Sunday, 24 November 2013 : Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the last great feast in our Liturgical Year, that is the great solemnity of Christ the King, or in full, of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This is the last Sunday of our Liturgical Year, and from next Sunday onwards we will be entering into the season of Advent, in preparation for Christmas.

This is the feast, the great solemnity which marked the end of the year of our liturgy, but this year, it is even more glorious. Why so? Because on this year’s solemnity of Christ the King, we also celebrate the closing of the Year of the Faith, which Pope Benedict XVI had initiated on 12 October of last year and ran for a whole year until today. Indeed, today is a great occasion, to celebrate our faith, the faith we have in Jesus, our King and our Saviour.

Today, we glorify Jesus Christ our Lord, the divine Word of God incarnated into flesh in Jesus. He is King, and He is the Lord of all the universe, of all creation, whom He had created at the beginning of time. And yet, He chose to lower Himself, as the proof of His dedication, to those whom He had been king for. As He is the king of all creations, including all of us, we are all His people. And to show His love and dedication for us, bound to death that is our fate for sin, He came down to us, and for us, giving Himself for us that we can be saved.

Yes, Jesus although He was not obliged to help us, He still gave Himself to us, opening to us the floodgates of His mercy and love. In order to do so, He came to us, to fulfill God’s plan of salvation. And He did not do so in a manner so as to dazzle or amaze people. Instead, He came in silence, in the quiet night, that night in Bethlehem. No inn or lodging was made available for the king, and the king of kings made His entry into this world in a humble and dirty stable, fit for animals but not for men.

That is because, brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord’s kingship is not a kingship of this world. He is the true king of all things, and His kingdom is not a kingdom of this world. That is why, if kings of this world are usually rich, privileged, and powerful, the Lord as the king of all kings is instead humble, gentle, and benevolent. He did not flaunt His power and authority, and instead He worked with complete obedience and devotion to the Lord His Father.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert as He fasted, he was unable to convince Him with the allures of glory, which are human glory, worldly glories, which would have tempted most if not all of us. All of these were the worldly glories that Jesus as King would have done, if He is a king of this world. He would have taken it easy, as after all, what is mankind, so sinful and rebellious that they are worth saving? Such would be the thoughts of the devil to Jesus. Yet, Jesus would have none of that and rebuked the devil.

In Jesus lies the salvation of this world, that is the redemption of all mankind. He did so by offering Himself, the perfect and unblemished lamb of sacrifice, exchanging for us our fated deaths, into the new life He had prepared for us. He paid the price in full to ransom us, a price He paid with none other than His own flesh and blood, shed from the cross as He hung above it between the heavens and the earth.

The kingship of Jesus is not for Him to enjoy being a king, and neither it is for Him to enjoy good life, as many of the kings and leaders of our world had done. The kingship of Jesus is one of service, dedication, and love, in which, He as king, is our shepherd, the leader of all in our way towards complete and perfect reunion with God. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, leads us in our way towards the Lord.

But many of us openly mocked Jesus and His kingship, often not recognising what He has done for our sake, and rejecting His offers of goodness through salvation of souls. We are indeed often like the prodigal thief crucified with Jesus, as well as the Roman soldiers and those who had crucified Him, mocking Him openly of His kingship, questioning His power and authority.

Let us all reflect, how often do we all, even in our daily actions, that we have rejected Jesus, that we have rebuked Him, and even made a mockery of Him in front of His enemies. And yet, if you all noticed, He did not care. After all, He is the Lord and King of all creations, of all things that were, that are, and that will ever be. He is omnipotent beyond any imagination, and He could just destroy us with a single thought, and yet He did not do that.

He cared for us and loved us, to the point of coming down for us. Remember what Jesus told us about the parable of the shepherd. How a good shepherd will leave his good flock and go out all the way in search of the one that is lost. That was precisely what Jesus had done, our Good Shepherd. He went all the way to save us, the lost ones, that we can be reunited again with the flock of Christ, destined for eternal salvation.

Such a good king we have, don’t you all think? Yes, that is Christ our Lord and King, a king who does not just demand obedience and service from his subjects, but instead as a king who serves and loves his people. But many of us refuse to acknowledge His kingship and reject Him, just as His own people rejected Him as He hung on the cross to save them.

Whenever we sin and commit things against the laws of God, and in violation of the Lord’s love for us, we refuse to admit the kingship of Jesus our Lord. Whenever we sin and commit things evil in the eyes of God and refuse to admit them and change from our sinful ways, we act in the same way as the unrepentant thief, who mocked Jesus for His kingship.

Instead, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be like the repentant thief. Let us be like him in that he openly acknowledged not only that Jesus is truly king and Lord, but also that he reveals and admits the depth of his own sin and his unworthiness before the same king, asking in deep humility and shame for forgiveness by the Lord.

And he was forgiven, and given a place in heaven, literally being the first one that Jesus saved through His death and resurrection. We too can follow in the repentant thief’s footsteps, provided that we realise and reflect on the depth of our own sinfulness, and resolve that from now on, we will change our attitude and truly accept the Lord our God as our Lord and Saviour.

So today, as we also celebrate together, the end of the holy Year of the Faith, as well as the great solemnity of Christ the King, let us together with the entire Church, all the same children of God, renew our profession of faith before our Lord and King, taking our vows that we will, from now on, live an upright and righteous life, in accordance with the will of God, and open ourselves to His infinite love.

Let us proclaim that Jesus is the king of all kings, our king and our Saviour. And let us also usher in this era of mercy and love. Surrender ourselves to the Lord’s mercy and love as the repentant sinner had done, and keep our faith strong and burning in God! God bless us all with His Son, Jesus, our King. Amen.

Sunday, 24 November 2013 : Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 23 : 35-43

The people stood by, watching, as for the rulers, they jeered at Jesus, saying to one another, “Let the Man who saved others now save Himself, for He is the Messiah, the Chosen One of God!”

The soldiers also mocked Him and, when they drew near to offer Him bitter wine, they said, “So You are the King of the Jews? Free Yourself!” Above Jesus there was an inscription in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, which read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging with Jesus insulted Him, “So You are the Messiah? Save Yourself, and us as well!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Have you no fear of God, you who received the same sentence as He did? For us it is just : this is payment for what we have done. But this Man has done nothing wrong.”

And he said, “Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Truly, you will be with Me today in paradise.”

Sunday, 24 November 2013 : Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Colossians 1 : 12-20

Constantly give thanks to the Father who has empowered us to receive our share in the inheritance of the saints in His kingdom of light. He rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. In Him we are redeemed and forgiven.

He is the image of the unseen God, and for all creation He is first born, for in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible : thrones, rulers, authorities, powers… All was made through Him and for Him. He is before all and all things hold together in Him.

And He is the head of the body, that is the Church, for He is the first, the first raised from the dead that He may be the first in everything, for God was pleased to let fullness dwell in Him.

Through Him God willed to reconcile all things to Himself, and through Him, through His blood shed on the cross, God establishes peace, on earth as in heaven.

Sunday, 24 November 2013 : Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 4-5

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

There the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice the offices of the house of David.

Sunday, 24 November 2013 : Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Samuel 5 : 1-3

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your bone and flesh. In the past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led Israel. And YHVH said to you, ‘You shall be the shepherd of My people Israel and you shall be commander over Israel!'”

Before YHVH, King David made an agreement with the elders of Israel who came to him at Hebron and they anointed him king of Israel.

Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season, Fasting and Abstinence

Today is Ash Wednesday, the very first day and the beginning of Lent. What is Lent? and why is it 40 days long? Lent is the season, the time when we prepare ourselves, and make ourselves truly worthy to celebrate and commemorate the most important event in our year, that is the Holy Week, when we will remember Christ’s Passion and death, His great Sacrifice for our sake on the cross, and ultimately through His resurrection, we have hope of eternal life.

In order to be able to properly and fully celebrate the important Holy Week, this is why we prepare ourselves, in this 40 days of Lenten season. Why 40? Because 40 has long been associated in the Bible as the symbol of suffering, of waiting, and of purification, to prepare someone or a group of people for the ultimate end, happiness as given by God.

The people of Israel after being freed from slavery in Egypt, had to wonder for 40 years before reaching the Promised Land, after they rejected the Lord and His assurance, fearing instead the Canaanites whose presence terrified the Israelites and made them to complain that they would have had better life back where they were in slavery. The 40 years of journey through the desert is to root out all the dissidents, all of them who died, except the two, including Joshua, who surveyed the Promised Land and stayed faithful to God’s promise.

Elijah travelled for 40 days to the mountain of the Lord after being chased and persecuted by King Ahab of Israel. There Elijah met the Lord, who gave him renewed strength and courage to return and face King Ahab, and bring forth the Lord back to the people of Israel, delivering them from the worship of pagan gods.

Then ultimately, Christ Himself, fasted for 40 days and nights in the desert, and was tempted thrice by the devil. This happened after His baptism by John the Baptist and before He began His ministry in this world. He resisted all temptations of the devil and rebuked him for his insolence against the Lord. This 40 days is therefore representative of the same kind of time of preparation and of purification before something great and holy is begun.

Therefore, we too, are called in, these 40 days, to also prepare ourselves, spiritually in particular, for the celebration of our Lord’s Passion and death. To facilitate this, the Church has instituted Ash Wednesday as the beginning of the Lenten season, where ashes are imposed on the forehead of the faithful, and also the rules on fasting and abstinence.

Why ash? Ash is the symbolism of nothingness, and a reminder of dust where we came from. God created Adam, the first man out of earth and dust, and as Adam, and indeed other human dies, their bodies turn back into dust, into nothingness, though the soul remains. This is to remind us that our earthly life is just temporary, and that we should not do what is futile in this world, that is to seek worldly power and wealth, and dedicate our entire life for these, as in the end, we are nothing before God. This ash symbolises the great humility that we took upon, before the throne of God, asking for His great mercy.

Fasting refers to the practice of eating only a single full meal in the day, and with up to two ‘snacks’ or also commonly known as ‘collations’, which purpose is for physical discipline, to help us to prepare ourselves spiritually through the rejection of worldly temptations in the form of food and good things, that we can truly focus ourselves fully on the Lord. In the past, we used to fast much more often than now, as in the present, we are actually only required to fast on Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday itself.

Meanwhile, abstinence refer to the practice of, traditionally, shunning meat from all meals of the day, which is similar in intent to fasting, except that one does not need to limit the meal to just one meal and maximum of two snacks, but simply abstain from eating meat for that day. Traditionally too, this is done every Friday during Lent. However, in fact, we can also abstain from other things, even non-food items. We can abstain from things that occupy us the most, and even those we are addicted to. These practices, if we do them correctly and meaningfully, will only make us more prepared and ready for the commemoration of our Lord’s great Sacrifice and Resurrection, which is 40 days from now.

May God bless us all during this Lenten season, and I wish you all, happy Lent and have a great and fruitful season of recollection and repentance this Lent!