Welcome to Green Reflections, the blog dedicated to reflections on the readings from the Roman Catholic Sunday Lectionary, with particular sensitivity to the needs of the earth. Use this blog to deepen your own awareness of our Creator's desires for the planet and ways that we can appreciate God's goals for the earth,giving it the loving care that it deserves.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
The feast of Christ the King may be a difficult one for U.S. Americans to understand, much less desire to celebrate. As a nation we fought a revolution in order to separate from an English king. We established a union based on elected officials whose tenure can be terminated when we are dissatisfied with our representatives. Yet the Church places before us the celebration of Jesus’ kingship. Our readings offer us images of how the reign of Jesus is markedly different from leadership that we may have experienced in our lifetime.
The first reading today directs our attention to the days of King David in Israel. When Israel was besieged by an enemy, David led the troops in a successful routing of the enemy. David was the King whose love for God was demonstrated over and over again and he sought justice for his people repeatedly. His kingship was referred to as “shepherding” Israel. He was a favorite King whose rule was used as the yardstick for excellence for all other kings who followed him.
Jesus was born into King David’s family as the long awaited king who was to follow David. Naturally, expectations about his kingship developed over hundreds of years before Jesus was born. When Jesus arrived on the scene, some hoped that he was the longed for messiah who would free them from the tyranny of Rome. Some expected him to lead an assault against Roman authority and reestablish Israel’s self-rule. Those who expected this kind of kingship were sorely disappointed.
Today’s gospel reading is a very different image of majesty. Jesus is hanging on the cross and refuses to use his power for self-aggrandizement or personal freedom. He was scoffed and derided as he hung dying on the cross and he did not respond in kind to his attackers. Rather, he used his precious energy to reveal the depth and height of God’s love for us. He chose nonviolent love as his defense against evil. In the reading from Luke, today, his words for a self-acknowledged murderer and thief were, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” It seems that only the one whom knew he deserved to die had the humility and the insight to approach Jesus as the longed-for messiah. The final gift that Jesus could give is graciously given without any strings attached, without condition and given most generously. Jesus’ final act on earth was mercy and the promise of paradise.
This is a kind of king who we need never fear will abuse his authority. This is a king who, even with all his divine justice and power, used his authority to give life and pardon. This image of Christ the king is so unlike the rulers of Luke’s day. Pontius Pilate was a man known in history books as severe, blood thirsty and power hungry. King Herod Agrippa was the little king from Galilee who was best known for being an adulterer, but who was also known to be a collaborator with Rome in order to hang onto his limited role in government. The Emperor in Rome was known to be unjust and murderous. Against this background we find Jesus, the king who emptied himself of all rights and privilege in order to love and show God to the people of Israel.
Extraordinary! In a world full of people seeking power, position and wealth, this king came in poverty, obscurity and the power of love. As Christians we see in Jesus the model of servant leadership, full of love for those whom he came to serve. So, we know that we, too, are to serve the needs of others in humility, love and even obscurity if it will help others.
We might envy those who seem to have fame and power imagining that we would use our power better than the poor leaders that we have encountered in life. But, the old adage, “absolute power corrupts absolutely” is a fair warning to Christians to follow Jesus in the role of servant leadership. Our role is to love people and love our planet with the love that God has for them. When we are able to view the least creature with the love that God has for it then we know that our service to the helpless and the impoverished is infinitely more valuable than holding any power over them.
As we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King we have an opportunity to examine how well we use our own power. Everyone has power and has power in many dimensions of life. The greatest power that we have is the power to love. Once we master love, then all other powers fall into secondary places, ready to serve Love. May this final week of the liturgical year be time for us to examine how well we love and serve the least, so that we may more closely follow Jesus, the Way of Love.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
As I read this morning’s liturgical readings, I was reminded of a song that I used to hear on the radio. The lines went like this: “Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know?” We might ask ourselves the same question after considering the readings for today’s liturgy.
The prophet Malachi spells out clearly what our future will be. If you are good, you will be healed from life’s pains in the last days. Further, he tells us, that we will leap like a calf released from its stall. But if you are evil, then your life will be reduced in fire, you’ll be burned like stubble so that there is neither branch nor root. The lives of the good are pictured as leaping into freedom, in full health and vigor while the evil are portrayed as something less than human.
In our gospel passage, Jesus is pictured predicting the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem. He tells his followers not to be fooled by appearances. Jesus tells us that there will be many signs before the end but we should not worry about it nor think the end is near simply because there are earthquakes and wars. He even says that we may suffer for our faith. Even so, Jesus tells us, let the Spirit lead you and speak in you. And St. Paul tells the early Christians, that even living in the end days does not exempt them from working for a living. We are not to be idle. Rather, we should work quietly, trusting in Jesus and God’s plan for us, giving good example to all who witness our faith. Taken together, all of the readings point to our individual deaths and to the end of human history. In every case, whether from Malachi or Jesus or St. Paul, we are told that by faithful lives now we will gain everlasting life.
As we age, it is natural that we begin to consider our own deaths. We see in nature during this autumn season, that even the trees, flowers and grass follow the rhythm of birth, maturity and death. But death is not the end of life. No, the trees, flowers and grass will return with vigor in the spring. How good God is to give us such an obvious lesson in nature! The trees around us turn brilliant colors of red, orange and gold right before their “death” in winter. If we have the eyes to see the lesson then we can understand that lives lived in genuine faith, loving each other and loving our planet, taking care of the needs of others makes us richer, fuller people—people who become fully human. And, hopefully, as we age, we become more and more faithful in our witness to the love of God in our lives. We become shining examples of what love and faithfulness are.
When we understand that lives of faith lived out in deeds of love and generosity lead to the fullness of life, then we know “where you’re going to.” We do not give into worry or doubt that God intends us to “gain our souls,” which is to say, become fully human, fully loving, fully alive. Let us learn from nature what the prophets and evangelists want us to see: that life lived in love and service to the needs of others leads to the fullness of life beyond the grave. In eternity we will finally know what it means to be free and to be fully human without the limitations that we experience now. To arrive to the fullness of life, though, we are told clearly that we must spend our lives in faith and trust in God’s message, by lives of loving service. Let us all recommit ourselves today to living in love and service to all creatures and everyone so that we may leap into the fullness of life in eternity.
The Green Nun's Favorite Links
- Audubon Society
- Carbon Footprint Calculator
- Catholic Coalition on Climate Change
- E Magazine
- Earth Literacy Masters Program at SMW College
- Environment California
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Forest Ethics
- Friends of the Earth
- Global Climate Change Report
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Ocean Conservancy
- Pacific Environment
- Sierra Club
- The Nature Conservancy
- Union of Concerned Scientists
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