May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.
Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.
Second reading for the 1st Sunday in Advent 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
The Lord calls us into a new communion with him – and the work of the Church is to ensure that call, and the love that inspires it, is heard by all the world.
The apostle Paul calls the Church to live that love, to be the more authentic witness to the Lord, and to enjoy the first fruits of his love.
Mosaic. Mount of the Beatitudes, Galilee. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces 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. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.
‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’
Gospel for the 1st Sunday of Advent, Year C Luke 21:25-28,34-36
We hear this gospel passage at a time when there is political and social uncertainty; and fear and anger are engendered by this insecurity.
Such circumstances fret at the fabric of society – not that said fabric is especially strong and resistant even at the best of times. Society has a tendency to degrade and atomise when there is a sense of risk and danger, and when there is opportunity to make a quick buck for yourself or yours.
Over the coming year Luke speaks of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of the Kingdom, and of the community forced in faith and grateful response to the love of God.
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.
For you anointed your Only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, with the oil of gladness as eternal Priest and King of all creation, so that, by offering himself on the altar of the Cross as a spotless sacrifice to bring us peace, he might accomplish the mysteries of human redemption and, making all created things subject to his rule, he might present to the immensity of your majesty an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.
And so, with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts . . .
Preface for Solemnity of Christ the King
Christ calls us to receive his rule – not for his glory, but to bring us to the Father, and make us citizens of that extraordinary kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace, and justice, love and peace.
Which of these values do you most need for your own integrity?
And which do you see others as being in greatest need of?
12th C enamel. Collection of the Louvre, Paris. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.
Grace and peace to you from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the First-Born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. It is he who is coming on the clouds; everyone will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the races of the earth will mourn over him.
This is the truth. Amen.
‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.
Second reading for Solemnity of Christ the King Apocalypse 1:5-8
What a greeting! What love.
How worthy are we to receive it, and respond to it?
Today’s feast is the last Sunday before we begin the season of Advent – a time for quiet preparation for the festivities of Christmas.
What is there that is false within us, that we can allow to fall away before the loving compassion of the coming Christ?
Detail of Apse window. St Martin’s in the Bull Ring, Birmingham. (c) 2014, Allen Morris
Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’
Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’
Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’
‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate.
‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’
Gospel for Solemnity of Christ the King John 18:33-37
How we name things matters – Jew, King…
More important is how we know these things, how we recognise their truth and quality. And how we resolve the tension between the tension that is caused and felt when things of truth and quality come up against those other things that have been held dear, but are then revealed shabby and cheap.
The call to conversion is never a once and for all thing.
For what were you born?
For what are you living?
Enamel. Collection of the Louvre. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.
All the priests stand at their duties every day, offering over and over again the same sacrifices which are quite incapable of taking sins away. He, on the other hand, has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place forever, at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made into a footstool for him.
By virtue of that one single offering, he has achieved the eternal perfection of all whom he is sanctifying. When all sins have been forgiven, there can be no more sin offerings.
Second reading for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Hebrews 10:11-14,18
The language of priesthood has been appropriated by Christianity as a metaphor to describe a number of aspects of the salvation won for us by Jesus. For example:
It is applied to Jesus himself, who is seen as priest and sacrifice and altar.
It is applied to the presbyters of the Church, the elders, who re-present the once-and-for sacrifice of Jesus in the celebration of the Mass.
It is used to describe the holiness of the whole membership of the Church who by virtue of their baptism share in the ministry of Christ. He is prophet, priest and king: they (we) are a ‘royal priesthood’ called to bear witness to the living God and his will for us.
The Sacrifice of Jesus is unique. The salvation it wins makes redundant all other sacrifice. What other sacrifices seek to win or earn or make available to us is already freely available in Christ. So after the passion, death and resurrection of Christ the sacrificial cult of the Temple in Jerusalem became unnecessary – not bad, not anti-Christian, not even necessarily unhelpful, but simply unnecessary. The disciples continued to attend Temple, and took part in its liturgy, even as they took part in the developing Christian cult, in cluding – we presume – the weekly celebration of Eucharist.
The Letter to the Hebrews is presumed to have been written after the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple in 70 CE, but in a world still very familiar with sacrifice in pagan cult. He speaks to encourage those familiar with sacrificial liturgical cults – perhaps especially Israel’s priestly caste driven into exile after 70 CE. He helps them to consider that the loss of the Temple does not mean that the opportunity of sharing in the Covenant of God is lost to them: that covenant is renewed and extended to all peoples in Jesus Christ.