May Thy Kingdom Come!
The Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year B
Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” John 18:36
Today, on the final Sunday of our Church year, we celebrate the glorious Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Next Sunday begins Advent. On this day we profess the profound truth that our Lord is King! He is the King of all things. He is King of the Universe. And He is King of Heaven and all spiritual realities. However, in the Gospel passage quoted above, Jesus responds to Pilate who was questioning Him about whether or not He was the King of the Jews. Jesus is clear that He is a King, but that His Kingdom does not belong to this world. So where is His Kingdom?
We can look at Jesus’ statement from two points of view. First of all, if Jesus would have claimed that He were an earthly king, one with civil authority, then Pilate would have judged Him to be guilty of trying to overthrow the Roman authority. This would be unlawful and would be punishable by death. In that case, Jesus could have been found legally guilty of violating civil law.
But Jesus was purely innocent. He was morally perfect in every way, and that included His obedience to all legitimate civil law. But Jesus was a King. He was The King of all Kings! Therefore, so as to exercise His Kingship, He declared that His Kingdom was not of this world. In other words, it was not a Kingdom that was in competition with the Roman authorities or any other civil authority. To that, Pilate did not know how to respond.
Today and always, God desires that His glorious Kingdom reign in every way. God begins by reigning in our souls. He invites us to invite Him to enter in and take control of our lives. He desires to be the ruler of every passion, desire, thought and action that is ours. When this happens, His Kingdom is firmly established within us.
It also needs to be pointed out that Jesus wants His Kingdom to grow. First, it must grow in the minds and wills of all people. But from there, He wants every person to then work to conform every part of our society to the governance of Him as King. This means that as the hearts of civil leaders are converted, they will be called to enact laws that fully support and build up God’s Kingdom on earth. It means that business leaders, as they convert, are called to govern their businesses in accord with the will of God so that their businesses contribute to the establishment of God’s Kingdom here and now. It means that as the leaders of our schools, sports programs, social programs and the like all invite Jesus to reign in their hearts as King, The King of the Universe will then guide them to conform all of their endeavors to His will and to the continued upbuilding of His Kingdom.
The first duty of the Christian, in regard to the governance of every aspect of society, is not to impose God’s law from without, as a ruthless authoritarian would. Rather, it is to convert minds and hearts so that God’s governance comes forth from within. As God’s Kingdom is established in the lives of His people, all objectively grave evils embedded within our earthly laws must be overturned. For example, the legalization of abortion stands out as perhaps the greatest of moral evils, since it involves the taking of a completely innocent life. This and countless other immoral earthly laws must be replaced by the laws of God as hearts and minds are converted to His Truth.
Reflect, today, upon your duty to help bring forth the Kingdom of God here and now. Start by seeing your duty to allow God’s Kingdom to grow within you and your family. From there, be open to the many ways that God wants to use you to help others do the same. As you do, do not be afraid to work toward the external establishment of God’s Kingdom in all that you do and in all that falls within your responsibility. Jesus is King, and He desires to reign everywhere. Cooperate with Him, and His Kingdom will indeed come.
My glorious King, I choose You as King of my life, and I dedicate to You all my actions and endeavors. Please use me to further Your Kingdom. I pray for wisdom, prudence and courage as I am sent forth by You to help bring forth Your merciful and just reign in the lives of all people and within the entire Universe that You created. May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done! Jesus, I trust in You.
Monday, November 22, 2021
A Total Offering to God
Monday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
“I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” Luke 21:1–4
We must all see ourselves as this poor widow by offering our “whole livelihood” to Christ. Everything we have is a gift from God, and it must be offered back to God, sacrificially, as our gift to Him. The material offering made by this poor widow was two small coins worth very little. The truth is that even if you were the richest person in the world and donated all that you had to God, it would greatly pale in comparison to the gift given to us by our Lord. We are all poor in the big picture of God’s grace and His Kingdom. The most any one of us can offer is symbolized by these two small coins.
As you look at your own life, how willing are you to give everything you have to our Lord for His glory and service? The only appropriate “offering” we are called to give to our Lord is the “sacrifice” of our entire life. This spiritual truth is something very difficult for those who are very wealthy in the things of this world. Material wealth offers an easy way to live in comfort. Money can provide every modern convenience, entertainment, fun, worldly security and much of what this world has to offer. But money cannot buy fulfillment. It cannot satisfy us in the truest sense. This is why many people who live very luxurious lives are not truly happy.
Happiness is found in sacrifice. Specifically, it is found in sacrificial love by which we dedicate everything we are and all that we have to the sole purpose of the glory of God and the furtherment of His Kingdom. Sadly, when one is rich in the things of this world, it is easy to think that offering a portion of their wealth, such as a tithe, means that they can keep and use the rest any way they want. But that’s not true. Giving of ourselves completely to God and to His service does not necessarily mean that we donate all of our money to the Church. But it does mean that we offer everything to God. For many, when this complete offering is done every day, God will lead them to use their material resources for the raising of their family, to take care of their basic needs, and, at times, to even enjoy various comforts in life. But the real question is whether or not you truly live as though all you have and all you are is God’s and is to be used for His glory and the furtherment of His will.
Reflect, today, upon this poor widow. She was greatly blessed to have very little. This made it easier for her to remain detached from money and other forms of material wealth. And in that detachment, she gave all to God. She entrusted all to Him, and Jesus noticed and praised her. Reflect upon our Lord’s reaction to you and to the offering of your life to Him. If you are holding back from our Lord, then use the witness of this poor widow to inspire you to daily dedicate everything to the service of God in accord with His holy will.
My wealthy Lord, Your riches are all that matter in life. You bestow the riches of eternal salvation and countless other graces upon those who have given all to You. I do give my life to You, dear Lord. I give all that I have and all that I am. Please receive the offering of my life and use me in accord with Your holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.
Tuesday, November 23, 2021
Remain At Peace in All Things
Tuesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Luke 21:5–6
In a literal way, this prophecy of our Lord came true. In 70 A.D., the Temple upon which they were commenting was destroyed. After prophesying this, Jesus then goes on to warn the disciples that there will be many confusions that will come. There will be false prophets, wars and insurrections, powerful earthquakes, famines, plagues, “and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” Why does Jesus prophesy all of these things?
The answer was simple. He was not trying to scare them. He was not simply trying to satisfy their curiosity. Instead, He was warning them and preparing us all so that we do not become misled or terrified when they come. He says, “See that you not be deceived” and “do not be terrified.”
As the old saying goes, “Life is not a bowl of cherries.” While we live in this fallen world, chaos, confusion, deception, abuse, scandal, conflict and the like will be all around us. And when we do come face-to-face with any such difficulty, there is a temptation to fear, anger and despair. Be it family conflicts, civil unrest or even divisions within the Church itself, God wants us to remain at peace and to trust Him always.
Take Jesus’ own life as an example. He was arrested, falsely accused, sentenced to death and crucified. And through it all, He remained at peace, knowing that His suffering would become the very source of new life. God can use all things for good for those who love and serve Him.
Reflect, today, upon the undeniable fact that your life will involve difficulty. Sometimes that difficulty is self-imposed as a result of your sin, and sometimes it is unjustly imposed on account of the sin of another. Truth be told, we should only be concerned about our own sin. If other challenges come your way that are out of your control, then use those challenges as opportunities to trust. Entrust all things to God, every suffering, every persecution, every tragedy, every struggle, everything. If God the Father could bring about the greatest good ever known through the brutal murder of His own divine Son, then He can certainly do the same with all that you offer to Him in trust. Trust at all times and in all circumstances, and our all-powerful Lord will bring good from everything.
My most powerful Lord, You warned us of the many hardships that would come our way before Your glorious return. You did so to help prepare us and to strengthen us in those moments of testing. Please give me the grace I need to always trust in You and to surrender over to You every cross I carry. I do believe, dear Lord, that You can bring good from everything, even those things that are most difficult in life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
Responding with Grace
Wednesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
“Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” Luke 21:14–15
This line is embedded in today’s Gospel in which Jesus makes it clear that His followers will be persecuted. Many of them will be seized, sent to prison, hated and even be put to death. For some, this will even happen at the hands of their own family. But Jesus tells them this to prepare them and to let them know that these persecutions will enable them to give testimony to Jesus. The Gospel passage above explains how they are to do this.
First of all, giving “testimony” especially means they are to be a witness to Christ. And one of the best ways such a witness is fulfilled is through the various forms of martyrdom. To be a martyr is to be a witness. And those who suffer persecution for the sake of Christ, and then respond to that persecution in accord with the wisdom and inspiration of Jesus, are true martyrs. It’s helpful to note that if one is persecuted and responds with anger or returns the violence in accord with their own irrational will, then they are no martyr. They simply become what they have received. They become angry and bitter people. Being a martyr requires both unjust treatment and a response to that mistreatment in accord with God’s will. For that reason, though persecution is never initiated by God, it does offer the Chrisitan an opportunity to deeply conform themself to Christ by responding as He dictates.
Jesus says that responding to persecution requires that we not prepare a defense beforehand. In part, this is because there is great temptation one experiences when persecuted by another. It is very understandable that when a person experiences persecution in any way, they will encounter anger and be tempted to fight back in a way that is uncharitable and only furthers the disorder. Responding to persecution in accord with the will of God requires great attentiveness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, great humility, and unwavering charity directed at the one doing the persecution. Therefore, Jesus makes the promise that He will be with you in such situations and will give you “a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.” What a grace! But this grace is only available to those who rely completely upon Christ, and not upon their own disordered passions and emotions.
Reflect, today, upon this promise from Jesus. Some will encounter little persecution in their lives at various times. But others will encounter severe persecution in various ways, even from their family. Reflect upon any ways that you have experienced the unjust treatment of another and then reflect upon your response. Were you able to immediately forgive? Were you able to set aside your anger, wounded pride and desire for revenge? Were you able to keep your eyes on Christ and rejoice that you have been found worthy to share in the ridicule, persecutions and sufferings that Jesus endured? Pray that you will always be open to the grace of this promise of Jesus so that you will always respond to everyone in accord with the wisdom of God.
My persecuted Lord, though You were perfect in every way, You endured much cruelty in Your earthly life. The injustice You endured is beyond our comprehension. But Your response to such persecution was perfect. You were able to transform all ill-treatment into grace and mercy, offered especially for those who mistreated You. Give me the grace I need to imitate Your perfect response and to always rely upon Your wisdom and guidance alone. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday, November 25, 2021
Being Ready, Always
Thursday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” Luke 21:28
This passage above concludes a series of teachings by Jesus on the suffering and persecution that will come in this world. But His teachings conclude with this line above, which offers great hope in anticipation of Jesus’ return in glory. This passage speaks of the prophetic vision of Daniel (Daniel 7:13–14) that terrified Daniel when he saw it. He witnessed the great persecution to come, as well as the destruction of all evil that will accompany the return of the Son of Man.
When you think about both the final coming of Christ as well as your own future death, what comes to mind? If you were informed by an angel that tomorrow would be that day, the day that the Son of Man would return in all His splendor and glory to bring about an end to this world and to issue forth His judgment upon it, how would you react? Would you be terrified? Overjoyed? Hopeful? Confused? Perhaps a little of each of these reactions would be present. Of this time, Jesus said that “nations would be in dismay” and that “People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming into the world.” So what is your reaction to this promised day of our Lord?
Those who “die of fright” are clearly those who will experience this day completely unprepared. Meeting the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Savior of the World and the Eternal Judge when you are completely unprepared should be frightful. Imagine, for example, that you were hosting a large dinner party and you got your days mixed up. The day arrived and you weren’t expecting anyone until the following week, but the guests started to arrive in great numbers. Imagine your anxiety and embarrassment. Such an experience would be nothing compared to being unprepared for the judgment of Christ when we stand before Him at the time of our death and then at the Final Judgment at the end of the world.
The good news is that on that day, for those who are truly prepared through a life of faith and selfless service of God’s will, they are told to “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” If you do all you can to prepare for that day, then it will be a day in which you anticipate with the utmost hope and excitement. You will indeed be able to stand erect, turn your eyes to the coming Judge of All, and receive the eternal reward that He so deeply desires to bestow. But this will be your experience only if you are truly ready for that day through a life lived in complete imitation of Christ.
Reflect, today, upon that final day. Imagine every person ever created standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Every sin and every virtue will be made manifest on that day. The minds and hearts of all will be seen in the light as they are revealed to all by God. And those who have lived lives of fidelity will rejoice as they see God’s justice and His mercy unite as His judgments are issued forth. If this day is one that frightens you, consider the reasons why. If you do not look forward to this definitive moment in time, then perhaps you need to ponder more deeply those things you need to do so as to be fully prepared. Prepare yourself today. Do not wait. Our Lord could return at any time. Do not be caught off guard.
My eternal Judge, You promise to return to earth at a definitive moment in time to bring about the fullness of justice. May I always be prepared for that day through a life lived in union with You and Your holy will. I pray for that day to come quickly, dear Lord, and that all Your children will be ready to meet You when You come. Jesus, I trust in You.
Thursday, November 25, 2021
Gratitude for Immeasurable Blessings
Thanksgiving Day, United States
“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Luke 17:17–19
He was saved by faith through the expression of gratitude! What a wonderful story to ponder today as we celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving!
Though Thanksgiving Day is not specifically a Church holy day, gratitude is certainly central to our Christian faith, as is illustrated by today’s Gospel in which ten lepers were healed by Jesus. And their communal reaction is something of which to take note. Nine of them were healed and went about their business, not returning to the source of their healing to thank Him. But one did. This one leper, who was suddenly no longer a leper, returned to Jesus, glorified Him, fell at His feet and thanked Him. This one leper was a foreigner, a Samaritan, but he manifested a faith that we must all strive to imitate. The faith of this Samaritan was evident by the fact that he knew he needed to not only be grateful for the grace of healing but that he also needed to express it.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we are reminded that of all the things for which we must be grateful, nothing is more important than our gratitude to God for the immeasurable graces He has given us. But as the story goes, it is clearly very easy to overlook the importance of our response to God’s blessings. Only ten percent of the lepers responded with such an expression. Therefore, it is helpful today to examine the many reasons we should be thankful and should work to express that gratitude to God.
First, God created us out of love. This is no small gift. It is the first gift He has given us and one we often take for granted. God did not need to create us. He did not need to create you. But He did. And the gift of life, the gift of an immortal soul, is something that we must never overlook and always rejoice in.
Second, God entered our fallen state through the Incarnation within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Doing so elevated our fallen human nature to a height never known before. Humanity and divinity were united in the Person of the Incarnate Son of God and Son of Man, and we must be grateful for this unmerited and awe-inspiring gift.
Third, we know the rest of the story. God, in the Person of the Incarnate Son, suffered, died and rose again. In so doing, He made it possible for every sin of ours to be wiped away. As we die with Him, we are invited to rise with Him. And as we rise with Him, we are invited to share in His glory in Heaven.
Lastly, in each and every life, there are countless graces given to us every day. But as spoiled children, we often overlook these blessings and take them for granted. Examples here do not suffice. It is essential that if you want to have a grateful heart that you learn to see these blessings in your own life. Too often we focus on our struggles and pain. But the blessings are abundant, and the more we turn to our Lord in total surrender, the more the blessings flow.
Reflect, today, upon the attitude that you have toward the many blessings God has bestowed upon you. Begin by considering the central blessings of God’s creation and His saving acts of love. From there, try to ponder the many small ways that God has been with you, guided you, strengthened you, and blessed you abundantly. If you do not see these clearly, then use this day to consciously listen so that God can reveal them to you. As you see your blessings, respond as this one leper. Turn to Jesus, glorify Him, fall at His feet in prayer and thank Him. Doing so will fill you with the same saving faith granted to this one leper.
My most generous Lord, You have bestowed upon me blessings beyond my imagination. I realize that I will never fully understand how good You have been to me and will never be able to express my gratitude adequately enough. Please do fill me with a grateful heart. Help me to see Your action in my life and to respond to You as this one leper. Jesus, I trust in You.
Friday, November 26, 2021
Relying Upon the Word of God
Friday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
“Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Luke 21:32–33
As we approach the final days of this liturgical year, we continue to read about the end of the world. Today we read that both Heaven and earth, as they currently are, will pass away. This is worth pondering.
We know that life is full of change. It has been said that the one thing that never changes is change itself. Everything else changes. But when it comes to earth, it is hard to believe that it will one day “pass away.” Some scientists believe that the earth has existed for over four and a half billion years. That’s a long time! Now consider the fact that Jesus prophesied the end of this earth as we know it today. When will it happen? Only God knows.
Heaven, as it exists today, is also prophesied by our Lord to pass away. Heaven, as it is right now, is a pure spiritual reality in which the only corporeal bodies present are those of Jesus and our Blessed Mother. The rest of Heaven consists of the Divine Essence, the souls of those who have been redeemed and the angels of God. But if Heaven even passes away, what awaits?
First of all, the only reason that these two realities, Heaven and earth, will pass away in their current form is because, at the Final Judgment, there will be a “New Heavens and a New Earth,” as spoken of in the Book of Revelation. At that time, Heaven and earth will be united as one, and this new creation will exist for eternity.
But is there anything that is currently eternal? Anything that will never experience change? We humans will be changed at the resurrection of the dead, the angels will encounter a new home, so to speak, and God will establish a new and permanent Kingship. But, according to Jesus’ teaching today, the one thing that will remain are His words: “…my words will not pass away.” Again, this is worth pondering.
In a world filled with change and uncertainty, we need some form of stability. And that stability is the Truth found in the Word of God. The Word of God, as revealed to us through the Scriptures, must become our rock foundation upon which our whole lives are built and exist. Pondering, praying with, meditating on, and believing the Word of God enables us to stand on firm and unchanging spiritual ground as we go through the change of this life and even the changes that will come at the end of time. Though this may seem somewhat mysterious in nature, it is a helpful truth to understand and believe. Everything will pass away except Jesus’ words. Thus, the most secure thing we can do in life is to cling to His words and never let go.
Reflect, today, upon the importance of truly immersing yourself in the Word of God. How much time do you spend each week reading it, praying with it and allowing it to become your daily food? The Word of God is not simply a book of teachings meant to inspire you or guide you. The Word of God is a Living Word. It is God in His unchangeable form. God, in His essence, will never change, and engaging Him through the revelation of His written Word is one essential way by which you will be able to experience true stability in life and prepare for each and every change to come until the final order of life is permanently established.
My Eternal Word, You are unchanging and eternal. You are the rock foundation upon which I must always rely. As I continue to experience the many changes encountered in this life, please enter my soul through Your written Word, so that I will find the stability I need. As I stand firm in You, I look forward with joy to the New Heavens and New Earth that await. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saturday, November 27, 2021
Jesus, I Trust in You!
Saturday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.” Luke 21:36
This is the final day of the liturgical year. Tomorrow begins Advent and the beginning of a new Church year. On this day, we are once again presented with a Gospel passage that points to the final coming of Christ. In preparation for that day, the day in which we meet our Lord for judgment, Jesus points to two grave dangers that will cause our hearts to become “drowsy” and leave us unprepared. First, He says that “carousing and drunkenness” will make us unprepared. Second, He says that “the anxieties of daily life” will also leave us unprepared.
On a literal level, carousing and drunkenness means a person relies upon alcohol for satisfaction in life, and they do so by using it to live a lively and somewhat carefree life. They live for the moment and look for satisfaction in self-indulgence. And though drunkenness is specifically mentioned here, there are numerous ways that people attempt to live this way.
Everyone wants to be happy in life. We cannot not work to achieve this innate desire. No one intentionally chooses to be unhappy. However, many people regularly choose things in life that do lead to unhappiness and discontentment. But they do so with the false conviction that this or that action will satisfy. And though there are many things that provide temporary or superficial “happiness,” the truth is that there is only one thing and one thing alone that provides the happiness and fulfillment we desire. That one thing is the presence of God alive within our souls.
The “anxieties of daily life” are also a great burden to so many. No one intentionally chooses to be anxious. No one wants to experience this form of interior disturbance. And though anxiety can come from many sources, physical, psychological and spiritual, one primary source of anxiety is stress that is not dealt with in a proper way. Stress can come from tensions at work, at home or within one’s own soul. Stress usually occurs when some difficulty is faced and reacted to with fear, confusion, anger, despair and the like. According to Jesus, giving in to these anxieties can leave a person unprepared for the day of their judgment at the end of their life or the end of the world. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Stress and tension, and the anxiety that results from them, is most decisively cured by turning from the difficulty one experiences and turning to a deep and total trust in the providence of God. At Mass, the priest prays after the “Our Father” that God “free us from all distress” and that we will instead “await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Faith and hope in God and in His final coming at the end of time is the spiritual cure for the anxiety and distress we often experience in life. Trusting in our Lord, with the utmost confidence, will enable us to achieve this peaceful disposition and with joyful hope and confidence.
Reflect, today, upon those things that hinder you the most from being ready to meet our Lord. Perhaps you struggle with ongoing choices that reflect a life of “carousing and drunkenness.” Or perhaps you struggle deeply with worry, distress and anxiety. If this is you, know that freedom awaits. It awaits you if you can only embrace and live the final prayer of this reflection: “Jesus, I trust in You.” Trust Him. Entrust your poor decisions in life to Him. Entrust your sin to Him. And entrust all of your worries and tensions that lead to an unsettled heart. As you do so, try to rest in the consoling arms of our Lord so that you will be fully prepared for that glorious day of our Lord’s judgment that awaits.
My hopeful Lord, You and You alone are the answer to every struggle in life. You and You alone can relieve me of my burdens and the poor choices I make. Help me to trust in You always and in every circumstance in life. I do entrust myself to You and choose to make You the single focus of my life. Jesus, I do trust in You!