Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving for Christ the King

This Thursday, we celebrate a remarkable Thanksgiving story.   

In September, 1620, about 102 men, women and children, plus a crew, set sail from Plymouth, England on the Mayflower, crossed the treacherous Atlantic, and anchored at Plymouth, Mass.  

The so-called pilgrims suffered a bitter winter, in which half died from disease, hunger and cold.  But they persevered and worked hard, in the quest for four freedoms: Speech, Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear.   

In 1621, the survivors celebrated a great feast of Thanksgiving to God for their harvest.  

Mosaic of Christ at Wash. DC Basilica
And so this Thanksgiving, I invite all of us to give thanks to God for our many blessings.

In the liturgical calendar, we have just celebrated the feast of Christ the King, the one to whom we owe our allegiance.  Now the word “king” evokes many images.  But what is the feast of “Christ the King.”

This feast fits into the cycle which began with Advent or the hope for a Messiah, then Christmas or the Messiah’s birth, then the dying and rising of Jesus at Easter, and finally, after Sundays in Ordinary time, Christ comes in great glory and power in the feast of Christ the King.  

We contemplate the end of salvation history as we know it: where (to paraphrase St. Paul) Jesus Christ “will hand over the kingdom of heaven—a kingdom of truth, life, love, holiness, grace, peace, and justice--to God our Father.”

The Book of Daniel speaks about a visionary experience at the end of human history, an apocalyptic struggle.  Ultimately, good will triumph over evil.  

The Book of Revelation speaks to Christians in the 1st century who are experiencing hardships and cruelties for their faith. The author speaks about hope.  Jesus dead, now gloriously alive, has re-established the relationship between God and us.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the One who is and was and is to come, the Almighty.

And in the Gospel according to John, Pilate asks whether Jesus is heir to the throne of Israel and possibly a threat to Rome.  Jesus turns the table on Pilate, saying the term “kingdom” has to be understood differently.  His kingdom is neither political nor despotic.  The kingdom is at one and the same time within and beyond us.

Now we say we prize Jesus.  But how do we spend our time?  We’ve heard the quote: “I shall pass through this world but once: any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.”

May God empower us to rededicate ourselves to Jesus Christ—our way, our truth, and our life.  And may God continue to bless us as we express thanksgiving.

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