If you’ve ever had the good fortune to be in Rome. And found yourself In St Peter’s square, you surely have seen the great obelisk that stands in the middle of the square. [Whether you’ve been to Rome, or not, – it is really there.] It about four and half thousand years old and originally stood in the temple of the sun in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis. But it was bought to Rome by the dreadful Emperor Caligula and it was set right in the middle of a Roman racetrack known as the Circus of Nero. It was in that Circus that St. Peter was martyred, and the obelisk may well have been the last thing on this Earth that Peter saw. On top of the obelisk there now stands a cross representing the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion. But in ancient times there was a gold ball representing the sun. On the pedestal of the obelisk there are two inscriptions. The first of them in Latin, “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat”, freely translated in the words of a hymn “To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King:” Christ Jesus Victor! Christ Jesus Ruler! Christ Jesus, Lord and Redeemer! The other inscription, “The Lion of Judah has conquered.” In the two we have the language of victory. Christianity has triumphed by the power of the cross and triumphed over even the greatest power that the ancient world had known, the Roman Empire. Here in the middle of St. Peter’s square stands the obelisk bearing those triumphant inscriptions.
In 1925, Pope Pius XI universally instituted the Feast of Christ the King to be celebrated on the last Sunday of October. However, since the reform in the liturgical calendar in 1969, the feast falls on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Sunday before Advent.
At the time of the institution of the feast, secularism and dictatorships in Europe were on the rise. Respect for Christ and the Church was waning. Today, we witness the same sense of distrust of authority – accelerated by political situations and the rise of individualism. Some reject the titles of “lord” and “king” for Christ believing that such titles are borrowed from oppressive systems of government. History proves that some kings have been oppressive. Others have been converted to a more Christian style of ruling … often by the influence of a woman.
In 2015, during the Jubilee year of Mercy, Pope Francis added another part to the title: “…the living face of the Father’s mercy.” The combined readings this year for the solemnity give us a glimpse of how Christ is at the same time both king and the face of the Father’s mercy. In contrast to the oppression so prevalent in Jesus’ day, he connected his role as king to humble service, and taught his followers to be servants as well. “You are my disciples if you do what I command you: love one another as I have loved you.”
As we observe the feast of Christ, the King, we are celebrating a ruler who was willing to die for us, for all humanity, to give us true freedom. Jesus radically redefined the concept of kingship. His example of love and kindness is lived out by us, his followers, in our reaching out to those in need – beginning with those we live with.
At the opening of every Eucharistic gathering, the celebrant greets us with the words: “The Lord be with you.” In tomorrow’s opening hymn we will sing: “Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven.” And in the responsorial psalm we’ll proclaim: “The Lord is my shepherd.” We profess in the Creed: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ.” We often raise a hand in benediction as we sing: “May the blessing of the Lord be upon you.” Deep down do we believe JESUS IS LORD or is it just from force of habit that we say or sing those titles for Jesus? If we believe it’s true Jesus is Lord, why do we sometimes scramble to find a substitute to replace the word “Lord?”
It strikes me that while we may struggle with the concept of Jesus as king … somehow, especially like on today’s feast (the Presentation of Mary) most of us have no problem calling Mary queen: queen of the universe, queen of heaven, Regina Caeli.
Our prayer intention this week is for the gift of a grateful heart. Look at the person on either side of you – and across the aisle – with eyes filled with the compassion of Christ. Let us pray that we can portray to the world the beneficence of a humble king, truly putting flesh on our Corporate Commitment “to respond with compassion to the hungers of the people of God.”
Time for Seekers is an opportunity to listen to God in the richness of prayer, liturgy, silence and Community in a monastic setting. Sharing with others and a vocation director is also part of this special program. If this sounds like something that could be the answer to your prayer, register with S. Mary Clare at 352-588-7188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the Seekers Week schedules are not convenient, please know that you are welcome to visit our community when you can arrange to be free of other commitments. There will be opportunities to join the Sisters at daily prayer, Mass and meals. There may be some planned program presentations and time to spend in personal prayer, or enjoy our outdoor environment. The cost in a free-will donation.
Or, you may want to attend our Sunday liturgy (Mass) at 10:30 a.m. to get a sneak preview before arranging an overnight visit. Let us know ahead of time and then introduce yourself and we’ll welcome you for a meal.
To arrange a day-visit please contact me at email@example.com or call 352-588-8318. To make arrangements for an overnight visit, contact S. Mary Clare at 352-588-7188 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please share a little bit about yourself…where you are residing, your parish involvement, your profession, your interest in our community…
In the meantime, you may like to explore the vocation survey found on this website. https://vocationnetwork.org
With kind regards and a prayer that God’s blessings be with you.
Sister Roberta Bailey, O.S.B., Office of the Prioress
Benedictine Sisters of Florida at Holy Name Monastery
PO Box 2450 – 12138 Wichers Road
St. Leo, FL 33574
Phone: (352) 588-8320Continue Reading
One of the keys to understanding the meaning of this Gospel can be found in the description of the judge as corrupt and unjust. Jesus is saying that if even an unjust judge responds to the persistence of the widow, how much more will God heed our prayers. Didn’t Jesus say: “Ask and you shall receive?” Jesus is telling us that God wants us to be like the persistent widow, persisting in our relationship with God, confident that God hears and answers prayers. Jesus also understands how easy it is to lose heart. Maybe that’s why Jesus asks: “Will such faith be found when the Son of Man returns?”
The Gospel implies “yes” but it may be in unexpected places, not among the ones certain of their own righteousness, but among the “widows” among us – the outsiders, the unlovely, the unclean, the ones certain of their sinfulness.
If we could read the Greek version of this parable, we’d get a glimpse of Jesus sense of humor. In the Greek Scriptures the judge gives in to the widow because if he doesn’t he fears she may give him a black eye. Jesus uses this metaphor from boxing to make his point about the need to continue in prayer. Be as persistent as a boxer in the ring.
We say, but do we really believe, God always answers our prayers. We just don’t know WHEN because God takes the long view. Sometimes we have to wait for answers until we’re, as they say: on the other side of the grass.”
Now, I think it’s a safe bet that I don’t have to explain “stubbornness.” Some of us had it sprinkled on us in our cradles! We can prettify it, call it by another name, whatever we want: high principles, perseverance, tenacity, determined or we can call it what it is: just plain pig-headedness.” Some of us seem to be naturally endowed with the “great gift of stubbornness.” We ask God’s help to learn how to be stubborn for the right causes. In that case, we may talk about a “holy stubbornness.” That happens when we start not only to say our prayers, but when we start to live our prayers. In other words, we put our actions where our words are … we put flesh on our Corporate Commitment.
“Will the Son of man find faith when he returns?” That depends. Can prayer move our own arms? Are we willing to put flesh on our words? God always has relied on his children–people like you and me–to usher in His Kingdom. Are our prayers effective? The answer lies squarely with each of us: “it depends on how effective we help make them.”
And, just suppose as Fr. Ed (Lamp) suggests (based on an idea he gleaned from S. Melannie Svoboda) that the characteristics of the widow and the judge are reversed:
What happens, if we say that we are the judge and God is the widow? We, like the judge in the parable, are basically unjust. And, sometimes we have no fear of God; that is, we do not allow God to scare us into being good. Similarly, like the judge we persist in refusing to listen to the cries of the poor all around us.
So, suppose God is the persistent widow who will not go away. God keeps badgering us, refusing to accept as final our “no” to love. God will persist until we render a just judgement, that is, until we let the goodness out, until we learn to love. In Genesis we are told we are made in the image and likeness of God. (Fr. Ed suggests) Perhaps our prayer this week could be: “Dear God, Persevering One, make us more like you!”
(See prayer down below)
This past Thursday our nation celebrated the National Day of Prayer. The Bill for the observance was initiated by Conrad Hilton, (founder of Hilton hotels) and was signed into law in April 1952 by President Truman. Here’s an interest note: the president of the U.S. is required by law to sign a proclamation each year, encouraging all Americans to pray on the first Thursday in May.
Thinking about “prayer” – (but not directly connecting it to the Gospel just read) I find it curious that the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray “just as John taught his disciples.” They wanted the words, didn’t they, for certainly Jesus had given them an example of prayer. He had modeled time alone, told them to “go to your room and pray,” raised his eyes, hands and voice in intercessory prayer before miraculous healings. But they, like we, wanted “the words to say.” We forget sometimes that when we descend into our hearts in silent waiting that it is there we meet the Spirit who is already praying within us.
We look for “words,” don’t we … in a prayer book, on a holy card, in the life of a saint …. We look for a guide, a director, a mentor. I don’t mean to belittle the worthwhile role these companions play in our lives which is often critical to our spiritual growth and our salvation. We just need to keep in mind, and really believe, the tremendous role that Scripture plays in our lives. Jesus promised: “The Spirit of Truth will show you all things.” St. Paul reminds us: “If you do these things you can be saved: be joyful at all times, pray without ceasing and give thanks for all things.”
Let’s look for a few minutes at the shortened version of what we call the “Lord’s Prayer.” In it we pray “give us each day” EACH DAY – not a train load of blessings to last us all year – just today’s help, Lord, that’s all I am asking … not even tomorrow’s help … just get me through today – I trust you will be there tomorrow – even when I feel like Mother Teresa once prayed: “I KNOW GOD WON’T GIVE ME ANYTHING I CAN’T HANDLE … I JUST WISH HE DIDN’T TRUST ME SO MUCH.”
In Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, have you noticed the difference in the phrase regarding forgiveness? We pray, “forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us.” A strong, firm statement of my willingness to forgive everyone. In the traditional version we pray: forgive us our debts, or trespasses, as we forgive our debtors…” It sounds as if God’s forgiveness to me is measured by my willingness to forgive others.
I like Luke’s version even while I feel it is a greater challenge. I commit, I promise: I will forgive EVERYONE who is in debt to me. No willy-nilly “this one I forgive but not that one, at least not today.” When we pray Luke’s words we vow “I forgive EVERYONE.” Think of that the next time you pray the Our Father … at Mass or in private prayer, you are agreeing to forgive EVERYONE. What a huge and freeing commitment.
And we promise to do it day after day after day. Repetitious practice isn’t just what we may have told our mothers seemed “stupid” and useless. Things like making the bed that we are only going to rumple up in a few hours or doing the dishes after every meal instead of collecting them until the cupboard is bare or cleaning the toilet that someone is going to mess up the minute I leave the bathroom. Repetition perfects, and makes permanent skill in music, in handwriting, in the acquisition of good, or bad habits. And, in the repetition of daily chores (even the tasks only God sees) there is a meaningful expression of hospitality to myself and my companions. In the repetition of the Psalms, of favorite prayers, and liturgical actions there is a meaningful acknowledgment of our creaturely participation in God’s creative act, day after day, after day.
So, we pray day after day for vocations, for peace, for relief from suffering and war and for a forgiving heart. Through our community and personal prayer we feed not only our own spirits, but we are, so to speak, attached by a spiritual cord to everyone we have ever come into contact with. We feed ourselves spiritually, and we also nourish all those contacts through our prayers. Our prayer is universal. We forgive everyone who is in debt to us. Note, in Luke’s memory Jesus did not say “everyone to whom we owe a debt” … rather those who are in debt to us. Who would that be? And, why would someone be in debt to me?