November 27, 2009

And so one liturgical year neatly dovetails into the next and we move from our celebration of Christ the King to the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is, as its name suggests, a season in which we think of the Lord’s coming. But look closely at the readings for this Sunday. Here is no story of shepherds and cribs, babies and mothers. Rather the gospel speaks about the coming of Christ at the end of time. In so doing it sets the context for the later focus on first coming – we celebrate that coming at Christmas because we are looking forward to his second coming.

Both the feast of Christ the King and this first Sunday of Advent speak of the sovereignty of Christ. He is the Lord of creation and he is the one who will come to judge the living and the dead. The Second Coming should not be something that frightens us but rather something that consoles us. It means that this flawed, painful and corrupt world will be swept away and that God’s kingdom of justice and peace will be established. The child who lies in the manger will come again on the clouds of heaven. On Sunday we renew our hope for that future consummation.

Christ the King

November 20, 2009

On Sunday the Church’s year draws to its close with the triumphant feast of Christ the King. This is the feast that establishes so many important facts: Christ is the supreme ruler of the universe; Christ is the conqueror of sin and death; Christ is the one to whom the whole of creation owes loyalty and service. But it also tells us much about ourselves. We are called to reign with him, to share his victory over the power of evil, to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

We do these things in union with him. Through his power we are able to turn around the reign of sin in our lives. In his body the Church we are called to build a better, truer and more just society than the one in which we live. The Church is called to be a counter-sign to the ways of the world. It is a critique of earthly politics and power. At certain times in history men and women have been called to give their lives to show that the state and human society are not the highest authorities. These martyrs as the advance guard of the kingdom of heaven. They remind us that Christ is the King. On this feast let us pray that our lives may show that we too know where our loyalties lie.

Saints for the Week

November 13, 2009

St Margaret of Scotland, St Elizabeth of Hungary, St Hugh of Lincoln

We have a rush of medieval saints to celebrate next week. On Monday we can observe the feast day of St. Margaret of Scotland renowned for her devotion to the poor. The next day we can celebrate another royal Queen noted for doing the same, St. Elizabeth of Hungry. On Thursday we keep the feast of St. Hugh of Lincoln, great bishop of the English city and revered in his own lifetime as a man of outstanding holiness. All three lived in the early part of what we now call the Middle Ages and all three are still held in great love and esteem in what became their native land.

November is very much the time when we think of the departed and, as the year sinks into winter, about mortality and decay. But as Christians we think about those things in hope and in confidence. We celebrate the power of Christ’s resurrection every time we honour the saints. They are not dead and gone but alive and active. They pray for us on our journey. We need to seek their prayers but also follow their example. They may have lived in different centuries but they inspire us still.

St Leo the Great – Monday 9th November

November 6, 2009

There is an old saying: ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’. It is a
phrase well suited to the saint we celebrate on Monday. In the west
the most powerful Empire the world had ever seen was being
overrun by barbarians who showed little mercy to the people they
conquered. The Church in the east was bitterly divided by arguments
about the person and nature of Christ. Leo was elected Pope in 440
and for the next twenty one years sought to stamp his authority on
the Church and stood up to the new political reality.
A lesser man would have quivered before such seemingly
overwhelming problems. Leo relished the challenge. We still have
many of his letters and sermons. They are clear, direct, and forceful
expressions of the Christian faith in general and the doctrine of the
incarnation in particular. His dealings with the Huns and the Vandals
reduced the massacre and bloodshed that they had previously
inflicted on northern Italy.
We face different challenges to those faced by Leo’s church but the
response must still be the same: the proclamation of the fullness of
the Catholic faith and the confrontation of those who spill blood with
impunity. Let us pray to St. Leo asking him to help his successor
Pope Benedict to follow his courageous example. And let us imitate
Leo in our own lives. Leo is one of only two Popes to be