Bottom line: On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, we say goodbye to the old missal and prepare to receive the new translation. We also take a new look at the corporal works of mercy: we carry them out in union with Jesus and his Church through which we receive salvation.
Today is the Feast of Christ the King - the final Sunday of our liturgical year. The Feast has a particular significance this year because this is the last Sunday we will be using the old translation of the Missal. At the end of the Mass I will bless our new Roman Missals.*
We will not be throwing the old missals into the trash. They have served us well for many years. Next Sunday I will be entrusting them to our sacristans. These devoted people have been caring for our liturgy for many years. I will give them the missal so that when they die, their loved ones may place the missal in their coffin. In a symbolic way they will be taking before the Lord these books saturated with prayers and sacrifice.
Besides the blessing of our new missals, it is signicant that today we have an often-quoted Gospel: The Judgment of the Nations. Jesus surprises the Gentiles by telling them that when they cared for the "least brothers of mine" they cared for him. Jesus calls them "righteous" and says, "Come...enter the Kingdom." This is a very comforting message, often read at funerals.
There is, however, a problem we need to address. As the Jerome Biblical Commentary says: "This much-loved text...has been overinterpreted to say that neither faith in Christ nor membership in the Church is necessary for salvation."
In order to avoid this fatal misunderstanding, we have to understand this passage in light of the entire Gospel. Let's remember some of things we have learned this year:
In light of our relation to Jesus and our membership in the Church, we hear today about the "corporal works of mercy" - feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, welcoming the stranger, visiting the imprisoned and so on. We do these the works precisely as members of Jesus' Church: Not all of us can feed the hungry, but we do have a St. Vincent de Paul Society that serves those who fall the cracks. Not all of us can visit prisoners, but we do have a Detention Ministry that makes it possible for priests (like me) to say Mass and hear confessions in correctional centers - and to have lay people offer Bible studies and faith discussion groups. Not all of us can visit the sick on a daily basis, but we do have hospital chaplains.***
United with Christ and His Church we accomplish the works of mercy. A story from the life of Blessed Mother Teresa shows the spirit with which we undertake these corporal works. When she opened a house to care for men living with AIDS, a reporter asked if her sisters talked to the patients about God. "Of course," she said, "We pray with them and teach them to pray. We take them to confession to be reconciled with God."
A bit scandalized, the reporter said, "But many people think that evangelization does not always mean talking about Jesus."
"And who do they think we should talk about?" asked Mother Teresa.
"They say it is enough to simply accompany them," replied the reporter.
"Well then," said Mother Teresa, "They are not missionaries. They are not proclaiming Christ. They are doing it for something, but we are doing it for Someone."
To sum up: On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, we say goodbye to the old missal and prepare to receive the new translation. We have also taken a new look at the corporal works of mercy: we carry them out in union with Jesus and his Church through which we receive salvation. Amen.
*BLESSING OF THE 3RD. EDITION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL:
Next week we will begin a new liturgical year and also begin using a new translation of the Roman Missal: the ritual text containing prayers and instructions for the celebration of the Mass. Today, we will bless our copy(s) of the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal that we will use in our daily and Sunday Masses.**And, of course, entrance to the vineyard requires baptism: "Unless you are born again by water and the Holy Spirit, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God." The source and high point of life in Jesus' Church is the Eucharist: "He, who eats my flesh and drink my blood, has life within him - and I will raise him up on the last day." And it is through the Church that we receive essential forgiveness: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them."
Let us pray.
Blessed are you, O God, who through your Son, the Mediator of the New Testament, graciously accept our praise and generously bestow your gift on us. Grant that these Roman Missals, set aside for the celebration of divine worship, may be signs of our reverence for you and helps to our faithful service. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
And may almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Mass has ended, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God
***By speaking about how we carry out the corporal works of mercy in union with Jesus and his Church, I do not mean to downplay individual initiative. When her Sisters felt sad, Mother Teresa would tell them, "Get out with the poor." No matter how bad I am doing, there is always someone in worse condition. The works of mercy remind us to be attentive to those suffering emotionally, spiritually and/or physically. (The ill, the stranger, the thirsty, the unclothed, etc.) Still, while we take individual initiative, we recognize that, if we want to effectively aid the suffering, we must also take part in a communal response. And, for all our problems, the Church Jesus founded is most effective body in responding to human suffering.
General Intercessions for Christ the King Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A (from Priests for Life)
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Parish Picture Album
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