Francis J. Barr, O.S.A.
Our Mother of Consolation Friary
Ps 93:1, 1-2, 5
We celebrate today the Feast of Christ the King, as the Church concludes the liturgical cycle and begins again with Advent next week. Even though we are celebrating, the readings of this Sunday offer plenty of opportunity to reflect on the more serious aspects of life. As we enjoy this Thanksgiving weekend with the familiar comfort of family, friends, food and football, we should remember to include those much less fortunate than ourselves in our thoughts and prayers.
Before we became so careful of the way we refer to various groups of people, I remember watching what we then called “cowboy and Indian” movies. Nowadays we might call them “cow-person and Native American” films. Since I was less than ten years old then I was very happy with it all, even though the basic story would be very predictable. Often the plot involved some crime committed by an “outlaw” in the Wild West. The local sheriff would deputize some of the responsible locals as a “posse” to help him capture the bad guys and restore life to normal and bring justice to the situation. Sometimes the posse included a Native American or two who were well known in the community. Usually it was pretty easy to recognize the good guys from the bad guys because the good guys always wore white hats and the bad guys wore black ones. During the movie, it might appear for a time that the bad guys would win. But in the end, invariably, the “guys in the white hats” always won the day. Usually there were at least a few lives lost on both sides.
Over and over through human history, the outline of the story above has been re-played. The names of the groups involved, the places and the circumstances change, but the story is very familiar. In real life, though, we cannot always be sure the good guys win. In fact, the bad guys can often come out on top for long periods of history. For some up-to-date examples, follow the news from Darfur or Afghanistan for a period of time.
The first and second readings of today come from the literature of the Bible we call apocalyptic. These writings were to encourage believers, often in the midst of very difficult times of persecution, warfare, or starvation. They often include mysterious visions and dreams in which God reveals His saving power once and for all, leaving no doubt that God was indeed as all-knowing and powerful as we hope. Clearly, in the end, God would make all things right.
The Israelites of the third century B.C. suffered bitter persecution for a long period of time. The book of Daniel we read from today was written to console and raise the spirits of the people then, but the Daniel spoken of lived four centuries earlier. The vision described leaves no question that those who are just will see God in His glory and share His reward.
The Book of Revelation offers consolation and hopes to persecuted Christians about 300 years later. This vision shows Jesus for who He is—King of both the earth and the heavens, arriving at His throne once and for all. We can easily get caught up in the triumph and glory of the scene here, and overlook a very important part. Critical to the promise of fulfillment and future joy for we who are faithful, “he has chosen us as a royal nation of priests in service to His God and Father.” Of course, this is where it gets more difficult for us. Easily, we can identify with the moments of triumph, when we are on the winning side.
The real test of what we are made of comes as we—a nation of priests—stand alongside Jesus before Pilate to answer with Him. In our very own moments of doubt and grief or darkness about life’s uncertainties, we must learn to be confident and resolute in our living faith, just as the Lord was in the face of His own persecution and death. Certainly, the human Jesus was likely both afraid and uncertain about how all this would turn out. None of that could deter Him from completing His mission of obedient Son, though.
Doubt and darkness becomes hope and glory in a very short while, but that does notmean it was an easy move from one situation to the other. Yes, Jesus suffered and died.In less dramatic ways, we too must certainly bear our own individual share in His teaching mission, the cross, and then His Resurrection.
As we now look forward to the hope and promise of Our Savior born in time and begin our Advent preparation, there is much to do. At least part of our preparation needs to be done interiorly, and some must be done for the unknown “neighbors” among us. Advent will be filled with these opportunities—don’t miss them because they prove how we “stand” with Jesus.