22 November 2012

'Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.' Sunday Reflections. Christ the King, Year B

From The Gospel of John (2003) Directed by Philip Saville. Jesus played by Henry Ian Cusick; narrator, Christopher Plummer. 

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel John 18:33b-37 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world." Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice."

Christ Before Pilate, Nicolas Maes, 1649-50 (Web Gallery of Art)

Entrance Antiphon  Revelations 5:12; 1:6

Dignus est Agnus qui occísus est, accípere virtútem, et divinitátem et sapiéntiam, et fortitúdinen, et honórem. Ipsi glória et impériun in sæcula sæculórum. 

[V. (Ps. 71: 1) Deus, judícium tuum Regi da: et justítiam tuam Fílio Regis. v. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.]

How worthy is the Lamb who was slain, 
to receive power and divinity, 
and wisdom and strength and honour. 
To him belong glory and power for ever and ever.


Fr Gabriel Harty OP (above) is an Irish Dominican friar is now 91. He blogs under the title Irish Rosary Priest. In the November issue of Pioneer, the excellent monthly of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, he writes about losing his job.

As National Director of the Rosary apostolate for almost sixty years, I realise that I had made a name for myself in certain quarters and that I had, as it were, built up a little kingdom of my own. then one day I heard the news, that I was no longer to be in control. A big white van came down from the North to clear everything out of what was once my office, my home, my sanctuary to establish the Rosary Centre elsewhere. I c onfess that I felt angry. Like so many at this time of recession who find themselves redundant, or like those who have to move aside to let the young take over, I went through a process of grieving. I confess that I failed to recognise the times, or come to terms with my own declining years.

In the midst of a time of darkness, it was the Lord's own prayer that helped me. Unable to run around the country anymore preaching to the crowds, I took time to walk up and down the Gethsemane back-garden of a dear friend who understood my predicament. As I would begin the Our Father, it would slowly dawn on me, that it was not my name that mattered or my kingdom that had to be preserved . . .

Father Gabriel was sharing in some of the humiliation of Jesus as he stood before Pilate, a humiliation captured so movingly by Nicolas Maes in the painting above. The only person in the foreground looking at Jesus is one showing mock veneration and concern.

In many Western countries in the last twenty years or so the Church has been going through a process of humiliation, much of it brought on by priests and religious who misused their positions of authority and power to abuse young people. And it would seem that many of their superiors refused to use their positions of authority and power to stop the abusers and protect those being abused. Not all of this failure was due to malice. Some followed the best advice they could find at the time, advice that would be found wanting now, and acted as responsibly as they could.

But the Church has lost its moral authority to a large degree, its ability to announce the Gospel, its ability to teach, to guide, to lead, to encourage, to heal. 

I grew up in the Republic of Ireland at a time when around 95 percent were Catholics and where the authority of bishops and other authority figures in the Church held sway. This was not by any means as negative as some say. But it did mean that many authority figures, if they ever considered it, could say with Father Gabriel that I had, as it were, built up a little kingdom of my own. 

This can happen when one is truly working for the Lord just as much as when one sets out to be in control no matter who suffers. It can happen to parents who thwart their adult children's desires, hopes and plans for their future. I remember a parish here in the Philippines where the people in one section of the city wanted to have a priest of their own. They had a chapel and were willing to support a priest. The committee elected by the people went to see the bishop. When the son of the committee's chairman expressed a desire to enter the diocesan seminary his father forbade him.

In the 1990s a parish priest visiting from Ireland told some of us of an incident that hurt him deeply. It was during a time when cases of priests abusing children were in the news with sickening frequency. One morning when he was walking along a street in his parish he saw a parishioner who had been at Mass that morning coming towards him and then, very deliberately, crossing the road to avoid him.

That has not been my experience in Ireland or in the Philippines but I'm well aware of the sense of humiliation that so many good Catholic feel at times, of the sense of disappointment at having been let down by those they trusted, of the sense at times that it doesn't really matter whether we're Catholics or Christians 'as long as we're nice to one another'.

A few months ago I re-read  The Laughter and the Weeping by the late Fr Luke O'Reilly, a Columban who, like many others, was expelled from China in the early 1950s after having spent some time in jail. I can't recall whether it was about himself or another Columban but when the priest in question was being walked through the town before being expelled and the people lined up to mock and humiliate him - they didn't have much choice - there were one or two who quietly showed their support and gratitude.

Catholics and other Christians in some countries live with humiliation and danger daily. They are sometimes a very small and despised minority. They can identify with the Jesus in the painting of Maes. But for those of us who have grown up in communities where the Church was powerful and for the most part used its power and influence for the good of the people, and who now see that same Church as having little or now outward power of influence, we have to choose to stand with the humiliated Jesus and walk with him to Calvary.

We have to choose to live by the values of the Gospel, by the teachings of the Church. We have to do that in societies where marriage as taught by the Bible, the Word of God, as taught explicitly by Jesus, is no longer considered a norm or even desirable. We have to do that in societies where the unborn child is not considered to be worthy of full protection. We have to do that in a world where God's own creation is exploited and destroyed to the detriment of all, often causing great poverty and suffering.

The image of Christ the King of Maes is a true image and the measure of God's love for us, the measure of the love of Jesus, God who became Man, for us.

Hail Redeemer King Divine - Catholic Cathedral Christchurch, New Zealand, November 1999

Sometimes a very building may share in the humiliation of Jesus. The above recording was made in the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch, New Zealand. It, along with the Anglican Cathedral, was largely destroyed by the earthquake that hit that city on 4 September 2010.

Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2005

Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, 2011, a year after the earthquake

Hail Redeemer, King Divine! (music by Grattan Flood, 1859 – 1928, words by Fr Patrick Brennan CSsR, 1877 – 1952)
Hail Redeemer, King divine!
Priest and Lamb, the throne is thine;
King, whose reign shall never cease,
Prince of everlasting peace.
Angels, saints and nations sing :
“Praise be Jesus Christ our King;
Lord of life, earth, sky and sea,
King of love on Calvary!”
Verse 2
King, whose name creation thrills,
rule our hearts, our minds, our wills;
till in peace, each nation rings
with thy praises, King of kings.
Verse 3
King most holy, King of truth,
guard the lowly, guide the youth;
Christ the King of glory bright,
be to us eternal light.
Verse 4
Shepherd-king, o’er mountains steep
homeward bring the wandering sheep;
shelter in one royal fold
states and kingdoms, new and old.
[Extra verses
Crimson streams, O King of grace,
drenched thy thorn-crowned head and face;
floods of love’s redeeming tide
tore thy hands, thy feet, and side.
Eucharistic King, what love
draws thee daily from above,
clad in signs of bread and wine :
feed us, lead us, keep us thine!
Sing with joy in ev’ry home :
“Christ our King, thy kingdom come!
To the King of ages, then,
honour, glory, love : Amen!”]

The words of this stirring hymn remind us who Christ the King really is: King of love on Calvary.

Here is another setting of the hymn by Charles Rigby (1901 – 1952)

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