TEXT: 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 9, 2018

Second Sunday of Advent

December 9, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

It’s kind of intimidating for a priest to preach during Advent:

we keep having to face up to the first great preacher of the Gospel:

St. John the Baptist.

Still, as the SVC told us:

“[P]riests, as co-workers with their bishops,

have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all.”

You know as well as I do, that priest is limited in his ability to preach “to all”

–and I’m not talking about his competency,

or knowing exactly what to say on a particular Sunday

to a particular crowd.

What I mean is that a priest is limited in that he just can’t be everywhere all the time:

and there are some places he’ll never be.

 

But the thing is, the priest isn’t necessarily supposed to be and preach in those places

          –but maybe you are!

You– the lay people of the Church

–the vast majority of the members of the Body of Christ

–are called to go into the world you live in to proclaim the Gospel,

in your jobs, in your schools, and in your families.

As St. Paul tells us in today’s 2nd reading:

“I pray always with joy …because of your partnership for the gospel

from the first day until now…”

And as St. Luke tells us, St. John the Baptist came preaching that we all must:

–“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

 

I’m called to proclaim this to you and to the whole world in a public way,

and you’re called to proclaim this to those you come in contact with everyday.

But before any of us can proclaim— or give— the word to others,

we must first listen to–or receive— the word of God ourselves.

Before the vocation to give is the vocation to receive:

–the primary vocation of each and every one of us is

“The Universal Call to Holiness”.

–preparing the way of the Lord to come into our own hearts.

The proclamation of the word begins with ourselves

–preach to yourself first: as Jesus reminds us,

“first take the log out of your own eye,

and then you will see clearly

to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye”

–listen when your wife…or your parents…or your children,

proclaim the word to you.

–listen to the words of Sacred Scripture

proclaimed in the midst of the Church assembled for Mass,

or in the privacy of your own home:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,”

–listen with open hearts to priests who have been called by Christ

to proclaim this message

–even if he’s not a very talented preacher,

or even if you don’t like him personally

–God has chosen him and made him an instrument of His grace

through the sacrament of holy orders:

somewhere— in even this muddled homily—

                             there’s something that God wants you to hear.

And finally, listen to the voice of God,

the whisper of the Holy Spirit, in your hearts in prayer.

 

_____

It’s so easy this time of the year that the secular world wrongly calls

the “Christmas season” not to listen.

–to loose track of the message of Christ in the hustle and bustle of things

–shopping, television specials, parties, music, families getting together

–or loneliness.

But this is the “Advent Season”–and this season is all about listening,

as St. Paul says:

“to discern what is of value.”

 

In today’s Gospel we’re reminded of how St. John the Baptist

rid himself of all distractions in order to listen.

He went into the desert to prepare for the coming of the Savior by listening

And as he listened, Scripture tells us that:

“the word of God came to John …in the desert.”

 

Of course, its not necessary to go out into the desert

to find a place to listen to the Lord.

As we come closer to Christmas we’re reminded of another person

who listened to God: the Blessed Virgin Mary.

She listened in that quiet room in Nazareth when the angel Gabriel spoke to her.

And for nine months,

amid the commotion of

her visitation to St. Elizabeth at Ain Karim

and the long trip to Bethlehem with Joseph,

she prepared for Christ’s coming by listening to the will of God.

And after His coming, her listening to God continued:

listening to her Son, Jesus:

from his laughter as she held him in her arms as a tiny baby,

to listening to his final words  at the foot of his Cross.

 

_____

First we listen–we receive–and then we give–we proclaim.

But each of us is called to proclaim in different ways.

John listened, and boldly went out into the world

and loudly and publicly proclaimed the Gospel.

Mary listened and quietly went on with her life raising her family,

listening to Her son,

and later on proclaiming the Gospel in her own quiet way

at the wedding at Cana, at the foot of the Cross,

and in her private time with the apostles and the early Church.

 

How are you preparing the way of the Lord?

Are you proclaiming the word of the Lord?

 

Is your own heart prepared?

Are you listening to the word of the Lord?

How are you listening amidst the busyness of the secular celebration of Christmas?

 

There are many ways of listening.

Sometime you can do this as Mary did so often,

by simply living your daily life at work and home,

listening to Christ speak to in the events of your life

and in the lives of those around you.

But sometimes, like Mary’s cousin John the Baptist and her Son Jesus,

and surely Mary herself,

we need to find a quiet deserted place to contemplate…to listen.

 

This Advent there are lots of ways to get away to listen, especially here in church.

For example, every morning during the week we have 2 Masses you can attend

—at 6:30 and 8:00.

And Wednesday evenings we have 7:00 Mass.

And every Wednesday and Friday we have adoration and benediction.

Another powerful way to listen and prepare the way of the Lord,

especially to make “winding roads …straight, and the rough ways …smooth”

is to go to confession,

especially if you combine that a few minutes

in prayer before Our Lord in the Tabernacle.

We have confessions every single day of Advent,

but I especially encourage you to come on a weekday evening,

from 6:15 to 7pm.

And of course, this evening at “Lessons in Carols”

–a beautiful way to listen and to prepare.

Perhaps you might also be able to listen to the Lord as he speaks through me,

and come to my Thursday evening series on “Looking at the Nativity.”

Not to mention that the Church is open most days

from 6:00 in the morning to 9:00 or so in the evening.

— come here alone just to get away to a quiet place,

just you and Jesus in the Tabernacle.

 

There’s lots of ways to prepare…in this parish and all over the diocese.

Pick up a bulletin and you’ll find lots more.

Take advantage and prepare.

 

_____

As we continue our celebration of this Holy Mass on the Second Sunday of Advent,

having opened our ears to hear the proclamation of the Word of God,

let us continue to open our hearts

to prepare to receive Him into the depths of our being.

And as we go forth today from this Mass,

having received the message preparing us for the Coming of our Savior,

let us prepare to go boldly go into the world

to proclaim this message to all we meet,

–to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”

Second Sunday of Advent

CATHOLIC ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS. This time of year is filled with all sorts of traditions. Unfortunately, many of us have lost sight of the Catholic origins of many of the traditions that dominate the secular celebration of Christmas and Advent.
Consider the Christmas tree. There are many different efforts to explain the origins of the Christmas tree, including many that try to separate it completely from Christianity. For example, some try to say that since many different ancient non-Christian cultures used evergreens as a sign of life or health that therefore evergreen “Christmas” trees are not “Christian,” or that Christians “stole” the symbol from the pagans. But there is no conflict or stealing here. Since Christianity converted many ancient pagan cultures it was natural for those new Christians to keep the symbols that had meaningfully expressed their long held spiritual desires that were ultimately answered only in Christianity. So, if an evergreen tree expressed a pagan culture’s desires for eternal life, it was natural for them to carry that symbol into Christianity, which is fine with the Church.
The specific Christianization and “Christmas-ization” of the evergreen tree can be traced at least to the early 8th century in Germany. It seems one Christmas Eve the great missionary St. Boniface and his companions came upon a group of pagans gathered around their sacred tree, the “Oak of Geismar” (“Donar’s Oak”) to worship their god, Thor, and to sacrifice a little child to please him. Horrified by what he had found, Boniface struck the Oak, which the people believed to be indestructible, and suddenly a great wind came and blew the tree over, tearing it out of the ground by its roots and into four pieces. When the tree fell it revealed a small evergreen tree that had grown behind it. St. Boniface then told the people: “This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace, for your houses are built of the fir. It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.” The people then took the tree to the great hall of their village and decorated it with candles, as Boniface told the story of the Baby Jesus. The whole village, including the pagan priest, were converted that Christmas Eve. (For a beautiful retelling of this tale see The First Christmas Tree, by Henry van Dyke).
This seems to be the oldest story of the Christmas tree, and stands as the inspiration for later developments in its use. It was popularized later in the middle ages through the German “Paradise Play” depicting the creation of man, with the evergreen decorated with apples to symbolize both Eden’s Tree of Life (evergreen) and Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (apples). When the play was performed in churches the Paradeisbaum (Paradise Tree) was surrounded by candles. Eventually the Paradeisbaum made its way into homes and the rest is history.
Santa Claus. Another tradition of the secular celebration of this season is Santa Claus, if its correct to call a real man a “tradition.” Once again, we often forget the Catholic origins of Santa Claus, who is none other than Saint Nicklaus (“Santa Claus” derived from the Dutch for “St. Nicholas”). Again many will argue about non-Christian or pagan predecessors, but it is clear that our Santa is St. Nicklaus. One reason for the two seem to be disconnected in America is because of the English Protestant and Puritan origins of our nation—after the “Reformation” the English downplayed the reference to Saint Nicholas as sounding too Catholic (in England Santa is still called “Father Christmas”).
But Catholics remember the wonderful stories about St. Nicholas, who was bishop of Myra (in modern Turkey) in the early 300s. The story of how he rescued three sisters from being sold into slavery by dropping three bags of gold through their window at night. And how he raised three little boys from the dead after they had been murdered. Not to mention the many stories of his other amazing miracles—he is called Thaumaturgus, or Wonderworker. And we should not forget that after being tortured for his faith in the last Roman persecution, he attended the Council of Nicaea where he boldly defended the divinity of Christ, and Mary’s status as “Mother of God” against the arch-heretic Arias. Add all this to his reputation for giving treats to the children he met in the streets and you see the same man who is now the beloved and saintly giver of gifts on Christmas.
Now, so that no one misunderstands me, especially little children, what I am saying is that Santa Claus is real, and is also known as St. Nicholas. Although the Bishop St. Nicholas went to heaven on December 6, 343, Catholics know that as a saint he now has eternal life. And then it seems that God sent him back to us to be the great gift-giver of Christmas. This doesn’t mean that other stories that we read or see on TV about Santa Claus are not true or bad—I think they’re interesting and sometimes amusing, and even touching. It just means that WE know the REAL story, the rest of the, story.
Which reminds me: make sure you come to say hello to Santa Claus/St. Nicholas next Saturday morning, at our traditional parish “Breakfast with Santa.”
Lessons and Carols. Tonight (Sunday, December 9) at 7:00pm, we celebrate another Advent tradition: a program of beautiful Advent music and Scripture readings called, “Lessons and Carols.” Taking prophetic readings from the Old Testament and pre-nativity readings from the Gospels, our parish lectors lay out God’s amazing plan for the birth of His Divine Son. The choir then adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in popular Advent songs and a few more complicated choral pieces, reminding us of the angels singing over Bethlehem. This “tradition” is rather new, especially to Catholics, originally introduced by the Anglican Church at Cambridge’s King’s College in 1918, but it has recently become very popular in Catholic circles. I first experienced it almost 30 years ago as a layman at a Catholic parish of Anglican converts in San Antonio. I’m happy to say it’s become an Advent tradition at St. Raymond’s. Please join us, and stay for light reception afterwards!

Don’t Forget. Go to confession during Advent—we have confessions every single day of Advent, except Christmas Eve. And come to my Advent Series, “Looking at the Nativity,” this Thursday at 7:30pm. And don’t forget to stop by the “Giving Tree” in the narthex today, and help to make Christmas a little merrier for some folks who are having a rough time this year—families of our parish and Our Lady of the Blue Ridge parish in Madison.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

First Sunday of Advent

Advent. Today we begin the Season of Advent, 4 weeks preparing for the celebration of
the Birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. Sadly, the culture around us has turned the days
from Thanksgiving to December 25 into a time of nonstop sales, shopping, television
specials, radio carols, and, of course, “Christmas parties.” All this can tend to transform
the religious Advent season into a pre-mature and secularized Christmas celebration.
But We have to be careful of getting so caught up in that secular celebration that
we wind up omitting Christ Himself from the celebration. Rather, Advent must remain
for us, first and foremost, a season of preparation to celebration. And by that I mean we
need to spend time thinking and praying about the reason we celebrate Christmas with
such joy: that we are sinners, but that God has not left us in our sins. That God so loves
us that He entered the world as a tiny baby, so He could truly be one of us, and
communicate that love person to person, and eventually go to the Cross to die for our
sins. So Advent must be a time of remembering our sins, and opening our whole lives to
the love of Christ. It is only with this sort of preparation that we can begin to understand
and experience the true joy of this most magnificent gift.
But note, this joy should build in us throughout our preparation—as we become more
prepared, we become more and more joyful. So there is nothing wrong if even in the
midst of the penance and prayer of Advent, we also increasingly partake of the joy of
Advent. But we must not confuse the Advent joy of Christ with the merely sentimental
feelings of the secular “yuletide” season. Rather, we should transform the secular fun by
our Advent Christian joy.
So how do we prepare? Remember:
–Do some small penance every day to remind us that nothing is more important
than Christ, and that everything we do is for Him;
–Add extra prayers to your daily routine, for example, the Rosary, especially
meditating on the Joyful Mysteries;
–Read Scripture especially the Gospels;
–Give, making generous gifts either directly to those in need or to worthy
charitable projects/institutions (e.g., the parish Giving Tree and the special collection for
Catholic Charities);
–Receiving the grace of the sacraments is one of the most important things you
can do in Advent. Go to Mass and Adoration, and go to Confession;
–Live the life that Christ came to give us: make every day about loving God and
your neighbor as yourself, beginning with keeping the Commandments.

Two Special Advent Events. I invite you to join me, the lectors and the choir next
Sunday, December 9 th at 7pm for “Lessons & Carols.” Every year more and more folks
come to this, and LOVE IT! The “Lessons” refer to the reading of prophetic texts from
the Old Testament and Gospels, laying out God’s incredible plan for the birth of His
Divine Son. The choir adds to the atmosphere of joyful expectation by leading us in
popular hymns and spreading their vocal wings in leading us in carols and a few more
complicated choral pieces—they are AMAZING. Afterwards, we’ll have some time for
Advent fellowship at a short reception, with delicious seasonal refreshments. Trust me,
this is a really wonderful evening—you’ll have a great time. Please join us.
I also ask you to attend my three-part Advent Series: “Looking at the Nativity: Mary,
Jesus and the Holy Night,” on the first 3 Thursdays in Advent. Last Advent we
discussed the life of St. Joseph, so this year I thought I’d continue to consider the
“characters” and the story of the Nativity. This coming Thursday, at 7:30, we begin with:
“Mary: What do we believe?” Last year about 200 people came, and they seemed to
enjoy themselves. So please join us this year. See today’s bulletin insert for further info.

Bishops’ Scandal. This last week brought more confusion regarding the Bishops’
Scandal. First we heard that Pope Francis had appointed Cardinal Blase Cupich of
Chicago as one of the coordinators of the meeting of Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences
in Rome this coming February to address the scandal. This was confusing in that Cardinal
Cupich has a very controversial record on the scandal. For example, former Papal Nuncio
Archbishop Vigano has pointed him out as a protégé of former cardinal McCarrick.
Moreover, he is a frequent defender of the pro-gay subculture in the hierarchy, and
strongly denies the link between that subculture and the molestation of adolescent boys
by priests. Finally, speaking about scandal last September he stated: "The Pope has a
bigger agenda. He's got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and
protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We're not going to go down a
rabbit hole on this."
I was also confused by news of the death of Bishop Robert Morlino, of Madison,
WI, last week, of a heart attack at the age of 71. “Confused,” in that I don’t understand
why God would take such a good bishop from us right when we seemed to need him
most. Bishop Morlino was one of the most forthright and courageous bishops I ever met.
For example, when the sickening news about former cardinal McCarrick came out last
summer, Morlino wrote a strong letter to his diocese, stating in part:
“I am tired of this. I am tired of people being hurt, gravely hurt! I am tired of the
obfuscation of truth. I am tired of sin.…I am tired of the regular violation of sacred duties
by those entrusted with immense responsibility from the Lord for the care of His
people….[Regarding] the allegations of former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s …sexual
sins, predation, and abuse of power. The well-documented details of this case are
disgraceful and seriously scandalous, as is any covering up of such appalling actions by
other Church leaders who knew about it based on solid evidence. …It is time to admit
that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is
wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord…”
If I am often mystified by God’s choices, I am often bewildered by Pope Francis’
choices. In the end, I simply trust in the all-wise and loving God, and pray for the Pope,
and for clarity and true reform.

Immaculate Conception. This Saturday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the
Immaculate Conception (“IC”), a Holy Day of obligation (all Catholics must attend
Mass, and it is a mortal sin not to). Please note that you must attend 2 Masses this
weekend, one for IC and one for Sunday. [FYI: Technically, you can attend the Saturday
Vigil Mass (which will have the prayers of Sunday in Advent) and count that for your
“IC” obligation, if you also attend a second Mass on Sunday itself to count for your
Sunday obligation]. See the Mass times below.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 1st Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2018

First Sunday of Advent

December 2, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today is first Sunday of Advent.

Nowadays that doesn’t mean much to a lot of people.

For some it just means there are less than 4 weeks left till Christmas

For most people it has no meaning at all.

Because secular world around us has reduced the 4 weeks before Christmas

into a four-week season celebrating consumerism and sentimentality,

stripping it almost entirely of its real meaning,

which is, of course spiritual and religious.

 

Now, I’ve always loved this time of year,

both the religious and all the cultural aspects of the season,

though as a young man, sadly, I sometimes neglected the religious

in favor of the cultural or secular.

But when I was very young, a little child,

the line between the two was very much blurred,

in that I understood it was all about preparing to celebrate

the birth of the Baby Jesus on Christmas Day,

and during the Christmas Season.

And all the cultural aspects of the weeks before Christmas, that is during Advent,

all the things like Christmas Trees, and lights, presents, eggnog, parties,

even Santa Claus,

all of this in my little child’s mind

were all part of the joyful preparation for the birth of our Savior.

 

But I will admit, somewhere along the way, that changed.

When I was a teenager up until a few years out of college,

I approached this time of year more and more

as most of the world does today:

enjoying the consumerism and the sentimentality

more than the true love of Christ.

Honestly, eventually,

there was virtually no preparation for Christ involved at all.

Until one Christmas when I was, I think, 25.

I had had a totally secular Advent, not really thinking of it as Advent at all,

but as most people do today, the “holiday season”.

I wasn’t going to Mass at the time,

and I was not what anyone would call a practicing Catholic.

 

But I had had a great time that holiday season.

I’d taken a few weeks off from work,

and just really enjoyed all the cultural fun, shopping,

going out with friends to plays, movies, and parties

And of course, decorating my new house and putting up my Christmas tree.

 

It was a great time.

 

But then it came to Christmas Eve.

And I was at another party with friends, and having a lot of fun.

But I left the party early to do what I had been doing since I was a boy:

to go to Midnight Mass with some old childhood friends.

 

Now, this was probably the first time I’d been to Mass since the last Christmas.

But, it had become part of my traditional celebration, so I was going.

But not so much because of Jesus,

but because of the sentimentality of going with my dear friends.

 

But when I got to Mass, I have to tell you, something changed.

I realized that with all the fun, all the gifts, all the lights,

all the good and warm feelings,

something was terribly missing.

It was as if I had been trying desperately to fill a huge hole in my life,

and doing a pretty good job of it.

But not quite.

And as the Mass went on and we got to the Eucharistic prayer,

it stuck me what it was that was missing: Jesus.

 

You see when I was little,

all the joy of the cultural celebration of the “holiday season,”

all the sentiment in my heart and memories,

in some way had always tied to, flowed from and flowed back to Jesus.

And to the great event of God the Son stripping Himself of the glory of heaven

to come among us, to be with us, to teach us, to form us,

and most of all, to suffer and die for us.

In other words, to love us as only our great God can

—beyond all understanding, beyond all limits.

 

Now, maybe I was kind of strange little boy.

But thanks to my dear and devout parents, that’s the way I was.

And that’s what Advent meant to me.

And so, for example, while I loved the Christmas tree and all its decorations,

it also always reminded me of Jesus:

the evergreen reminding me of the undying love of Christ,

the lights reminding me of His light shining in darkness,

the wood reminding me of the wood of the Cross,

the red bows and ornaments of His precious blood.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t a little saint.

I was as selfish as any child could get

—I was very upset and angry when I didn’t get the pony I was expecting.

But even so, even in my little sins, Jesus could not be separated from all the rest.

 

And so that Christmas Eve, when I was 25,

as I knelt there at Midnight Mass, listening to the words,

“this is my body… this is the cup of my blood…”

it dawned on me what had been missing.

Those words echoed in my mind and heart,

and I realized that in the depths of my soul, I believed them.

And as the Mass went on, and everyone else went to receive Communion,

I stayed in my pew because I realized I was completely unworthy,

completely unprepared

either to receive Jesus in Communion,

or to really celebrate His birth and salvation.

And frankly, my life began to slowly change after that.

 

Now, I’ve had a long time to think about that night, and that Christmas.

I couldn’t have articulated or explained it all then, but now I think I can.

I love Advent, but I can only really love,

and really experience the depth of hope and joy of the season,

it if I keep Christ and the mystery of His birth right at the middle of everything.

Only if I recognize that the many wonderful things that happen

during these Advent weeks,

including the cultural sites and sounds and celebrations,

are only truly wonderful if I understand them

as a foretaste of the joy of Christmas.

 

And that Christmas itself is only joyful if I realize

that it is a foretaste of the true and perfect joy

that Christ was born in Bethlehem to bring:

the joy of living with him in this world, every day, every moment.

And the perfection of that joy, when we are united to Him forever

in the glory of heaven

when we will look on the beautiful face of Jesus, face to face, forever.

In other words, the good things of Advent are a foretaste of Christmas,

and Christmas is a foretaste of heaven.

 

But the thing is, as I realized that night over 30 years ago,

I’m not ready for heaven.

And I am not really ready for a foretaste of heaven either.

So since then, the idea that Advent as a season of preparing for Christmas

has a whole different meaning for me.

 

Advent must be a time of preparing for heaven,

and for preparing to celebrate the opening of heaven to us,

the day 2000 years ago heaven came down to Earth,

as the almighty God the Son came down to earth as the Baby Jesus.

 

And so, as the world gets lost in all the hustle and bustle

and all the empty sentimentality of the secular celebration of the holidays,

let’s not let that happen to us.

Focus on heaven, focus on Christmas, focus on Jesus.

 

Let me be clear: please enjoy all the good things of the season,

of course with moderation and balance,

but let every happy sentiment, memory, party, light, and present

remind you of the true joy, the deep joy, the fullness of joy

that comes only from being and living with Christ.

And so let them remind you to strive to be worthy of that joy,

by preparing for Christmas

through repentance, prayer, sacrifice and a life of generous love, .

 

_____

When I was  a little boy I loved Advent.

But when I was a young man, ensconced in the secular world,

I merely enjoyed the trappings of the season.

 

And a Mass changed all that.

Christ coming down to earth, body, blood soul and divinity,

reminded me of what was missing.

 

Open your minds and hearts to Christ, at this Holy Mass,

and throughout this Holy Advent .

Place Him right at the center of every day of Advent,

and prepare yourself

for a worthy celebration of Christmas,

a worthy life of love with Christ on earth,

and a worthy entrance into the Glory of Christ in heaven.

 

TEXT: Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 25, 2018

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

November 25, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

 

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.

In today’s Gospel when Pontius Pilate recognizes Jesus’ claim to kingship,

Jesus responds: “for this I was born and came into the world:

to bear witness to the truth.”

 

What, then, is the truth about Jesus’ Kingship?

First we can say, as Scripture reveals, that Jesus Christ,

the Son of God and God the Son,

is eternal absolute royal monarchial creator,

sustainer and ruler of the entire Universe,

heaven and earth, visible and invisible.

 

And given that, the truth is that as He rules over everything and everyone,

also everything and everyone must serve him:

He rules and we serve.

 

But there is more to the truth about His kingship than that.

As we read in today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals His kingship to the world

just a few minutes after He has been scourged at the pillar,

and crowned with a crown of thorns,

and just a couple of hours before He is nailed to the cross.

Because, as He revealed elsewhere in scripture,

“the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,

and to give His life a ransom for many.”

And so we see, the incredible truth that

Jesus is a king who His subjects must serve as king,

but a king who also comes to serve and even to die for his subjects.

 

Which only makes him all the more worthy of our service and worship.

 

This is the truth about Christ the King.

 

But, again, that’s not all.

Scripture tells us that in baptism Christ sends His Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us,

and in that we come to share in the very life of Christ Himself.

And by sharing in the life of Christ we share in everything He has.

So, for example, even though Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father,

and we are merely His creatures,

since we share in the Son’s life we share in His Sonship,

and can call God our Father; as St. John tells us elsewhere:

“we are called children of God, for so indeed we are.”

And perhaps even more amazingly,

given a share in the life of Jesus Christ the King,

we also share in his Kingship.

 

Now, how do we share in His Kingship?

Clearly you and I are not sovereign Lords of the Universe.

But rather we share in His kingship in that, in the end,

we answer to no one but to the King Himself.

By our baptism we are set free from world:

we are not subjects of the devil, or sinful men, or any sin, ideology or vice.

 

You say, but Father, don’t we still have to obey other human beings

—our parents, our teachers, the laws of our governments.

That’s true: in God’s plan He places us under obedience to others

either for our own good or the common good

—so we can learn and grow and live in peace with others.

 

But on the other hand, it’s also true that

we never have to obey anyone who leads us away

from what is truly good and right, away from Christ.

So even though He commands us: “honor your mother and father”

he also warns us that for some Christians:

“they will be divided, father against son and son against father,

mother against daughter and daughter against her mother..”

 

And even though, He commands us “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s,”

He goes on to command us to render “to God what belongs to God.”

And as He says to Pilate:

“You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above;”

 

The bottom line is that our kingship in Christ

frees us to choose what Christ wants us to do,

to live under His kingship and in His kingdom:

So that even as we justly obeying our parents, teachers and governments,

we are free to choose between good and evil in our day to day life:

by the power of Christ and with His grace

no evil can lay claim to our allegiance,

no vice can claim us as its vassal.

 

Now some might say, but Father, doesn’t that make us dependent on Christ,

do we really share in His kingship, or are we simply slaves to Christ

 

Friends, the truth is, He did create us, and He does sustain us.

Without Him we perish, both in this world and in the next.

He, and He alone is the King of heaven and earth.

 

But like a bride who marries a king, and shares in his royal life and power,

we can choose to really share in Christ’s kingship by sharing His life,

or we can choose to reject Him.

 

Of course, human beings have been rejecting Him ever since the beginning:        Adam and Eve challenged God’s unique authority,

and so they rejected His kingdom.

And when Christ the King finally entered the world, in the flesh,

His own people rejected Him, as did the Roman Pontius Pilate.

And it continues to this day.

We are all sinners, which means every day, in small ways or large,

we choose to reject his kingship and go our own way

But by rejecting His rule and His grace to help us govern our lives,

we inevitably become enslaved by something, or many things:

by our emotions or weaknesses,

by alcohol, drugs, porn, anger, lust, greed or envy,

or even by our work, our lifestyles, our government, our friends

or even our families.

 

____

Since the beginning of the Church Christians have been persecuted for our faith,

sometimes in subtle ways, but many times in publicly violent ways.

Some, including myself, say we are beginning to live through

a similar time of persecution of the Church in our own country.

But as terrible as that might be, before we address that threat,

we have to face an even more basic, and more terrible, threat.

And that is the threat that comes from us—Catholics and all Christians.

The truth is that we have rejected, in whole or in part,

the kingship of Christ for ourselves.

Even those of us who go to Mass,

how many of us really embrace the Kingship of Christ?

How many of us live our lives obedient to his laws?

How many allow Him to serve us,

by accepting his grace that gives us the strength to rule over ourselves,

and so to live in freedom from sin?

To think and choose for ourselves, and to live as we were created:

in true love for God and neighbor.

 

___

Over the centuries untold thousands of Christians have been killed or tortured

for their faith in Jesus Christ.

From St. Stephen, the first martyr in the year 33AD,

to martyrs of the 21st century, like

Fr. Ragheed Ganni, executed after saying Mass in Mosul, Iraq, in 2007,

or Pakistani Catholic cabinet minister Shahbaz Bhatti

assassinated in Islamabad in 2011,

or the 21 Coptic Christian construction workers beheaded in 2015

on a beach in Libya as they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus.

 

In a particular way, I think of the young 13 Mexican boy,

Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio,

who fought against the persecution of Catholics in Mexico in the 1920’s,

in what became known as the Cristero Rebellion.

He became a hero to his fellow Catholics,

but not for his fighting prowess, or the number of enemies he had defeated.

In fact, he was never allowed to even carry a gun.

No, he became beloved for his unwavering faith in Christ as his king.

The way he truly accepted the kingship of Christ, not as a dictator,

but as a beloved father.

And not out of cowering fear, but out of joyful love.

The way he lived his life in the freedom and grace of Christ,

rejecting all sin and living an exemplary life of holiness

in the midst of so much deprivation and violence.

And finally because, standing like Christ Himself before Pilate,

bloodied and broken after endless torture by the Mexican soldiers,

who offered him his freedom if only he would renounce

the kingship of Christ,

he would only smile and look to heaven say: “que Vivo Cristo Rey,”

“long live Christ the King.”

And so they killed him… and today the Church calls him “Saint Jose Luis.”

 

___

Think of all these who have suffered for Christ’s Kingship,

and think of how many of us deny the that kingship every single day?

And not after being tortured, or with the threat of execution.

But only because we’d simply rather do things our own way, than Christ’s.

Or because we’d rather be slaves to the opinion of our peers or family.

We’d rather be slaves to sin or to other people,

than be servants of the one who created us and sustains us,

the King who is our servant.

 

___

My friends, today Jesus tells us:

“for this I was born and came into the world: to bear witness to the truth.”

And the truth is that Our Lord Jesus Christ is King of the Universe,

and that in His kingship alone do we find true freedom.

 

What were born for—for the truth, or a lie?

To live as slaves, or to live as kings?

Will we follow the example of our peers and the secular culture all around us,

or the example of the St. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio?

Will we cower under yoke of slavery in sin,

or in freedom bear witness to the truth of the Kingship of Christ?

 

Que Viva Cristo Rey!

Praised by Jesus Christ the King—now and forever!

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

(Due to Bulletin deadlines, I’m writing this on Nov. 15, well
before its publication. Please excuse anything that seems out of
date.)
Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a wonderful thanksgiving
day and weekend, and trust that you gave good and worthy
thanks to God for all His gifts to you and our nation. In light of
that, I thought you might be interested in reading the texts of
two important historical documents.
President George Washington, October 3, 1789.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the
providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for
His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor,
and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint
Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the
United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be
observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many
signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an
opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for
their safety and happiness. Now therefore I do recommend and
assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted
by the People of these States to the service of that great and
glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good
that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in
rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks, for His
kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous
to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold
mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His providence,
which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late
war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty,
which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational
manner, in which we have been enabled to establish
constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and
particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil
and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means
we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in
general for all the great and various favors which He hath been
pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in
most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great
Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our
national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in
public or private stations, to perform our several and relative
duties properly and punctually, to render our national
government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a
Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly
and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all
Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown
kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government,
peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of
true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among
them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a
degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of
October in the year of our Lord 1789. — George Washington
President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863.
A Proclamation. The year that is drawing towards its close, has
been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful
skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that
we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others
have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that
they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is
habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of
Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled
magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign
States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been
preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws
have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed
everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that
theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies
and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of
strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national
defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship;
the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the
mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have
yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has
steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been
made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the
country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength
and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large
increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath
any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the
gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us
in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It
has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly,
reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and
one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite
my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also
those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign
lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November
next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent
Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them
that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such
singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble
penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience,
commend to His tender care all those who have become widows,
orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in
which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the
interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the
nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the
Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony,
tranquillity and Union….
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of
October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred
and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the
Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
Advent. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, during
which we prepare spiritually for the celebration of the birth of
our Savior at Christmas. Please take some time to plan ahead for
the penitential season of Advent so that it will truly be a time of
holiness, not merely the shopping time between Black Friday
and the day Santa Claus comes.
Please see today’s insert with the full schedule of
Advent events. Let me remind you to take particular advantage
of the increased confession opportunities as well as the many
existing opportunities for weekday Mass. Also, I invite you all
to attend my three-part Advent Series: “Looking at the
Nativity: Mary, Jesus and the Holy Night,” on the first 3
Thursdays in Advent. I also ask you to plan to attend “Lessons
& Carols” on Sunday, December 9, at 7:00pm.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles