Te Deum, James Powell & Sons 1895, St. Nicholas Anglican Church, Blakeney, Norfolk, UK.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. John 18:36a.
Words highlighted in red are links to supporting materials.
Today marks the end of the liturgical year, and next Sunday, the first of Advent, inaugurates a new year in the church’s long life. So today is like a summary of the central message of Christianity, that the Lord of Life and Light is our support, our life and our destiny. He must be the center of our life, the focus of our thoughts and actions, and the very foundation of our existence. The church’s role is to remind us that we are not alone in that journey; we are part of a community all intent on living up to that high goal, to live by his teachings, the only way to ensure true happiness and direction in our life. He is, after all, the only person who has conquered the ultimate enemy of us all, death itself. and he invites each of us, individually and collectively, to follow him in defying death by leading a virtuous, happy and fulfilling life here on earth. The Old Testament reading is a pre-echo, if you like, a promise that this king will appear in due time, and that we can trust completely in his reign and dominion. Unlike any of earth’s rulers, we can have complete confidence in this king as he will never fail, never lie, never retreat and will always be there for us. The second reading from the Book of Revelation, states this clearly and definitively: “I Am the Alpha and the Omega”, the beginning and the end. Put your complete trust in me and you will prevail against the world and live forever.
This feast was created by Pope Pius XI in 1925 with a deliberate goal in mind. The increasing secularization of society all over the world and, at that time especially, the increasing pattern of focussing all power on one political figure, seemed to be minimizing the reality of Christ as ultimate ruler. It was to be a reminder that Jesus must be the principal focus of our thoughts and words, not some earthly, time-constrained political principle or person. We are all here to serve God by serving our neighbor, Jesus’ clear message. Anything less than that was simply not Christian. Pope Paul VI moved this feast day to the last Sunday of the church’s year in 1970 to act as a summary of all our belief and hope, centered on the figure of Our Lord. It is interesting to note that this liturgical festivity has been adopted by many non-Catholic churches, recognizing the universality of the kingship of Christ. So here we have a truly universal king, worshipped by millions of people world-wide, one who will not fail us, but who will be there for us whatever the reason or situation. No human ruler can do that. As Jesus says today, “But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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