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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah
(Chapter 33:14-16)
 
This is a prophecy by Jeremiah for the Jewish people who had suffered from the long exile in Babylon. “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe, and Jerusalem shall be secure.”
 
The Church teaches that Jesus was the person that Jeremiah foretold. He was the Messiah, but—much more than that—he was the Son of God, finally coming, after all those generations, to save his people. In the early days of the Christian era, many believed, but many did not. That is true today. Many who were brought up as followers of Jesus have rejected or abandoned him. Just as God did not blame the people who rejected him 2,000 years ago, we should not reject those of our families and friends who have drifted away now. Our God is a God of mercy and forgiveness.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14)
 
“To you O Lord, I lift my soul.” Do you at whatever time and place ever “lift your soul” to God? It does not have to be a formal prayer. It can simply be an awareness of God’s loving presence.
 
A reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians
(Chapters 3:12-4:2)
 
At this point in his life, Paul believed that Jesus would be coming again soon: “Brothers and sisters: may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.”
 
The early Christians were always in danger of persecution by the Romans and expulsion from their synagogues as heretics by their fellow Jews. So Paul is trying to encourage them to hold on because Jesus is coming back soon. Of course, Jesus did not come back in Paul’s lifetime, and eventually Paul would accept that. But for many years many Christians believed it. Imagine yourself as a semi-literate peasant two thousand years ago, placing all your faith in something that would not happen in your lifetime. How would you have continued to believe? Yet, most did believe, and many gave their lives for their beliefs. They are the many unremembered heroes among our spiritual ancestors.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
(Chapter 21:25-28, 34-36)
 
If you wonder why so many people believed that Jesus was coming back soon, read this: “Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
 
This is what is called apocalyptic language—language that had been used for centuries before Christ to depict the end of the world. Jesus had heard this language, and here he is giving it a far different meaning. Instead of stressing terror, Jesus is saying that this will be the time of redemption, something to celebrate. He did not say it was coming soon, and yet that is how Paul and many in the early Church understood it. Twenty centuries later, Jesus has not yet returned, and the world has not been destroyed despite all the devastation we humans have brought to it. And still we have faith that he will come to reclaim the just who have believed in him and lived by his word.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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John Adams, one of the great patriots of the American Revolution and one of the architects of our government, led a complex religious life.
 
He was a practicing Protestant Christian, born a Congregationalist, but his religious views evolved over time until, at last, he became a Unitarian, meaning that he did not believe in the divinity of Jesus, although he did regard Jesus as the Savior.
 
Adams, the first vice-president and second president of the United States, was a regular churchgoer and an advocate of public worship. In the course of his career, he even attended Catholic Masses in far-flung places such as Philadelphia, Brussels, and Corunna, Spain, although he was generally critical of the Catholic Church.
 
His accounts of his experiences at Mass, preserved in his letters to his redoubtable wife, Abigail, sent a mixed message.
 
Adams seemed attracted to some of the external aspects of Catholic worship—for example, the vestments and tapestries and the music.
 
On one occasion, he described the homily as a “good, short, moral Essay upon the Duty of Parents to their Children, founded in justice and Charity, to take care of their Interests temporal and spiritual.”
 
However, he was repulsed by much of the ritual and personal piety—Latin prayer, rosaries, genuflections—he witnessed in Catholic Churches.
 
Ever the smart aleck, he summed up his observations in one church by writing, “Here is everything which can lay hold of the eye, ear, and imagination. Everything which can charm and bewitch the simple and the ignorant. I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell.”
 
What caught my attention in particular in one of Adams’ letters was his description of Catholic worshipers “bowing to the name of Jesus wherever they hear it.”
 
This is a practice that was instilled in me when I was a child, about 130 years after Adams had passed from the scene.
 
My contemporaries and I were taught that the name of Jesus was holy and that we were to slightly incline our heads when we pronounced it or heard it. That practice was so deeply ingrained in me that I still do it, almost as a reflex.
 
This little devotion is not the result of being simple and ignorant. It is the result always being conscious of who Jesus is—the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God among us.
 
This devotion that seemed superstitious to Adams and that might seem quaint now, strikes me as more appropriate than ever, considering how casually the name and image of Jesus is used in our culture.
 
The Jewish people famously consider the name of God too holy to speak or write; that is a healthy attitude for people who value their covenant relationship with the Father who has made them his own.
 
We Christians have a new covenant relationship with God that is founded on our belief that Jesus is who he says he is.
 
And if Jesus is who he says he is, then, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
 
This post was initially published in The Catholic Spirit, the newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen. Charles Paolino is a permanent deacon of that diocese.

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Let us collect our hopes, fears,
wishes, and dreams
for the fulfillment
of the Kingship of Jesus Christ,
and lift them in prayer to our God
who hears and answers us.
For the coming of a time of justice,
For the coming of a time of peace,
For the coming of a time of mercy,
we lift these prayers to you,
in confident faith that you will hear
and answer them.
We pray this in the name
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you,
forever and ever.
Amen.

 
Adapted from PrayerTime, Cycle B: Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, published by RENEW International.

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universeA reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel
(Chapter 7:13-14)
 
This is one of the last books of the Hebrew Scriptures, written about 165 years before the birth of Jesus. It was a time of persecution by the Greeks and it is written in the form of an Apocalypse, a popular form of writing at the time. The main character, Daniel, describes a vision of the of the end of the world. He sees “one like a Son of Man received dominion, glory and kingship; all peoples, nations and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.”
 
The title Son of Man appears many times in the Gospels, and it is related to the idea of Christ as king. The notion of kingship is somewhat foreign to us in the United States since we fought a war of independence to free ourselves from a tyrannical king. But the meaning in Scripture is simply that Jesus is all powerful but in a beneficent way. Throughout the history of Israel, the people yearned for such a king and were almost always disappointed. We are never disappointed in Jesus.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 93:1, 1-2, 5)
 
“The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.” Later in the Psalm, we read, “Holiness befits your house, O Lord, for length of days.” That means forever. Our God is forever.
 
A reading from the Book of Revelation
(Chapter 1:5-8)
 
This last book of the Bible is the most difficult to read and understand. It is attributed to someone named John, but probably not the same John that wrote the fourth Gospel. It was written during a time of persecution by several Roman emperors and was a polemic against them. The author pictures Jesus as the Son of Man who is “the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. … who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. … Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. All peoples of the earth will lament him.”
 
The author is writing to give his fellow Christians faith and courage in the face of persecution at the hands of unjust and cruel emperors. Today, we are fortunate to live in a land of freedom and justice, at least for most. We must cherish our freedom and work to bring freedom and justice for all.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 18:33b-37)
 
This is the famous scene in which Jesus has to defend himself before Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator in Judea: “Pilate said to Jesus, ‘Are you King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?’” They have a dialogue about whether Jesus is claiming to be a king and what that could mean. Finally we read, “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.’”
 
Pilate is a very interesting and troubling character. We read in all four Gospels that he does not believe that Jesus is guilty of anything, but he does not have the courage to stand up for this belief. Why? It could cause trouble and cost him his job. Historians tell us that some years later Pilate did lose his job, because he massacred many Samaritans, thereby causing trouble that Rome did not need. Some scholars say that he committed suicide soon after at the order of the emperor.
 
The point of this Gospel passage is that Jesus is using a title that was very important in his time and place, “king,” but giving it a new meaning, going beyond anything that people could imagine—a king of souls. In that sense, we can call Jesus King, not of any one place of but the whole universe.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Creator of the wind and sea,
storms and distractions abound
as we move through our daily lives.
When all around us is crashing and shifting,
we often lose our ability
to keep our eyes and hearts trained on you.
We forget who you are
and our faith becomes fragile.
During these times, bring to mind
the many ways you have been present to us in the past,
and help us to experience your presence.
Forgive us when we doubt you,
and deepen our ability to trust.
I offer this prayer through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.

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