AD SENSE

Advent 1 B

Before performing a baptism, the priest approaches the young father and said solemnly, "Baptism is a serious step. Are you prepared for it?"
"I think so," the man replied. "My wife has made appetizers and we have a caterer coming to provide plenty of cookies and cakes for all of our guests."
"I don't mean that," the priest responded. "I mean, are you prepared spiritually?"
"Oh, sure," came the reply. "I've got a keg of beer and a case of whiskey."
We may laugh at the young man, but the way many of us today prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas is not much different from the way the man prepared for baptism. (Fr. Munachi)


1.     From the Connections: 

The waiting room that is Advent

The waiting room of a hospital’s intensive care is unlike any place in the world.  And the people who wait there are bound together like no others anywhere. 

Family members and friends can’t do enough for each other.  No one is proud, no one stands on ceremony or protocol.  Petty disputes and hurts are no where to be found.  The distinctions of race and class melt away.  A person is a father or spouse first; white, black, Asian second.  The garbage man loves his wife as much as the university professor loves his -- and everyone understands.  Each person pulls for everyone else.  A family’s good news gives joy and hope to everyone; the sadness and grief of a family’s loss is felt by everyone.
In the intensive care waiting room, the world changes.  Vanity and pretense vanish.  The universe is focused on the doctor’s next report.

In the intensive care waiting room, we can’t help but face the fact that life is fragile and limited.  In waiting word of some improvement in our loved one’s condition, every moment of life becomes a gift.

The intensive care waiting room is a place of hoping.  It is a place of anticipating, of expecting.  It is a place of Advent.

[Adapted from One Church from the Fence by Wes Seelinger.]

 Life is a waiting room, a place confronting us with both the preciousness and precariousness of the time we are given and the inevitable, though still always difficult, changes that we must contend with in the course of that time.  Our lives are an Advent, a time of anticipating, expecting, hoping.  Being an ‘Advent” people is to understand the importance of now -- that now is the time to love our spouses and children, that now is the time for hugs and I-love-you’s, that now is the time to make the kind of memories that will live on well after we have left this world for the next. 

THE WORD:

The beginning of the Christian year begins at the end of time -- the promised return of Christ at the end of time.  In this brief Gospel parable of the master’s return, Jesus articulates the Advent themes of waiting, watchfulness and readiness.  Jesus calls us to realize our responsibilities in the present as we dare to look forward to the promise of the future. 

HOMILY POINTS:

Advent urges us to “stay awake” and not sleep through the opportunities life gives us to discover God in our midst; Advent challenges us to “watch” for the signs of God’s unmistakable presence in our lives.

Thee coming of Christ and his presence among us -- as one of us -- give us reason to live in hope: that light will shatter the darkness, that we can be liberated from our fears and prejudices, that we are never alone or abandoned by our merciful Father in heaven.

Advent confronts us with the preciousness and limits of time — that our lives are an Advent, a prelude, to the life of God to come.  While confronting us with the reality that our lives and finite and fragile, these Sundays of Advent also assure us of the mercy of God, who is with us in the midst of all of the struggles and challenges of our everyday Advent journey to the dwelling place of God.    

2.    Fr. Jude Botelho 

Today’s first reading from Isaiah gives us a glimpse of the difficulty people face when their waiting for God seems to be in vain. The exiled people had returned from their captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem, spurred on by hope, but they see Jerusalem in ruins. In their desperation all they can do is remember what God had actually done for them and hold on to him. When the people remember God as their Redeemer, they bring the past into the present and that sacred memory acts like a light in the midst of darkness. The memory of God’s love, gives them a reason to wait; to hold onto their hope. What the people of Israel remember is that God will live up to his ancient name- the Faithful One, and will come as their rescuer and redeemer. Because they hope they are ready to wait and their waiting is not a passive waiting in vain.

Waiting to be Rescued

One December day 16-year-old Gary Schneider and two friends set out on a four-day climb up Mt. Hood. Nine thousand feet up, a blinding storm engulfed the three boys. They tunneled into a snow bank to get out of the driving wind and to wait out the blizzard. Eleven days later the blizzard continued to rage. The boys’ sleeping bags grew wet and lumpy.  Their food supply dwindled to a daily ration of two spoonfuls of pancake batter apiece. Their sole comfort was a small Bible one of the boys had packed in his gear. The boys took turns reading it, eight hours a day. The only light was a spooky, reflected light coming from the cave’s tiny opening. There the three boys remained huddled hour after hour, day after day, listening to the word of God against a background of howling wind. Waiting like this was not easy. All the boys could do was pray, hoping the blizzard would blow itself out and help would come. Finally, on the 16th day the weather cleared and the boys crawled out of their snow cave. They were weak from the ordeal and could manage only a few steps at a time. Later that day they caught sight of a rescue party. Their long ordeal of waiting finally ended.
Mark Link in ‘Illustrated Sunday Homilies’

The gospel today has a short parable about the householder who has servants to whom he assigns particular tasks before he sets off on a journey. He singles out the doorkeeper with a special warning. “Be on your guard then, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming. What I say to you, then, I say to all: Watch!”  If we were to focus our gaze on the door keeper alone we would realize that perhaps the greatest danger facing him is not so much that he may fall asleep on the job as that he may grow so accustomed to it that it will become just a job and nothing more. We know that gate-keeping can become boring and routine can set take over in the best of circumstances. We can get used to anything, we can get used to the sacred as well, we can get used to God, and then smugness, skepticism creeps into our lives. We can become Christians by habit and routine and we can keep up the external ritual and routine but we don’t encounter God anymore but only our own emptiness. We know Jesus is constantly coming into our lives. Each of us is the doorkeeper, whom God has put in charge of our own lives as well the lives of our community, our church, our society. Advent calls us to stand ready. We stay alert by living the values of the Redeemer in our own time. We can only welcome Jesus into our life if we are alert and attentive to Him. “The spiritual life is first of all a matter of being awake”  said Thomas Merton.

A story comes to us from Eastern mysticism:
A monk asked, “Abbot, what has God’s wisdom taught you? Did you become divine?”
“Not at all!” “Did you become a saint?” “No, as you can clearly see.” “What then, O Abbot?”
“I became awake!”

James Gilhooley in ‘Pastoral Life’

The Challenge of Waiting

“In his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl tells the story of how he survived the atrocities of the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Frankl says one of the worst sufferings at Auschwitz was waiting: waiting for the war to end; waiting for an uncertain date of release and waiting for death to end the agony. This waiting caused some prisoners to lose sight of future goals, to let go of their grip on present realities and give up the struggle. This same waiting made others like Frankl accept it as a challenge, as a test to their inner strength and a chance to discover deeper dimensions of freedom.”

Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’

Doors and Dormant Doormen

“Kaka, you’re the only man in the world who’s paid for sleeping!” remarked Joe Dias to the doorkeeper of Premal Jyoti, our Jesuit HQ in Ahmedabad. Early 1980s, when things were missing from the open corridors and gardens of Premal Jyoti, we suspected that it was the work of the Vaghris, a nomadic tribe that lived in the slums nearby. It was Dahyabhai, our parlour attendant, a Vaghri himself, who advised us to keep a Vaghri to keep watch and terminate the thieving. It worked. We employed a Vaghri leader nicknamed Kaka, who ordered his people to stop stealing from Premal Jyoti or else he’d lose his job. Thereafter Kaka has slept at the doors of Premal Jyoti, and, is paid for it! Not all doorkeepers are as lucky as Kaka. In fact, the doorkeeper described in Mark’s gospel must keep watch ‘evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn’! Doorkeeper, are you awake? Will you open the door so that He will dine with you this Christmas?

Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

Watchful Always

One of the wisest, noblest and gentlest men who ever lived was Socrates. He lived in Athens in the fifth century B.C. He was unjustly put to death by the Athenian judges. When Socrates was in the prison waiting for his death, his friend Crito came to visit him. Crito tried to persuade Socrates to escape from the prison. He said, “Socrates, I have enough silver to bribe the prison guards to help you to escape from here.” But Socrates declined it. Then Crito asked him to delay the drinking of the poison. He said, “Socrates, I know other people drink it late. They dine and get drunk and keep company with those they happen to desire. So don’t hurry.” Even this suggestion Socrates declined. He said to Crito, “You know Crito; I wouldn’t do what others have done. I don’t gain anything by clinging on to life a little longer.” Socrates called the jail attendant who came with the cup filled with hemlock poison. Then Socrates asked him, “Sir, you have knowledge of this. What is necessary to do.” The attendant said, “Nothing except drink it and walk around until your legs become heavy, and then lie down and thus it will do it for itself.” Socrates took the cup, raised it and said a prayer and emptied its contents. For some time he walked around; when his legs became heavy, he lay down and pulled a blanket over his head and closed his eyes in death. - As in life, so in death Socrates was a virtuous man. He wanted to be always at-right with justice and with God. He was a man who was perpetually watchful about his righteousness; he was a man who was perpetually prepared to meet his God.
John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’

Wake Up!

Do you remember the movie ‘Awakening’? Robert De Niro plays the part of a patient who, for thirty years, does not move or speak. A particularly, sensitive and enterprising doctor tries out some new theories and lo and behold, the patient begins to move around, talk and feel. For a brief period he returns to this world and announces to those amazed folks around him that he is back: “I have been away for quite some time.... now I am back.” He becomes gradually aware of the love and concern that surrounds him and what is really alive inside of his heart and soul. –It is never too late to wake up. Morning is when you wake up. Advent is a nice time to wake up. Wake up to give an account of your stewardship. Wake up into a time for giving and sharing, a time that we are called to be thankful and prepare our hearts for the Christ child. Wake up and open your eyes in faith to see God present and active in your life and in your world.

John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’

Christ Comes in Mystery....

This poem captures what I’m trying to say: “I looked at you and smiled the other day; I thought you’d see me, but you didn’t. I said “I loved you” and waited for what you would say; I thought you’d hear me. But you didn’t. I asked you to come outside and play ball with me; I thought you’d follow me, but you didn’t. I drew a picture just for you to see; I thought you’d save it, but you didn’t. I made a fort for us back in the woods; I thought you’d camp with me, but you didn’t. I found some worms ‘n’ such for fishing, if we could; I thought you’d want to go, but you didn’t. I needed you just to talk to, my thought to share; I thought you’d want to, but you didn’t. I told you about the game hoping you’d be there, I thought you’d surely come, but you didn’t. I asked you to share my youth with me; I thought you’d want to, but you couldn’t. My country called me to war; you asked me to come home safely, but I didn’t.”
William Bausch in ‘The Word In and Out of Season’

3.    From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection

 End time Paranoia:

In A.D. 204, Hippolytus, a Christian writer in Rome, recorded that a bishop was convinced that the Lord was going to return immediately. He urged his followers to sell all of their land and possessions and to follow him into the wilderness to await the Lord’s coming. At the end of the first millennium, anticipation of the Second Coming ran high. On the last day of 999, the basilica of St. Peter’s at Rome was filled with people who were weeping and trembling as they expected the world to end. It was in 1978 that the media flashed the shocking news of the mass suicide of 914 men and women from the U.S.A., belonging to a doomsday cult called The Peoples Temple, in Jonestown, Guyana at the instruction of their paranoid leader Rev. Warren (Jim) Jones. In 1988, Rev. Colin Deal published a book titled Christ Returns by 1988 – 101 Reasons Why.  In the same year, Edgar Whisenant, a NASA engineer used his mathematical skills to set a date for the return of Jesus. He wrote a book called, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Take Place in 1988. Another very popular book, published in 1989, was 89 Reasons Why the World will End in 1989.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses have frightened gullible followers at least three times during the last century with their “end of the world” predictions.  The film Omega Code, released in October 1999, was an independent movie funded by the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the largest Evangelical Christian TV network in theU.S., and promoted by a team of 2,400 U.S. Evangelical pastors.  The plot involved the portrayal of the “rapture,” when “born again” and "saved" Christians, both alive and dead, will, it is claimed, fly upwards in the air to meet Jesus on his Second Coming.  It was rated in the top 10 highest-grossing movies for October 1999. It was in March 1997, that 39 members (21 women and 18 men, ranging in age from 26 to 72),of a California cult called Heaven’s Gate, headed by Marshall Applewhite, exploded onto the national scene with their mass suicide in a luxurious mansion at Rancho Santa Fe near San Diego in California. This was their preparation for being safely transported to heaven by a UFO, thus avoiding the tribulations accompanying the immediate end of the world. It was in 1995 that the landmark apocalyptic thriller, Left Behind (a series of 12 novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins -- Left Behind, Tribulation Force, Nicolae, Soul Harvest, Apollyon, Assassins, The Indwelling, The Mark, Desecration, The Remnant, Armageddon, and Glorious Appearing) began hitting Christian bookstores. Since then, the Left Behind series and its related books have sold over 62 million copies, generating 650 million dollars in sales. Three more books in the series are expected. In October, 2005, a big budget film, Left Behind, based on this novel series, was released for showing in all Evangelical Christian parishes.  This is how modern man reacts to the coming end of the world.  Today’s readings remind us that along with our special spiritual preparation for Christmas, we should be  prepared and  ready  to meet Jesus at all times, whether at the end of our lives or the end  of the world, whichever comes first.

  “You may judge my ability as a salesman”:

Years ago, when 20th Century Fox advertised in the New York papers to fill a vacancy in its sales force, one applicant replied: "I am at present selling furniture at the address below. You may judge my ability as a salesman if you will stop in to see me at anytime, pretending that you are interested in buying furniture. When you come in, you can identify me by my red hair. And I should have no way of identifying you. Such salesmanship as I exhibit during your visit, therefore, will be no more than my usual workday approach and not a special effort to impress a prospective employer." From among more than 1500 applicants, this guy got the job. Jesus wants us to be ready like that man. We don’t know when He’s coming back, so we should be prepared all the time. 

"Ready or not -- here I come!"

When you were a child, did you play the game, Hide and Seek? If you did, you will remember that the person who was "it" closed his eyes while the rest went to hide. To give them time to hide, the child started counting: 5, 10, 15, 20 and up to 100. Then he would say, "Ready or not, here I come!" The point of the game was to hide oneself so well that the leader could not find you, for if he found you, and beat you back to the goal, you had to be "it" the next go-around. The secret of the game was preparing oneself against being found and caught. With excitement we heard the words, "Ready or not -- here I come!" In today's gospel lesson Jesus is saying to the world, "Ready or not -- here I come." In chapter 13 of Mark, Jesus tells us that he will be returning to the earth "with great power and glory." As in the game, only this is not a game, there is a counting and an accounting going on right now. It is a countdown before the blast of his appearance on earth a second time to judge the world and to gather his faithful to himself. 

"Today, sir, today."

Some years ago a tourist visited the Castle Villa Asconti on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy. Only the old gardener opened the gates, and the visitor stepped into the garden, which was perfectly kept. The visitor asked when the owner was last there. He was told, "Twelve years ago." Did he ever write? No. Where did he get instructions? From his agent in Milan. Does the master ever come? No. "But, you keep the grounds as though your master were coming back tomorrow." The old gardener quickly replied, "Today, sir, today." A Christian watches and works as though the Master would return this very day.

"Give God a chance to help; wait three days."

It was the day after Easter. The pastor paused for a moment at the top of the steps leading from his church to the avenue, now crowded with people rushing to their jobs. Sitting in her usual place inside a small archway was the old flower lady. At her feet corsages and boutonnieres were spread out on a newspaper. The flower lady was smiling, her wrinkled face alive with joy. The pastor started down the stairs, then on an impulse turned and picked out a flower. As he put it in his lapel, he said, "You look happy this morning." "Why not? Everything is good." she answered. She was dressed so shabbily and seemed so very old that her reply startled him. "No troubles?" he responded. "You can't reach my age and not have troubles," she replied. "Only it's like Jesus and Good Friday." She paused for a moment. 

"Yes?" prompted the pastor. "Well, when Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, that was the worst day for the whole world. And when I get troubles, I remember that. And then I think what happened only three days later: Easter and our Lord arising. So when I get troubles, I've learned to wait three days and somehow everything gets all right again." And she smiled goodbye.

 The old flower lady's advice would help many of us: "Give God a chance to help; wait three days." (Patt Barnes in Guideposts) "Wait on the Lord," wrote the psalmist, "be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart...."(27:14). The word wait appears 106 times in the Scriptures. Sometimes there is nothing else we can do. Like the early church, we can only wait, watch, and work.

 Baby Jesus with a GPS:

It always feels strange beginning Advent in November. But the stores are already decorated for Christmas, so why not? I hope the department stores won’t think we’re trying to spoil their party by injecting a little religion into this busy season of the year. It reminds me of an item that appeared in USA Today last year about this time. Authorities in Bal Harbor, FL outfitted the baby Jesus in their outdoor Nativity Scene with a GPS locator as a protection against thieves. The previous Baby Jesus was stolen even though it had been bolted down. “I don’t anticipate this will ever happen again,” said Dina Cellini, who oversees the display, “but we may need to rely on technology to save our Savior. The Mary and Joseph statues will also be outfitted with GPS.” (1.12 24 07, p. 3A. Contributed by Dr. John Bardsley) Interesting! Somebody stole the baby Jesus. I’m not surprised. They’ve already stolen Christmas. I’m exaggerating, of course. Still, I’m thankful you are here today as we seek to reflect on the meaning of Christ’s coming into the world. 

Get ready:

John Phillips, in his book Exploring Revelation, tells about the return of Richard I, the Lionhearted, to England. It was during the time of the crusades. While Richard was away doing battle in the Middle East, his kingdom fell on bad times. His brother, Prince John, justly vilified in the tales of Robin Hood, usurped the kingship and misruled the realm. The people of England suffered under John’s rule and longed for the return of their rightful king. They prayed that it might be soon. Then one day Richard returned. He landed in England and marched straight for his throne. John’s castles tumbled before Richard like ninepins. Richard the Lionhearted laid claim to his throne, and none dared stand in his path. The people shouted their delight. They rang peal after peal on the bells. The Lion was back! Long live the king! John Phillips adds these hopeful words: “One day a King greater than Richard will lay claim to a realm greater than England. Those who have abused the earth in His absence, seized His domains, and mismanaged His world will all be swept aside.” (http://www.sermonnotebook.org/revelation/Revelation%201_4 8.htm. ) That day’s coming, friends, and it will be a grand and glorious day. Get ready. No one knows when it will be. But get ready. No one knows what shape it will take, but we know this: God’s in charge and God can be trusted. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” 

"Gee, I guess I just wasn't ready."

There's an amusing commercial on television in which a man is about to let go of his bowling ball as he eyes the pins at the end of the lane. Just as he is ready to release the ball, he gets lifted out of himself by two men in sparkling white suits and goes walking off across the lanes, through the walls of the building and onto a staircase surrounded by clouds. At first he doesn't understand what in the world is going on but then it suddenly dawns on him. He has just died. He looks at the two white-suited men at his side and asks in disbelief, "Are you sure it was supposed to be me? I was working on a string of strikes!" Convinced there was no mistake, he goes off reluctantly and shrugs, "Gee, I guess I just wasn't ready." The point of the commercial is that one has to be ready all the time and for the sponsor that means having insurance, a "piece-of-the-rock." That's the way to be ready. 

AS 2025:

The World Future Society released their forecasts for the next 25 years a few months ago and some of those forecasts were upbeat. For example these futurists predict that by the year 2025 the world will have a billion millionaires. That’s a lot of wealthy people. I hope you’re one of them. They also forecast a new process to remove salt from seawater and make it drinkable at a much lower cost than thought possible. They predict drastic improvements in artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and robotics. These advances will improve every aspect of our lives. But they also report that the threat of another cold war with China, Russia, or both could replace terrorism as the chief foreign-policy concern of the United States. Scenarios for what a war with China or Russia would look like make the clashes and wars in which the United States is now involved seem insignificant. Also of deep concern is climate change with the disappearance of much of our bio-diversity, widespread flooding and water replacing oil as the most precious commodity on earth. (futuristupdate@wfs.org )How much of this will occur? No one knows. But here’s what we do know. The God who sent a tiny babe 2,000 years ago to redeem our world is the same God who holds the future. 

“Misha, you can come and be in my family and live in my home.’”

On one occasion this missionary couple was teaching the children about Christmas. They told them all about Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wise men, and about the baby Jesus. They told them all about the stable, and the manger, and the star in the sky. They told them all about God’s love for the world embodied in the birth of Jesus. And after teaching the children the Christmas story, this couple invited them to draw some pictures of the manger scene. All of the pictures were wonderful! But one in particular caught their attention. It was drawn by a little boy named Misha. And what made Misha’s drawing distinctive was that there were, not one, but two babies lying in the manger. “Misha, what a wonderful picture!” said the woman missionary. “But who is the other baby in the manger with the baby Jesus?” Misha looked up with a lovely expression on his face. “The other baby is Misha,” he smiled. “Oh? How is it that you added yourself to the manger scene?” she asked. And this is what Misha said. “When I was drawing the picture of the baby Jesus, Jesus looked at me and said, ‘Misha, where is YOUR family?’ I said to Jesus, ‘I have no family.’ Then Jesus said to me, ‘Misha, where is your home?’ And I said to Jesus, ‘I have no home.’ And then Jesus said to me, ‘Misha, you can come and be in my family and live in my home.’”

(http://www.tellicochurch.org/Year%20B%20Sermons/ 021224.html.) ) That’s a lovely story, and we are so thankful that Misha was introduced to Jesus. But do you understand that two thousand years after the coming of Christ, millions of children come from situations like Misha’s? They are still awaiting a Savior. You’ll find them in the former Soviet Union. You’ll find them in Afghanistan. You’ll find them in Africa. You’ll find them in the gang-ridden neighborhoods of our inner cities. You’ll find them right here in our own community. Of course, it is our responsibility to reach out to these little ones, to show them the love of Jesus, but the truth of the matter is that, for the most part, they are forgotten this Advent season. 

Anti-Christs:

The scriptures provide us with very few details about the nature of Christ’s return, and much of what we do have is written in a kind of code that can be widely interpreted, or misinterpreted as the case may be. For example, did you know that Ronald Reagan was the anti-Christ? Ronald Wilson Reagan six letters in each of his names, 666. What more evidence do you need? At one time the website of the PBS show Frontline carried a list of prominent figures who have been labeled the anti-Christ at one time or the other. Some are quite predictable, ranging from Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein to former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, because of the strange mark on his forehead that some said was the mark of the beast. But how about Reagan? And how about John F. Kennedy? Kennedy was there because he received 666 votes at the 1956 Democratic Convention and a head wound killed him. Bill Gates was there because he would enslave the world through computers and even the old folk singer Pete Seeger was there, though we are not told why

http://bloomingcactus.typepad.com/bloomingcactus/2005/11/mark_132437_kee.html. ) But surely none of these is the anti-Christ. The parts of the Bible that foretell the end of time, the apocalyptic literature as it is called by scholars is written in a kind of code and is open to much interpretation. And, obviously, it is all pre-space age imagery. 

“But it’s steady work.”

Leo Rosten tells an amusing story that comes out of the Jewish tradition. There was a man in a small Russian village who, because of a disabling condition, could not find employment. The community council wanted to help him but they also wanted to protect his pride. They decided to give him a job. They paid him two rubles a week to sit at the town’s entrance and be the first to greet the Messiah when he arrives. “Just sit on the hill outside our village every day from dawn to sunset,” they tell him. “You will be our watchman for the approach of the Messiah. And when you see him, run back to the village as fast as you can, shouting, ‘The Messiah! The Messiah! He is coming!’” The man’s face lit up just thinking of the glory of his new position. Every morning he greeted the dawn from the hill and not until sunset every day, did he leave his treasured post. A year went by, and a traveler, approaching the village, noticed the figure sitting on a hill. “Sholem,” called the traveler. “What are you doing here?” “I am waiting for the Messiah!” the man replied. “It’s my job.” The traveler was somewhat amused. “How do you like this job?” he asked, suppressing a smile. “Frankly, it doesn’t pay much,” said the poor man, “but it’s steady work.” [Leo Rosten, The Joys of Yinglish (New York: McGraw Hill Publishing Company, 1992).] That would be steady work if you did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, twenty-five hundred years of waiting and watching for the coming of the Lord. 

“I’m two hours late, and you’re still not ready?”

Margaret was all ready for her date. She was wearing her best outfit, her hair was fixed, her makeup was perfect. Imagine her disappointment when her date didn’t show up! After an hour of waiting, Margaret decided that he wasn’t going to come. She changed into her pajamas, washed off her makeup, gathered up a bunch of junk food, and parked herself in front of the television for the evening. As soon as she got involved in her favorite show, there was a knock on the door. She opened it to find her handsome date standing on the doorstep. He stared at her in shock, then said in disbelief, “I’m two hours late, and you’re still not ready?” (Steve Barry, “Life in these United States,” Reader’s Digest, Oct. 1992, p. 82. Contributed by Dr. John Bardsley.) Of course, our Jewish friends have spent hundreds, even thousands of years waiting to celebrate the coming of the Messiah. In fact, they’re still waiting. 

Wesley, Luther and gardener:

Once John Wesley was asked what he would do if he knew this was his last day on earth. He replied, "At 4 o'clock I would have some tea. At 6 I would visit Mrs. Brown in the hospital. Then at 7:30 I would conduct a mid-week prayer service. At 10 I would go to bed and would wake up in glory." When Luther was asked what he would do on the day of Jesus' return, he said he would go out and plant a tree. Our text tells us that Christ expects each of us to be about our work so that when he comes, he will find us in gainful and constructive employment, taking care of the world as his trustees. Some years ago a tourist visited the Castle Villa Asconti on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy. Only the old gardener opened the gates and the visitor stepped into the garden, which was perfectly kept. The visitor asked when the owner was last there. He was told, "Twelve years ago." Did he ever write? No. Where did he get instructions? From his agent in Milan. Does the master ever come? No. "But, you keep the grounds as though your master were coming back tomorrow." The old gardener quickly replied, "Today, sir, today." A Christian watches and works as though the Master would return this very day. He wants Jesus to find him busy about his tasks: washing dishes, mending shoes, running a lathe, teaching school, planting a rose bush. Jesus will be pleased to see his faithful ones working hard to build a better world, a more Christian society. 

"One for you, one for me.”

A young girl was cycling down the road outside the cemetery. As she got nearer, she heard the voices, so she stopped and listened to the voice, "One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me . . . "She shuddered as she imagined some awful truth. She thought to herself, "God and Satan must be dividing the souls at the cemetery." She cycled back to town as fast as she could and found an old man hobbling down the road, leaning heavily on his cane with each step. She said, "You've got to come with me. You won't believe what I heard. God and Satan are down at the cemetery dividing the souls." The old man didn't believe her, "Shoo, you brat, can't you see I'm finding it hard to walk as it is." She kept pleading, and he eventually gave in and hobbled after her back to the cemetery. When they got to the fence, they stood quietly and heard, "One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me . . . " The old man whispered, "Man alive, you've been tellin' me the truth, girl. Let's see if we can get closer and see them." Shivering with fear, they got as close to the wall as they could and peered through the fence. Unfortunately, they still couldn't see a thing. The old man and the young girl clung to the fence as they heard the same words, "One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me . . . " Then, after another minute, they heard, "One for you, one for me, and one last one for you. Okay, that's all. Now," said the voice of the one doing the counting, "let's go get those nuts by the fence, and we'll be done."  

The boys found a cane lying on the ground near the last few remaining walnuts. And, oh yes, the punch line . . . The old man got back to town five minutes before the girl did. (THEMAZEMAN@aol.com cited on The Jewish Humor List.) Is that what you expect from Christ's return--that you and I had better be on our best behavior because Christ and the Devil are going to divide up souls on the basis of merit, and we don't want to come up short? Then you need to take a second look at the Gospel. 

"Watch."

Though Russia and the United States agreed in 1974 to limit themselves to 2,500 nuclear missiles and bombers and permitted themselves to build an additional 1,200 missiles with multiple atomic warheads, by 1991 Russia had 10,877 and the U.S. had 11,602 nuclear weapons. Both sides have enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world not once but many times. While hundreds of millions are starving, nations spend annually $220 billion for arms. Leading ecologists warn us that we will suffocate ourselves with pollution. The world seems to be winding itself up. And we seem to know it, too. A cartoon shows a man wearing placards as he walks up and down the crowded streets of a big city. On the sign is the warning: "The end is nigh. Prepare to meet thy doom." The sign carrier says, "The horrible thing is that people don't laugh at me anymore!" In our text Jesus is telling us to get ready for his second coming. The key word of our preparation is "Watch." He concludes his saying on this return with "And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." Ready or not, Jesus is coming.

Reason to hope & rejoice:

She had every reason to be bitter. "Though talented, she went unrecognized for years. Prestigious opera circles closed their ranks when she tried to enter. American critics ignored her compelling voice. She was repeatedly rejected for parts for which she easily qualified. It was only after she went to Europe and won the hearts of tough-to-please European audiences that stateside opinion leaders acknowledged her talent. Not only has her professional life been a battle, her personal life has been marked by challenge. She is the mother of two handicapped children, one of whom is severely retarded. Years ago, in order to escape the pace of New York City, she purchased a home on Martha's Vineyard. It burned to the ground two days before she was to move in. Professional rejection. Personal setbacks. Perfect soil for the seeds of bitterness. A receptive field for the roots of resentment. But in this case, anger found no home. Her friends don't call her bitter; they call her Bubbles. Who is she? Beverly Sills. Internationally acclaimed opera singer. Retired director of the New York Opera. Her phrases are sugared with laughter. Her face is softened with serenity. Upon interviewing her, Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes stated, ‘She is one of the most impressive if not the most impressive, ladies I've ever interviewed.' How can a person handle such professional rejection and personal trauma and still be known as Bubbles? ‘I choose to be cheerful,' she says. ‘Years ago, I knew I had little or no choice about success, circumstances or even happiness; but I knew I could choose to be cheerful.'" (Max Lucado, The Applause from Heaven, Word Publishing, 1990, page 3). Today we open the Advent season that leads to the celebration of the birth of Christ on Christmas Day. We prepare the way for the Lord to enter OUR HEARTS more deeply. This is why we do not lose heart or hope. 

"God warms my heart when I keep my eyes fixed on him."

There's a great story about Saint Francis of Assisi that illustrates this very well. One winter night, there was a raging blizzard, and the man who was supposed to wake up every couple of hours and keep the fire going at the monastery was unable to find Francis. So he went outside into the storm and found him kneeling at the side of a hill wearing his ordinary clothing. His arms were outstretched; he was praying, oblivious to the wind and biting cold snow. A day later, when the man asked Francis how he could stand this, Francis replied, "God warms my heart when I keep my eyes fixed on him." God warms our hearts, too, when we keep our eyes fixed on God. 

Unique child:

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was one of the most sought after speakers of the 20th century. Shortly before his death, he spoke for his good friend Robert Schuler in the Crystal Cathedral. Dr. Schuler began his introduction by saying: "I want to introduce you to the most dynamic person you will ever meet in your life. He is exciting, positive and winsome. He can reach down inside of you more deeply than anyone else you have ever known before. He will give you self-confidence and courage, and a whole lot of other things you have always wanted in your life but have not had." Dr. Peale was astounded. He had never been introduced like this before. How could he possibly respond to this introduction? As he was trying to think of some response, he heard Dr. Schuler continue: "The person of whom I am speaking, of course, is Jesus Christ. And here to tell you about Him is my friend, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale." Yes, Jesus Christ came to free us to be all that God wants us to be. From that moment when Jesus Christ was born at Bethlehem, there came power and there came light into our world. There came life, and there came a future. If God can reach down and touch the earth in all its darkness and sin and win the victory, God can bring victory into our situation whatever that situation may be.  

The end of the world in 2012:

With preacher Harold Camping's prophecies earlier this year, and the Mayan calendar's prediction about the end of the world next year, doomsday seems a hot topic these days. But today, I received a reassuring press release from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, assuring a worried public (were we worried about this?) that a gigantic, killer solar flare won't destroy the Earth in 2012. Whew! "There simply isn't enough energy in the Sun to send a killer fireball 93 million miles to destroy Earth," NASA's Karen C. Fox reports in the release. NASA also notes that the next solar maximum is predicted to occur in late 2013 or early 2014, not 2012.     

The Messiah is Jewish:

A Protestant Minister and a Catholic Priest enjoyed teasing their Rabbi friend, continually asking him when he was going to convert to their faith. When the Christmas season rolled around, the Rabbi sent them a card with the following note: "Season’s Greetings! Roses are reddish, Violets are bluish; When the Messiah comes, you’ll wish you were Jewish!!"  

Second coming?

Some time ago a man was staying in a chalet (hotel) in the Swiss Alps. Early one morning he heard what sounded like an earthquake. Hurriedly he got out of bed and ran to the front desk and asked if there was something wrong, if the mountains were breaking up? He was scared. The man at the front desk explained, “Sir, we are on the west side of the mountain. As the sun comes up in the east, and the snow and ice expand as they begin to get warm. The expansion causes a large crashing noise. It’s not the end of the world or the Second Coming of Jesus; it’s just the beginning of a new day.”   

Who won?

A little boy walked into his Dad’s room just as his Dad finished reading the Bible. The son asked, "What are you reading?’ The Father replied, "I am reading the book of Revelation, the last book of the Holy Bible." The little boy curiously asked, "What’s it about? His dad replied, "It’s about God’s final battle against evil." The little boy excitedly asked, "Who won?" The Father stooped down to his boy’s eye level and said, "God won." 

4. From Sermons.com

It is hard for us to understand Jesus' delay in his coming. God's time clock is certainly out of sync with ours as Little Jimmy learned one day as he was laying on a hill in the middle of a meadow on a warm spring day. Puffy white clouds rolled by and he pondered their shape. Soon, he began to think about God.
"God? Are you really there?" Jimmy said out loud.
To his astonishment a voice came from the clouds. "Yes, Jimmy? What can I do for you?"
Seizing the opportunity, Jimmy asked, "God? What is a million years like to you?"
Knowing that Jimmy could not understand the concept of infinity, God responded in a manner to which Jimmy could relate. "A million years to me, Jimmy, is like a minute."
"Oh," said Jimmy. "Well, then, what's a million dollars like to you?" "A million dollars to me, Jimmy, is like a penny."
"Wow!" remarked Jimmy, getting an idea. "You're so generous... can I have one of your pennies?"
God replied, "Sure thing, Jimmy! Just a minute."

Little Jimmy wasn't ready for that response was he? Our text this morning seems an unlikely scripture for Advent. It has nothing to do with Mary and Joseph, the Wise Men, of shepherds watching their flock. Instead it is story about a wealthy landowner going on a trip. The servants left behind were given charge of the estate and when the master returned he would check on their stewardship. It is a story about being prepared, getting ready. In that sense then this is an Advent story, for this is the season of preparedness. Consider with me a moment that... 

1. God Identifies with the Human Situation.
2. Advent Is Time to Get Ready for the Return of Christ.

This Sunday marks a new "season" in the church calendar. After a series of twenty-four Sundays defined simply as "After Pentecost," the church community around the world is now called to focus on a new turn in our journey.  

Advent is a season of anticipation and preparation for the "coming" (adventus) of Jesus. But mostly during Advent we do strange and ridiculous things. We put up a tree in our living room. Not too long ago our ancestors even used to light the tree with burning candles, which burned many houses down. We decorate the whole house as though it was one huge present. We blow our electric bill through the roof with outdoor lighting. We start buying stuff and wrapping stuff and baking stuff and preparing stuff. All to what end? So that when Jesus finally arrives our Christmas celebration will be special and memorable.  

Advent is the church's annual adventure in being astounded by something new, not in Macy's but in a manger. 

And yet the first gospel reading for the Season of Advent is not "something new." Instead it recalls a prediction from the old as recorded by the prophet Daniel. Daniel 7:13 evokes the vision of a "son of man coming with the clouds of heaven." It describes this heavenly figure as one who will "gather his elect," a message that suggests that those not "elected" are in fact "rejected." It is a grand vision of a heavenly empowered divine "son of man" coming to earth to extend judgment. This "son of man" is a historic figure of heavenly origin, a divine being who becomes human and will change the course of human history. The final word in this week's gospel text from Mark is to "keep watch," to "watch out" for the signs that will reveal that the approach of this "son of man" is imminent... 
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Funny Things Are Everywhere

There's an interesting quote - from an unexpected source - that applies to this First Day of Advent, from a book you may have read to your children or grandchildren, or that you may remember from your own childhood. The book is by Dr. Seuss, and is entitled 'One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.' The quote to consider today is brief: 

From there to here,
from here to there,
funny things
are everywhere. 

Funny things are everywhere! And there are two things funny about this First Sunday of Advent, the start of a new church year. The first of them is that, here at the start of a new year, we don't look back to the beginning, but we look forward to the end. Here on the first day of the new church year, we do not focus on the past, but we anticipate the future where Christ promises to meet us. 

The second funny thing about today is related to the first. When we look forward to the end, when we anticipate the future, we do not treat this conclusion as some distant, far-off event. It is near at hand. It may be as close as the next second. So imminent is it, in fact, that the future comes and takes up residence in the present. The Christ who will arrive with power and great glory at the end of time comes to us also before the end of time.

Charles Hoffacker, Christ Winks at Us
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Where Is Authority?

The British writer Arnold Lunn tells about one time he was on a boat trip when a certain lady was plaguing him with theological questions. He answered her with quotes from the Bible and from the teaching of the Church but the woman would not accept what he said. Then he interrupted her to say, "you must be a very inexperienced boat traveler. As you got on the boat I noticed that you put your left foot on board first. Everyone knows that you will have bad luck if you step on a boat with your left foot first!" The next time she came on board he noticed that she nearly tripped into the water in her effort to step aboard right foot first. 

Lunn thought it remarkable that she would believe the infallible Lunn in something that he had just made up, and that she would not accept the authority of the Church or the words of Scripture. So, too, we tend to complicate our lives and our prayer by looking for the extraordinary, when the Lord is to be found most often in the simple and in the ordinary. 

Father Gerry Pierse, The End of the World....Again?
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Watchfulness

In Frankfort, Kentucky, it is said that the city was enthralled in a big debate many years ago about placing a water fountain in a public square. The argument became heated in the legislature and at the governor's mansion. Finally, a decision was made to ask three contractors to bid on the project. 

The first contractor was from Western Kentucky. When asked what his bid was he replied, "$3,000." Then he was asked to break it down, to which he replied, "$1,000 for labor, $1,000 for materials, and $1,000 for me." The next contractor was from Eastern Kentucky. When asked to give his bid and to break it down he said, "$6,000. $2,000 for labor, $2,000 for materials, and $2,000 for me." 

The last contractor was an established contractor from Frankfort who usually got all of the bids for the capital. When asked to give his bid, he replied, "$9,000." Then they asked him to break it down. He closed the doors, looked around cautiously, and then said, "$3,000 for YOU, $3,000 for me, and we give the bid to the guy from Western Kentucky!" 

Now, they had bigger problems in Frankfort than deciding on a water fountain. But so often we can get sidetracked by things that seem important. Much like the disciples being more concerned with the temple being destroyed and the world coming to an end than they were with the things that matter most in life: character, integrity, compassion, and preparedness for Christ's return. This is what Jesus means when he tells his Disciples to watch! 

Tim Carpenter, Sermon Illustrations
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Living in Hope

The Christian lives in the Hope. We look to tomorrow with confidence, even absurd confidence. As the White Queen told Alice, "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." There is an exuberance in the Christian Life, an exaltation which passes logic. Why? 

Because we belong to Christ. Listen to Leo Tolstoy: 

I believe in God, who is for me spirit, love, the principle of all things.
I believe that God is in me, as I am in Him.
I believe that the true welfare of man consists in fulfilling the will of God.
I believe that from the fulfillment of the will of God there can follow nothing but that which is good for me and for all men.
I believe that the will of God is that every man should love his fellow men, and should act toward others as he desires that they should act toward him.
I believe that the reason of life is for each of us simply to grow in love.
I believe that this growth in love will contribute more than any other force to establish the Kingdom of God on earth
To replace a social life in which division, falsehood and violence are all-powerful, with a new order in which humanity, truth and brotherhood will reign. 

Warren T. Smith, Journey in Faith
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Jesus Is Coming!

One of my dearest friends applied for a position that required him to instruct and inspire younger people. His interviewer and evaluator asked him, "Tell me about your walk with Jesus." My friend replied, "You know, everywhere I go, no matter where or when, I find that Jesus has arrived there first. Wherever I go, Jesus is already there." The evaluator made no reply; he had no idea what to say, and my friend was never offered the job. Was his response too theologically subtle? Jesus is not the Lord whom we discover or define or claim. Jesus comes to us. We do not summon Him by any action of our own. Jesus is God's gift. While we were yet sinners, he was born, died, and raised again for us that we might inherit new life.

Advent announces that Jesus is coming and not through any action of our own. We do not deserve it. Advent happens. Advent means that Jesus comes again and for all time, at Christmas, this Christmas. 

Edward S. Gleason, In the Time of This Mortal Life
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The Return of the King

John Phillips, in his book Exploring Revelation, tells about the return of Richard I, the Lionhearted, to England. It was during the time of the crusades. While Richard was away doing battle in the Mideast, his kingdom fell on bad times. His brother, Prince John, justly vilified in the tales of Robin Hood, usurped the kingdom and misruled the realm. The people of England suffered under John's rule and longed for the return of their rightful king. They prayed that it might be soon. Then one day Richard returned. He landed in England and marched straight for his throne. John's castles tumbled before Richard like ninepins. Richard the Lionhearted laid claim to his throne, and none dared stand in his path. The people shouted their delight. They rang peal after peal on the bells. The Lion was back! Long live the king!  

John Phillips adds these hopeful words: "One day a King greater than Richard will lay claim to a realm greater than England. Those who have abused the earth in His absence, seized His domains, and mismanaged His world will all be swept aside."

That day's coming, friends, and it will be a grand and glorious day. Get ready. No one knows when it will be. But get ready. No one knows what shape it will take, but we know this: God's in charge and God can be trusted. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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Second Coming - Readiness

While on a South Pole expedition, British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton left a few men on Elephant Island, promising that he would return. Later, when he tried to go back, huge icebergs blocked the way. But suddenly, as if by a miracle, an avenue opened in the ice and Shackleton was able to get through. His men, ready and waiting, quickly scrambled aboard. No sooner had the ship cleared the island than the ice crashed together behind them.  

Contemplating their narrow escape, the explorer said to his men, "It was fortunate you were all packed and ready to go!" They replied, "We never gave up hope. Whenever the sea was clear of ice, we rolled up our sleeping bags and reminded each other, 'He may come today.'" 

Unknown
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 Stay and Shine

Sue Monk Kidd tells about when her daughter was small and got the dubious part of the Bethlehem star in a Christmas play. After her first rehearsal, she burst through the door with her costume, a five-pointed star lined in shiny gold tinsel designed to drape over her like a sandwich board. "What exactly will you be doing in the play?" her mother asked her. 

"I just stand there and shine," her daughter answered. Sue Monk Kidd says she has never forgotten that response...

Christ the King 2014

Tycoons Come to a Bad End
A gathering of wealthy businessmen took place at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago in 1923. They were among the richest men in the world at that time: (1) Charles Schwab, President of the world's largest independent steel company; (2) Samuel Insull, President of the world's largest utility company; (3) Howard Hopson, President of the largest gas firm; (4) Arthur Cutten, the greatest wheat speculator; (5) Richard Whitney, President of the New York Stock Exchange; (6) Albert Fall, member of the President's Cabinet; (7) Leon Frazier, President of the Bank of International Settlements; (8) Jessie Livermore, the greatest speculator in the Stock Market; and (9) Ivar Kreuger, head of the company with the most widely distributed securities in the world.

Twenty-five years later, (1) Charles Schwab had died in bankruptcy, having lived on borrowed money for five years before his death. (2) Samuel Insull had died virtually penniless after spending some time as a fugitive from justice. (3) Howard Hopson was insane. (4) Arthur Cutten died overseas, broke. (5) Richard Whitney had spent time in Sing-Sing. (6) Albert Fall was released from prison so he could die at home. (7) Leon Fraizer, (8) Jessie Livermore, and (9) Ivar Kreuger each died by suicide. Measured by wealth and power these men achieved success, at least temporarily. Making a lot of money may be an acceptable goal, but money most assuredly does not guarantee a truly successful life.


1.     Fr. Jude Botelho 

In our present times we do not make much of royalty and we have discarded the trappings and structures of royalty in favour of democracy. Yet we admire people who are loyal and faithful to lawfully constituted authority. Today we are reminded that God is the ultimate authority and He commands our respect and loyalty not because he exercises power over us but because He constantly cares for us. We can show our loyalty to Him by respecting and caring for His people, our brothers and sisters. 

Have a renewing weekend, rededicating our lives to His Kingdom! 
 
Reflection 

In the first reading, Ezekiel likens God to a shepherd, who tenderly looks after his sheep, He is always watching over them, and protects them especially when they are in danger. The readings of the day remind us both of God’s care and of God’s expectations of us His people, who belong to His flock. This shepherd does not control or force us to follow him yet at the same time if we are on His side then we must be like our shepherd, caring, and loving. We may give up on God but God never abandons us.  

If only I knew it was you!

 Nelson Mandela was still a young man when he became leader of the banned African National Congress. At a certain stage of the struggle he was forced to go underground. He used many disguises and in general remained as unkempt as possible, so that he would not be easily recognized. Once he was to attend a meeting in a distant part of Johannesburg. A priest had arranged with friends of his to put him up for the night. However, when Mandela arrived at the house, the elderly woman who answered the doorbell took one look at him and exclaimed, “We don’t want your kind here!” And she shut the door in his face. Later when she found out who it was she had turned away she was horrified and said to him, “If only I knew it was you, I’d have given you the best room in the house.” Mandela did not let incidents like this deter him.

Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’ 

The Gospel puts before us the other side of the picture. While God is ever caring and watchful over us He wants us to listen to him, to heed his voice and follow his example. In any organization, if we want to belong to it then we have to live according to its practice, precepts and policies. We are told in no uncertain terms that the only criterion by which we will be judged is whether we have loved our brothers and sisters. The yard stick is something tangible: “What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do unto me!” Have we cared for others, have we shown our love in action. What matters is not doing great things, spectacular deeds that will be noticed by others, but the small things often unnoticed that we do for those in need. We will be judged by what we have done as well as by what we have not done.  Sometimes we look at ourselves and say we are pretty good because we have not done anything bad. But have we done the good we could have done? Saying the kind word, lending a helping hand, finding time for others in spite of being busy, cheering up those who are depressed, visiting the friendless, writing or phoning those who are alone, appreciating the many good things that people do for us…. The list of small things can be endless! People ask: “Where can I find God? What should I do to find Him? The answer is simple: He is to be found in the poor, the weak, the needy, the helpless, and in those who take care of these people.  

The beggar King

 There is an old Irish legend that tells of a king who had no children to succeed him on the throne. So he had his messengers post signs in every town and village of his kingdom inviting qualified young men to apply for an interview with the king. Two qualifications especially were stressed: The person must have a deep love for God and for his neighbour. The young man around whom the legend centres saw one of these signs. He believed he had the necessary qualifications and he felt an inner calling to apply for an interview. But the young man was so poor he did not have decent clothes to wear for the interview. He also had no money to buy provisions for the long journey to the king’s castle. He decided to beg for clothes and the provisions he needed. When everything was ready he set out. After a month’s travel, one day the man caught sight of the king’s castle. At about the same time he also caught sight of a poor old beggar sitting by the side of the road. The beggar held out his hands and pleaded for help. “I’m cold and hungry,” he said in a weak voice. “Could you give me something to eat and something to wear?” The young man was moved by the sight of the beggar. He stripped off his warm outer clothes and exchanged them for the old tattered coat of the beggar. He also gave the beggar most of the provisions he had been carrying in his backpack for the return journey. Then, somewhat uncertainly he walked on to the castle. The guards met him and took him to the visitors’ area. After a long wait he was led to the king. He bowed before the throne. When he straightened up, he could hardly believe his eyes. He said to the king, “You were the beggar besides the road. Why’d you do this to me?” “I had to find out,” said the king, “if you really did love God and neighbour”

Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’  

Lord and King

 Once a soldier was taken before the Roman magistrate. His crime was that of being a Christian. The magistrate asked him, “Are you a Christian?” The Christian soldier replied, “Yes.” The magistrate enquired, “If so, are you the enemy of Caesar?” The Christian replied, “No.” “Then you must offer incense to the image of Caesar”, said the magistrate. The Christian replied boldly, “I refused to offer any incense to Caesar. God and God alone must be adored and worshipped. Jesus alone is my God and I love and worship Him alone.” The magistrate threatened saying. “If you refuse I will sever your head from your body.” The Christian boldly replied, “You may cut off my head from my shoulder, but you cannot separate my heart from my King and God – Jesus Christ.” The Christian was decapitated.

John Rose in ‘John’s Sunday Homilies’  

The King and I

 In the famous 1956 film, ‘The King and I’ transposed into a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, the King of Siam entrusts his many children to the care of governess Anna. Christ the King and I, too, are involved in a love-story. Jesus entrusts his children into my care. How do I respond to the King and his little ones? “Here is your footstool and there rest your feet where live the poorest, the lowliest and the lost,” wrote Rabindranath Tagore in the Gitanjali. May I love The King in that beggar at my doorstep that I might be worthy of his kingdom.

Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’  

Go right in…

There was a queue of people outside the gates of heaven.  Each person was asked the question: ‘Why do you think you should be admitted?’ The first person in the queue, a very religious man, said, ‘I studied the Bible every day.’ ‘Very good,’ said the Lord. ‘However, we’ll have to carry out an investigation to see why you studied the Bible.  So please step aside for a moment.’ The second was a very pious woman who said, ‘Lord, I said my prayers every day without fail.’ ‘Very good,’ the Lord answered. ‘However, we’ll have to see if your motives were pure. So step aside for a moment.’ Then an innkeeper approached.  He just said, ‘Lord, on earth I wasn’t a very religious man, but my door was always open to the homeless, and I never refused food to anyone who was hungry.’ ‘Very good,’ said the Lord. ‘In your case no investigation is needed. Go right in.’

Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’  

What are you?

 A young teacher with obvious liberal tendencies explains to her class of small children that she is an atheist; that she doesn’t believe in the existence of God. She asks her class if they are atheists too. Not really knowing what atheism is, but wanting to be like their teacher, their hands explode into the air like flash fireworks. There is however, one exception. A beautiful little girl named Lucy has not gone along with the crowd. The teacher asks her why she has decided to be different. “Because I am not an atheist.” Then, asks the teacher, “What are you?” “I’m a Christian.” The teacher is a little disturbed now, her face slightly red. She asks Lucy why she is a Christian. “Well I was brought up knowing and loving Jesus. My mom is a Christian, and my dad is a Christian, so I am a Christian.” The teacher is now angry. “That’s no reason,” she says loudly. “What if you mom was an idiot and your dad was an idiot. What would you be then?” Lucy paused and smiled and said, “Then I would be an atheist!”

John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’  

Christ the King

 In 1903, people of Silao in Mexico erected a 30 feet high statue of Christ the king. The statue looked at the city with love and expectation. The revolutionaries destroyed the statue. The people of Silao put the pieces and the bits together and rebuilt the statue again which brought peace, joy and happiness to the nation. Jesus came to build the Kingdom of God but his adversaries destroyed it. The disciples, the messengers of Christ are called to rebuild the Kingdom of God. The feast of Christ the King teaches us to serve Christ in our fellow creatures here and now with love and complete dedication.

Elias Dias in ‘Divine Stories for families’

 

In all things may we be gentle and loving like Christ our Shepherd King! 

 
2.     From the Connections:

A lesson in heaven and hell

A great warrior once went to see a monk who lived in the hills outside the city.

“Monk,” he asked in a voice accustomed to immediate obedience, “each me about heaven and hell.”

The monk, physically about half the size of the warrior, looked up and replied with utter disdain:  “Teach you about heaven and hell?  I couldn’t teach you anything.  You’re ignorant. You’re dirty.  You smell.  Your blade is rusty.  You’re a disgrace, an embarrassment.  Get out of my sight.  I can’t stand you.”

The warrior was furious.  So stunned by the little monk’s arrogance and vehemence, he was speechless; he shook with rage; his face reddened.  The warrior drew out his sword and raised it above him, ready to slay the monk with one blow.  The monk did not cower.  “That’s hell," the monk said quietly.

The warrior was overwhelmed.  The compassion and surrender of this little man who was prepared to offer his life to teach him about hell!  The warrior slowly put down his sword; he was filled with gratitude and a peace he had never known; he was transformed by what he had just learned from the generous monk.

“And that's heaven,” the monk said. 

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to make the kingdom of God a reality in whatever place we are, in whatever time we live.  God’s reign is established, not by acts of heroic sanctity and miraculous transformations but by the simplest and most hidden acts of compassion, reconciliation, peace and justice.  Faithfulness begins with the ability and perspective to see in every man, woman and child the face of Christ and to then afford them the dignity and respect worthy of that identity.  May these last days of this year and first days of the new be a time for us to embrace the vision and spirit that will bring God’s kingdom to life among us.    

THE WORD:

Matthew’s is the only description of the Last Judgment in any of the Gospels.  It is Jesus’ last discourse recorded by Matthew before the events of the Passion begin to unfold.  In the vision he presents in today’s Gospel, Christ is the king who sits in judgment “as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.”   Mercy and charity will be the standards for determining one’s entry into the future kingdom of God.  

HOMILY POINTS:

Christ the Shepherd-King clearly and unequivocally identifies himself with the poor.  Our “greatness” lies in our ability to reach beyond ourselves to bring justice, peace and reconciliation into the lives of everyone. 

Mother Teresa of Calcutta put today’s Gospel theme so succinctly when she said:  “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.  We will be judged by I was hungry and you gave me to eat . . . I was naked and you clothed me . . . I was homeless and you took me in.  Hungry not only for bread -- but hungry for love; naked not only of clothing -- but naked of human dignity and respect; homeless not only for want of a room of bricks, but homeless because of rejection.  This is Christ in distressing disguise.”

In nations ruled by a royal family, the concept of monarchy is based on two premises: that the king rules by “divine right,” that is, by the authority of God; and that the character of the entire nation is vested in their king, sometimes expressed in the idea of the sovereign being the “father” of his children, the governed.  In this light, Christ is indeed King.  Jesus is the anointed one of God, the Christus, the Messiah raised up by the Father.  And he is the very essence of his people, the Church.  His Gospel is the bond that unites us as Church; the Eucharist, his body, gives life to that Church. 

To claim that Christ is our “King,” to proclaim ourselves to be “Christians,” demands a clear and conscious decision by each of us, not passive compliance to a “herd” spirituality.  To truly celebrate this feast means to welcome Christ not just into the compartments and slots of our lifestyles marked “religion” but into every thread and fiber of the fabric of our lives. 

 3.     From the Sermons.com 

Like it or not, judgment is a fact of life. That is true whether we are talking about the histories of nations or the events of our own personal life. If we break the law, then society will judge us. If we live immorally -- drink too much, engage in sexual promiscuity, live a lifestyle of constant stress -- then our bodies will judge us. We simply cannot escape judgment in life.

Jesus rarely spoke about the final judgment, but on one occasion he did paint a picture for us in one of his stories. The parable that I just read gives a strong jolt to those who are heavy on doctrine but short on ethics.

A shepherd divides the sheep from the goats, said Jesus, so too shall there be a great division on the final day. Those on the right hand will be allowed entrance into the kingdom, while those on the left will be denied it. And the great surprise is that those who thought they were religious turn out to be not as good as they thought, and those who thought they failed were told they did a better job than they supposed.

I would like to suggest three points that this parable is attempting to make this morning... 

1. We Are to View Each Individual As if They Are Christ.
2. The End Criteria Will Be Simple Acts of Kindness.
3. We Are Judged by the Good We Do Not Do.

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There are two types of students. There are those students who jump for joy when they hear the words "take home final." And there are those students who are not thrilled with joy but filled with dread when they hear the words "take home final." 

At first blush it seems a no-brainer. Who wouldn't prefer a take home exam? There is no time crunch. There is unlimited access to resources for checking facts and figures. There is the ability to modify, or even completely change, responses after thinking about them for a while. 

But the students who dread the take home final know there is a down side to all those benefits. With all that extra time and unlimited information and fluid flexibility, there come greater expectations. With a take home final there is never a firm answer to how much more the instructor expects. 

Instead of a quick couple paragraphs, obviously a longer, more extensive, more exhaustive presentation is rightly required. With access to unlimited resources who is to say how many examples are "enough" to prove your point? An exam given in a closed class room for an hour or two puts all students at the same advantages and disadvantages. It's a level playing field. A "take home final" by definition will be "taken" at a different "home" by each student. A "take home final" forces students to take their exam in their individual real words - whatever those worlds might be like. 

Why is it that we are always warned "don't take your work home with you"? That caution is not about teachers correcting papers on the living room couch or real estate agents updating their listings online while watching Sunday night football. "Don't take your work home with you" is our attempt to draw a line between who we are in one part of our life versus who we are in another part of our lives. "Don't' take your work home with you" tries to disconnect what we do 9-5 from who we are 5-9. 

For Jesus' disciples that is impossible. In today's gospel text Jesus makes it clear that Christian life comes with a "take home final"...

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 Mommy, I'm Hungry 

It's been years, but I remember Fred Craddock telling of the time he attended a conference on hunger. Influential, knowledgeable speakers had been brought in from all over to talk on the subject. Near the end of the conference, Fred says, a young, willowy woman got up to speak. Her long straight hair fell down her back, almost to her waist. She carried a legal pad to the podium and began reading.

At first, Craddock says, he couldn't follow what she was saying. Eventually, it dawned on him, as it did all the other listeners. She was reading the same sentence over and over, each time in a different language. Finally, at the very end, she spoke the sentence in English. All the time she was saying, "Mommy, I'm hungry. Mommy, I'm hungry."

She was the most powerful speaker of the entire conference, Craddock says. At least, she had the most impact upon him. As he and his group drove back to Atlanta, alongside the highway he read a billboard he had seen numerous times. Before, he had hardly even noticed it. This time he did. It said, "All You Can Eat Buffet, $4.99." This time, Craddock says, that message seemed to him to be obscene.

Guilt can be a powerful motivator.

Randy L. Hyde, The Scavenger Hunt

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The Long Reach of an Act of Kindness
 
Alex Haley, the author of Roots tells the story of how his father had his life changed by a simple act of kindness: 

He was the youngest of eight children, living as a sharecropping family.  Everyone in the family was needed to help with the crops.  After several years of schooling the family pressed each child into service on the farm. Fortunately the boy's mother intervened on behalf of her child and was allowed to stay in school. When he was ready for college he chose the Lane Institute, working as many as four jobs in addition to full-time studies.  It was all physically and emotionally wearing.

He worked for a summer as a porter on a train and happened to meet a man early in the morning who couldn't sleep and wanted to talk.  This man was impressed by a black porter working to earn money for college and tipped him the unimaginable sum of five dollars.

By the end of the summer Mr. Haley had to decide whether to convert his summer earnings into a mule and begin to sharecrop, or to stretch to complete his last year at school.  He took the risk of competing college.  

Alex Haley tells us what happened next: "When Dad arrived on campus, the president called him into his office and showed him a letter he had just received.  The letter was from the elderly man whom my father had met on the train, and it contained a check for $518 to cover Dad's tuition and living expenses for one full year." The kindness of an unknown friend made all the difference in the life of Alex Haley's father, Alex Haley himself, and every succeeding generation of that family.

As a person who has been in just a minor degree of need, I know what the acts of love and care performed by virtual strangers can mean.

Richard J. Fairchild, When Lord, Did We See You
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 Virtue in Anxious Times

 Anxiety's central message is that we cannot afford to share because we can never have enough. Put more strongly, in a culture marked by anxiety and fear, the very things we have traditionally called sins or vices (hoarding, greed, suspicion) become wise and prudent virtues. Fear, rather than love, governs our lives. But such fear is a kind of idolatry because it suggests we are giving more attention to our own security than we are giving to God. As Scott Bader-Saye warns, "the ethic of security produces a skewed moral vision. It suggests that suspicion, preemption, and accumulation are virtues insofar as they help us feel safe. But when seen from a Christian perspective, such 'virtues' fail to be true virtues, since they do not orient us to the true good-love of God and neighbor. In fact, they turn us away from the true good, tempting us to love safety more than we love God." 

The "human way out" of the despair of our age is through hospitality because a person well practiced in Christian hospitality chooses love over fear, trust over suspicion, and even risk over security. 

Paul J. Wadell, Toward a Welcoming Congregation

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 The Weakest Link 

From time to time, I have both revealed my true age and tested the outer limits of your memory by talking about the games I once played as a child. But, to my knowledge, I never once mentioned that grand old standby of playgrounds everywhere, "Red Rover." 

Start with two teams. Could be five to a team. Could be ten to a team. Red Rover is one game where almost any number can play. Call one team "Team A." The other, "Team B." String each team into a line. Have each line face each other, several yards apart. Encourage each team's members to join hands or link arms... whatever it takes to unify the line and make it solid. Then have Team A single out one member of Team B to test the strength of that linkage. 

Together, Team A calls across the playground divide: "Red Rover, Red Rover, let Billy cross over." At which point, Billy (from his position on Team B) sucks in his breath, marshals his adrenaline, engages his feet and runs pell-mell toward Team A's line, trying to break through. If Billy can't... break through, I mean... then he is captured and must remain a member of Team A. If, however, Billy does manage to break through, then he selects a member of Team A... usually the strongest and fastest member of Team A... to take back home and join Team B. The game goes on until one team is out of players. Or until recess ends. 

Some schools, I am told, now forbid the playing of Red Rover on the grounds that it has the potential to become overly rough and violent. Truth be told, I suspect most kids play it anyway. 

As a kid, I quickly learned that, in playing Red Rover, my head was as important as my body. When the opposing team called, "Red Rover, Red Rover, let Billy cross over," they were counting on the fact that they would be able to keep my body from penetrating their line... given that I clearly and obviously lacked the girth then that I possess now. They had absolutely no respect for my physical prowess... failing to see in me the athletic behemoth I would one day become. 

But while I may have been spindly, I was far from stupid. I knew I did not have to overwhelm all 20 kids in that line. I only had to overwhelm one... or at most, two. Somewhere in that line, there had to be... just had to be... two kids whose linked arms were scrawnier than my chest. So after isolating them, I ran at them, through them, or over them. Whatever it took. For I learned, early in life, that Team A's line was only as strong as its weakest link.

 That was shortly before I learned that if we are all created equal, it is only at the point of opportunity, and seldom (if ever) at the point of ability. I remember long years of my life when I would have gladly traded the things I was good at, for even one of the things I wasn't. I would have willingly accepted C's on my report card in return for the ability to hit a curve ball. And 12 years of violin training I would have ditched in a heartbeat for the knowledge that I could beat up Frankie Paciero (if necessary) or turn the head of sweet Janie Swift. To be sure, I had a couple of ten-talent chips in my genetic poker hand. But for years, I didn't know what they were and wouldn't have valued them if I had. 

The weakest link. In some setting... on some day... in some endeavor... that's going to be every one of us. 

William A Ritter, www.Sermons.com

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 A Small Act of Kindness 

Let me suggest that you try something that never gets old or stale or unsatisfying. Do something for somebody truly in need. 

Let me tell you about a man named Floyd. According to the standards of the world Floyd was nobody. Floyd traveled around the country looking for work at harvest time. Floyd had no home and no place to go. A couple invited him into their home and gave him a home-cooked dinner. Floyd said very little as they ate. The wife, Nancy, offered to wash his clothes for him but Floyd declined the offer. He picked cherries in the orchard next to their home that day and slept under the trees that gave him his livelihood. 

Early the next morning Floyd returned to the couple who had shown him kindness. While he finished one last project in the orchard, Nancy, on an impulse, wrote him a letter telling of God's love. Then she tucked it with a little cash into a New Testament. She found his backpack in the yard, and stuck the packet inside. She imagined him traveling that day looking for work and at the end of the day bedding down somewhere under the stars, weary and all alone. She was warmed by the thought of Floyd's surprise when he discovered her note, the New Testament and the cash she had planted in his backpack. 

This Christian couple never saw Floyd again. Four years later Floyd's sister wrote to the them, telling of his death. As Floyd's sister was going through his few belongings she found the New Testament and the letter Nancy wrote telling of God's love. "They must have been very dear to his heart," Floyd's sister concluded, "for he carried them with him until he died."

It was such a simple gesture " a note, a Bible and a little cash " but little counts for a lot in the kingdom of God. I don't know about you, but I want to be surprised at finding myself among the sheep on that day of judgment. More importantly, want to possess a faith that's real. I want to take advantage of one of the most joyous opportunities Christ gives us, to minister to him. 

Nancy Leman, Traveling Friend, Adapted by King Duncan, www.Sermons.com

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 I Kept an Open Door 

A Jewish story goes: I went up to Heaven in a dream and stood at the Gates of Paradise in order to observe the procedure of the Heavenly Tribunal. I watched as a learned Rabbi approached and wished to enter. "Day and night," he said, "I studied the Holy Torah."

 "Wait," said the Angel. "We will investigate whether your study was for its own sake or whether it was a matter of profession and for the sake of honors. 

A Righteous Person [a Zaddik] next approached. "I fasted much," he said, "I underwent many ritual cleansings; I studied the Zohar the mystical commentary on the Torah day and night."

"Wait," said the Angel, "until we have completed our investigation to learn whether you motives were pure." 

Then a tavern-keeper drew near. "I kept an open door and fed without charge every poor man who came into my inn," he said. 

The Heavenly Portals were opened to him. 

Rabbi Aaron Leib of Primishlan, as quoted in Abraham Karp, The Jewish Way of Life and Thought, New York: KTAV Publishing Inc., 1981, p.177 

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A Deep Love for God, A Deep Love for Neighbors 

There is an Irish legend about a king, who had no children to succeed him on the throne. So, he had his messengers post signs in every town and village of his kingdom inviting qualified young men to apply for an interview with the king. This way the king hoped to be able to choose a successor before he died. 

Two qualifications, especially, were stressed. The person must have a deep love for God and a deep love for his neighbor. 

A young man saw one of the signs. He indeed had a deep love for God and neighbor. He felt a kind of inner voice telling him to apply for an interview.

But the young man was so poor that he didn't have decent clothes to wear to an interview. He also didn't have any money to buy provisions for the long journey to the king's castle.

So the young man prayed over the matter. He finally decided to beg for the clothes and the provisions he needed. When everything was ready, he set out. After a month of travel, one day the young man caught sight of the king's castle. It sat high on a hill in the distance.

At about the same time, he also caught sight of a poor old beggar sitting by the side of the road. The beggar held out his hands and pleaded for help. "I'm hungry and cold," he said in a weak voice. "Could you give me something warm to wear and something nourishing to eat?"

The sight of the beggar moved the young man. He stripped off his warm outer clothes and exchanged them for the tattered old coat of the beggar. He also gave the beggar most of the provisions he had been carrying in his backpack for the return journey. Then, somewhat uncertainly, he walked on to the castle in tattered clothes and without enough food for his return trip...

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4. From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

“He is something more than a king.”

In Lloyd Douglas’ book, The Robe, the slave, Demetrius, pushed his way through the crowd on Palm Sunday, trying to see who the center of attraction was. He got close enough to look upon the face of Jesus. Later another slave asked, “See him – close up?” Demetrius nodded. “Crazy?” Demetrius shook his head emphatically. “King! No,” muttered Demetrius, “not a king.” “What is he then?” demanded the other slave. “I don’t know,” mumbled Demetrius, “but he is something more than a king.”

“Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!”

Of thirty Roman emperors, governors of provinces and others in high office, who distinguished themselves by their fanatical zeal and bitterness in persecuting the early Christians, one became mentally deranged; another was slain by his own son. One of them became blind; another was drowned. One was strangled; another died in miserable captivity. One of them died of so loathsome a disease that several of his physicians were put to death because they could not abide the stench that filled his room. Two committed suicide; another attempted it but had to call for help to finish the work. Five were assassinated by their own people or servants, five others died the most miserable and excruciating deaths and eight were killed in battle, or after being taken prisoners. Among those who died in battle was Julian the Apostate. In the days of his prosperity he is said to have pointed his dagger to heaven, defying the Son of God whom he commonly called the Galilean. But when he was wounded in battle and saw that all was over with him, he gathered up his clotted blood and threw it into the air, exclaiming, “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!” (Boise)

Christ is in charge:
Susan C. Kimber, in a book called Christian Woman, shares a funny piece of advice she received from her little son: "Tired of struggling with my strong-willed little son, Thomas, I looked him in the eye and asked a question I felt sure would bring him in line: 'Thomas, who is in charge here?' Not missing a beat, he replied, ‘Jesus is, and not you mom.’ "

"Regem habemus"

About three centuries ago, Spaniards besieged a small French town, St. Quentin. The city walls were in ruins; fever and famine plagued the people. One day the Spaniards shot over the walls a shower of arrows to which were attached little slips of parchment promising that if they surrendered, their lives and property would be spared. The mayor of the town was a devout Huguenot. For answer, he tied a piece of parchment to a javelin and hurled it back to the Spaniards. On the parchment was the message: "Regem habemus" -- "We have a king!" Christians also can say, "We have a King." Jesus is our King. We belong to his Kingdom.

Mother Teresa & Leo Tolstoy who recognized the king in disguise:

The story is told of Mother Teresa of Calcutta observing a novice using tweezers to pluck maggots from the leg of a dying leper. The young woman stood at arm's length to perform the odious task. Gently but firmly, Mother Teresa corrected her charge. Taking the tweezers and putting her face quite near the wound, she said, "You don't understand, my dear. This is the leg of Christ our Lord. For what you do to this man, you do to him." Or again, Leo Tolstoy's story "Martin the Cobbler" tells of a lonely shoemaker who is promised a visit by our Lord that very day. Eagerly all day, he awaits his arrival. But all that comes is a man in need of shoes, a young mother in need of food and shelter, a child in need of a friend. Martin the cobbler ends the day thinking "perhaps tomorrow he will come," only to hear a voice reply, "I did come to you today, Martin; not once, but three times." Christ is a king who goes about in disguise as the poor, the sick, the cripples, the tortured, the marginalized.

INRI:


A Jewish boy was lazy in his studies and misbehaved in the public school. So his parents enrolled him in a Catholic school to see if he would improve. His parents were surprised to observe that the boy stopped his excessive watching of TV, limited his time on computer games and spent most of his time in studies. At the end of the year, he was the best student in class. His baffled parents asked him what had happened. "The first day I went to school," he explained, "and saw that man hanging on a plus sign at the main entrance of the school building, I knew you couldn't fool around here and get away with it.” Today’s gospel reminds us that the man on the cross is not an object to frighten naughty kids, but our king and savior who died for us promising us eternal life, and who will come in glory to judge the world on the day of the Last Judgment.

Jesse Owens challenging Adolf Hitler:

The black man standing in the arena was an affront to Der Fuehrer's authority. The scene was the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany. The black man was Jesse Owens of The Ohio State University representing the U.S.A. He was aptly called "the fastest human alive." Der Fuehrer was Chancellor Adolf Hitler who had recently risen to power championing an arrogant theory that his "Aryan race" of "supermen" would conquer the world. In implementing his theory he began systematically to stamp out the Jews in a bitter expression of prejudice and discrimination. Hitler also publicly denounced Blacks, Negroes as they were called then, as an inferior race. Jesse Owens, in his estimation, should not even be present at the Games. Jesse Owens was not only present, but he went on to win four gold medals in the 100-meter-dash, the 200-meter-dash, the broad jump and the 400-meter relay race. He demolished Hitler's claim that the Aryan race was superior to all others. Furthermore, this soft-spoken black athlete embarrassed Hitler and undermined his pompous authority in the heart of the Fatherland. We may not be in danger of being seduced by an evil power such as Hitler, but we may not be clear on the authority to whom we give allegiance. We owe our allegiance to Christ the King who redeemed us by shedding his blood.

"Super Savior"--

A church in Ohio did it with a large icon--a 62-foot-tall statue of Jesus with upraised arms, installed in a cornfield just north of Monroe, Ohio on Interstate 75. The statue--dubbed "Super Savior"-- was erected by the Solid Rock Church, in Middletown. Here is what is interesting. Traffic fatalities on this notorious stretch of road have dropped dramatically since the Super Savior statue was raised. Is that pure coincidence or has the Styrofoam and fiberglass Christ really aided road safety? Nobody knows. (Dr. John Bardsley, National Catholic Reporter, 10-28-2005, p. 3). Certainly a giant statue of Christ does no harm, and if it improves traffic, that's fine. But do not be confused. This is not the best way to express our allegiance to Christ. The best way to express our allegiance to Christ is to make our lives worthy of the name Christian.

Feast of Christ the King:

 In 1925 Pope Pius XI wanted people to know that this is Christ's world, not the property of the emerging dictators of that day. Mussolini had been in power for three years. Adolf Hitler had been out of jail only a year, and was finding great popular support for his fledgling Nazi party. The pope had the courage of his convictions to declare, despite dictators, that Christ was King, reminding Christians where their ultimate loyalty lay! (From a sermon by Don Friesen, Ottawa Mennonite Church).

Unfinished work:

A newspaper story, some time back, recorded the grim incident of a police officer shot and killed in the line of duty. His great desire before he was killed was to see his family's back yard completely landscaped, a desire he never saw fulfilled because of the bullet that ended his life. Some of his fellow officers, who had grown to love their fallen comrade, donated their time and money to complete the work. Because it was the policeman's desire to finish the project it became his friends' desire. (Allen Hadidian, Discipleship, Chicago: Moody Press, 1987). To those of us who love Jesus Christ and accept him as the king of our lives, the application is clear. What He loved and desired, we should love and desire and work to complete. His work is to see lost men saved and built up. His work is to see this world redeemed. His work is to see this unfinished world be brought to completion. We who love Him are called to complete the task.

King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Listed in any history book among the greatest leaders that the world has ever known would be the name, Augustus Caesar. It was Augustus Caesar who fixed the limits of the Roman Empire. It was during his reign that the PAX ROMANA, the peace of Rome that lasted for over 200 years was initiated. It was he who ordered the building of roads linking the great empire and allowing rapid access to subordinate governments. It was he who gave Rome its constitution, creating the office of emperor and investing in that office unlimited power, though he never used the title emperor himself. The age of Augustus was a bright spot in literature and the arts. It was the era that gave the world Virgil and the great historians. Augustus was truly a great ruler. Is it not ironic, then, that 2000 years after the reign of Augustus Caesar, he is mainly remembered because every year at Christmas time, we read these timeless words: "In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed." Among those to be taxed, of course, were Mary and Joseph of Nazareth. Augustus Caesar would truly be shocked to realize that during his reign was born the One who was far greater than he. He was the one who had been anointed King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It was a minor official in the Roman empire, Pontius Pilate, who first asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus obviously convinced him that he was. We often see engraved on crosses the letters INRI. They stand for IESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORUM, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Carmelite reformer always referred to Jesus as "His Majesty," and so He is. After 2000 years, His stature has not diminished.

The forgiving King:

Rev. Tony Campolo says that in his teenage years he was terrified by a visiting pastor's depiction of Judgment Day. This pastor claimed that one day God would show us a movie of every single sinful thought, word, or action we ever committed. And he ended his lurid description with the announcement, "And your mother will be there!" But Tony claims that Judgment Day will more closely mirror what happened during the trials over the Watergate scandal. The prosecutor brought in a tape of a conversation between Nixon and his aides. Just at the most crucial part of the tape, the section that revealed their crimes, there was an eighteen minute gap of silence. Nixon's faithful secretary, Rosemary Wood, had erased the incriminating evidence! In the same way, Campolo says, Jesus will erase all the incriminating evidence against us as he did to the repentant thief crucified at his right side.

You're with Him; go on in."

A few years ago, Pastor Erwin Lutzer and his daughters were visiting Washington, D.C. While there, they met a man who had served on former President Bush's secret-service security team. The gentleman offered to give them a guided tour of the Oval Office. Pastor Lutzer and his daughters passed through many security checkpoints the next day on the way to the Oval Office. At each checkpoint, they expected to be searched and questioned. But instead, the guards took one glance at the secret-service man and announced, "You are with him; go on in." Pastor Lutzer wrote that he expects our entrance into heaven will be like that. We will have no credentials of our own that could possibly get us in. But Jesus will be walking along beside us. And at each gate, the angels will take one look at Jesus and announce, "You're with Him; go on in." (2. "Do Many Paths Lead into God's Presence?" By Erwin Lutzer, Preaching Magazine, Mar./Apr. 2001, p. 20).

King who conquered death:

Worldly kings do not have this power. Their last enemy is death which ends their power, wealth, and prestige. In Vienna there is a crypt under a Capuchin church. In this crypt are buried 140 kings, queens, princes, and princesses. Each sarcophagus is sculptured in steel. The largest is a double tomb for Maria Theresa and her husband. On each sarcophagus is carved a cross and the king's or queen's crown. On each corner of one sarcophagus is a skull wearing a crown. The message is clear: Death is king! Even kings are conquered by death. But the kings of God's realm live in spite of death. As kings, we Christians need have no fear of death, for by the power of the cross, death was defeated. (L/10)

Co-pilot Christ the king: Many people love bumper sticker theology.  

Bumper stickers may not always have the soundest theological statements, but they generally at least have the ability to make us think. One such, “God is my Co-pilot," has also been found on church signs, where the theology is just as much fun and sometimes sounder. In this case, the Church sign says, "If Christ the King is your Co-Pilot, change seats." 

Long live Christ the King! In the 1920s a totalitarian regime gained control of Mexico and it tried to suppress the Church. To resist the regime, many Christians took up the cry, "Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!" They called themselves "Cristeros." The most famous Cristero was a young Jesuit priest named Padre Miguel Pro. Using various disguises, Padre Pro ministered to the people of Mexico City. Finally the government arrested him and sentenced him to public execution on November 23, 1927. The president of Mexico (Plutarco Calles) thought that Padre Pro would beg for mercy, so he invited the press to the execution. Padre Pro did not plead for his life, but instead knelt holding a crucifix. When he finished his prayer, he kissed the crucifix and stood up. Holding the crucifix in his right hand, he extended his arms and shouted, "Viva Cristo Rey" “Long live Christ the King!” At that moment the soldiers fired. The journalists took pictures; if you look up "Padre Pro" or "Saint Miguel Pro" on the Internet, you can see that picture. (Fr. Phil Bloom)

On His Majesty’s Service:  

Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was arrested and brought before the Roman authorities. He was told if he cursed Christ, he would be released. He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king Jesus Christ who saved me?" The Roman officer replied, "Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt." But Polycarp said, "You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgment to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish."

Desperate deaths of autocratic kings & dictators:  

The death of Josef Stalin (1879-1953), the Communist dictator was described by his daughter as difficult and terrible. Silenced by a stroke shortly before he died, Stalin’s “last words” were more visual than audible. Newsweek magazine quoted Svetlana Stalin who said, “At what seemed the very last moment, he cast a glance over everyone in the room. It was a terrible glance, insane, angry and full of fear of death. With one final menacing gesture, he lifted his left hand as if he were bringing down a curse on us all.” Philip III of Spain (1578-1621), who proved an unfit king, indifferent to the plight of his people, breathed his last, wishing, “Would to God that I had never reigned. What does all my glory profit, but that I have so much the more torment in my death?” Charles IX, who in 1572 had ordered the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of the Huguenots throughout France met death with despair, “What blood! What murders! I am lost forever. I know it.” When she lay dying, Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) was said to have offered, “All my possessions for a moment of time.” Today’s gospel challenges us to compare to these deaths Christ the King’s death on the cross, offering his life to God his Father in all serenity and elegance. (Patricia Datchuck S├ínchez)

“Honey, take a long, long look”:  

As the body of Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state for a few hours in Cleveland, Ohio for mourners to pay their tribute, a black woman in the long queue lifted up her little son and said in a hushed voice: “Honey, take a long, long look. He died for us, to give us freedom from slavery.” Today’s gospel gives us the same advice, presenting the crucifixion scene of Christ our king who redeemed us from Satan’s slavery by his death on the cross.