but the context. It is not that we are to be rewarded for our good behavior, but that God is being shown to be true to his word. It is most important that we see this from a Godward perspective. God always comes first. If we lose sight of this, we no longer are worshipping God and no matter how pious our talk our actions will reveal that our primary desire is to make a world for ourselves not submit to the one God has made for us.

32nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Yahweh, Speak to Us

MEET & GREET: Nov. 11
This month’s meet and greet is sponsored by the Lectors and Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers.  Please join us for fellowship after each of the Masses on November 11th with food and drink.

UPDATE ON BUILDINGS:

Although work started to increase over the past few weeks, our project was being held back slightly waiting for additional permits.  As of late last week’s drawings were approved and additional permits are in place.  Work pace should begin to increase further.  Mock-ups and samples continue to be installed. These allow Landmarks to sign off on all materials.  Masonry work is in progress at multiple areas throughout the building.  It is primarily cutting and preparing of the brick joints which will start to be filled with new mortar soon.  Window repair is in progress.  The wood frame of the windows has been fully surveyed and the repair and replacement of that wood is ongoing.  Paint for deteriorated areas of stonework is being sampled now and waiting for the architect’s approval before moving ahead.  It has been decided that the gutter condition is worse than originally thought and will need to be replaced.   This work will continue into the winter.  As the colder weather approaches exterior masonry work will have to stop but roof work, window repair, and other miscellaneous work will continue through the winter to help move the project along as quickly as possible.

 

 

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Nov. 11, 2018

1 Kings 17:10–16

 

In many ways the books of Kings (1 and 2) are footnotes to a passage we read in the Book of Deuteronomy last week about the consequences of obeying or disobeying the commandments:

Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey. Deuteronomy 6:3

When the people, especially the king, obeyed God they prospered; when they did not, they faltered. Obedience most especially means following the first commandment and have no other god before the Lord. This pattern is often referred to as Deuteronomic history.

If its authors found the pattern clear, they did not impose it mechanically and were not without art. The falling away from the law of God began with King Solomon himself. He married women from other countries and allowed them to worship their own Gods. Eventually he himself joined them and by the time of his death around 931 BC the kingdom was divided between the Northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judea. The northern kingdom was richer and more unstable. The kings increasingly abandoning the worship of the Lord. This reaches the crisis point with King Ahab who married Jezebel a pagan princess and  and also made a sacred pole. He did more to anger the LORD, the God of Israel, than any of the kings of Israel before him. 1 Kings 16:33

Then   Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab: “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, during these years there shall be no dew or rain except at my word.” 1 Kings 17:1

Elijah’s name means “Yahweh is my God” and he directly challenges the authority of Ahab to change the worship of the people. It will take the drought time to work and Elijah will need to hide. This is where today’s reading takes up the story as God tells him:

9 “Move on to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have designated a widow there to provide for you.” 10 He left and went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her, “Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink.” 1 Kings 17:9–10

Zarephath is outside of the lands ruled by Ahab, but the drought extends there as well. When Elijah asks her for a meal, she responds:

12 “As the LORD, your God, lives,” she answered, “I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.” 1 Kings 17:12

It is clear to Elijah that it will be by the power of God alone that he will be saved:

13 Do not be afraid,” Elijah said to her. “Go and do as you propose. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son.  14 For the LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” 1 Kings 17:13–14

They were able to live on this for over a year. This is very much within the pattern of  Deuteronomic history. When evil is seemingly about to triumph, God will send a great prophet to overcome it. The key confrontation between Ahab and Elijah is several chapters later on Mount Carmel when Elijah will challenge all the prophets of Baal to a contest and eventually destroy them. It will be the clearest sign of God’s care for Elijah and use of him.

Yet there is a further clarification of how God enters into the life of his people. This too reflects last week’s reading from Deuteronomy and it is the incident immediately after what we read today.

17 Some time later the son of the mistress of the house fell sick, and his sickness grew more severe until he stopped breathing. 18 So she said to Elijah, “Why have you done this to me, O man of God? Have you come to me to call attention to my guilt and to kill my son?”1 Kings 17:17–18

She felt that holiness was dangerous. It revealed one’s own sin and opened one up to divine wrath. Holiness does reveal sins but for the Jews this allowed God to show his mercy, power and forgiveness. The Jews had heard the voice of God from the mountain  and experienced his glory and majesty and thought themselves in deadly peril: If we hear the voice of the LORD, our God, any more, we shall die. Deuteronomy 5:25

God does not tell them that they are being foolish ,but that their words are “well said”.  (Deuteronomy 5:29). Contact with the holy, especially with the divine, is dangerous and this should always be kept in mind. Would that they might always be of such a mind, to fear me and to keep all my commandments!  Deuteronomy 5:28

God has an extensive repertoire of ways to speak to us, and we can benefit from any means He decides to use.   Look at the two we have examined today. We would be diminished if we lacked either the comforting and protecting God whose care saved Elijah, the Widow and her Son or the terror of the God whose holiness reveals our sins. Every way that God reveals Himself shows his love and joins us to him.

This is an important lesson for us as individuals and as a Church. The Bishops of the United States will come together next week for a regular meeting which will need to be extraordinarily focused on the sex abuse crisis and the institutional dynamics which fostered it. If they do not experience the terror at the revelation of God’s Holiness, then no one in the Church will be able to experience his comfort.