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Pastor's Letter 20221120 - 20 November 2022 - The Leadership of Our Blessed Lord


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November 20th, 2022

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Feast of Christ the King

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme  “The Leadership of Our Blessed Lord”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

(2 Samuel 5;1-3)  Our King came from humble stock; His ancestors tended sheep in the hills of Bethlehem.  Leadership is a process of moving forward together in mutual cooperation, respect and concern.

David, the shepherd boy who became king, was not a perfect man, nor was he a perfect ruler.  His career as Israel’s leader was marred by his shortcomings and by sins as serious as murder.  Nonetheless, Israelite tradition describes him as an ideal king, whom they remembered and made a legend.  Ideally, Israel’s kings represented the Lord, and mediating between Him and His people; and through anointing, was looked upon as a sacramental authority.  Samuel stresses the humane aspects and the solidarity of God-with-Israel in the person of the shepherd king.

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(Colossians 1:12-20)  Through the power of the King the world was created.  He is “the Word” by which humanity is redeemed.  Jesus Christ is our Lord and King.  For leadership to be truly effective, those who lead must have confidence in those who follow and vice-versa.

In one of the most profound Christological pronouncements of the New Testament, today’s Second Reading comprises, in eloquent expression, the cosmic dimensions of Christ’s leadership.  Written toward the end of Paul’s life, while he was imprisoned in Rome, it underscores Christ’s unique role in creation—as the image of God-made-present—in an active manner.  Therefore, Christ has power over the visible and invisible aspects of creation, comprising all earthly creatures and heavenly beings.  Paul understood the historical (earthly) Jesus as part of an event that transcended the beginning as well as the end of all life—both pre-existing, as God’s Son; and post-existing, as the resurrected glorious King..

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(Luke 23: 35-43)  Christ did not rise to power in  customary ways—He had no army, no royal jewels, no throne—but through the Cross; with no one to acclaim His Kingship except disbelieving passersby who mocked His authority.  One of the most powerful uses of authority is the willingness to pardon others.

Until the 13th Century A.D., the cross, as the symbol of our salvation, was fashioned with jewels, instead of a corpus.  Precious gems spoke to the faithful of the victory Jesus had achieved over sin and death; and of His reign as King of heaven and earth—established on the unlikely throne of the gibbet.  (Francis of Assisi is credited with introducing our familiar, realistically styled crucifix.)

In our Gospel today, Luke highlights the saving power of Jesus on the Cross, and has organized the narrative of the crucifixion so that the enemies of Jesus (the centurion, unrepentant thief) are his actual confessors and theological interpreters of salvation—the “saving event” of His death.

Stumbling Blocks and Stepping-Stones

Two travelers walking a narrow path in the woods were suddenly set upon by a powerful thunderstorm.  One of them looked up, overwhelmed by the darkness everywhere, and lamented not being able to see the path any longer.  As a result, he went astray and became lost.  The other one, however, kept his head down, and used the intermittent flashes of lightening to show him a few steps forward, and persevered in his journey.

When we consider Jesus’ encounter with the two thieves, on their crosses adjacent to His own on Calvary, we observe two distinct attitudes toward sin.  One of them cursed his executioners and chided Jesus for not allowing them to be released from their plight by His supposed power of will—and remained arrogant in his own sins.  The repentant thief, however, recognized his own guilt, and acknowledged his punishment as “just.”  His only plea was for forgiveness from Christ, and a request to join Him in His Kingdom at his death.

True authority, it is said, is that which pardons offenses.  Christ graciously took upon Himself the guilt for all of humanity’s sins, for all time.  By acknowledging our sinful natures and assuming the baneful punishment of a common criminal, the Son of God allowed us to find our way into heaven through repentance.

In the final analysis, only God fully knows and understands what’s in our hearts.  We may hide our guilt from others, by guile and cleverness, but it can never be hidden from God.  He sees our wounds and our sorrows; our scars and handicaps; our hopes and longings.  In looking at the repentant thief, Jesus saw the sad tatters of his life, and was moved with compassion for him.  

The “good thief” gives hope to us all, but especially those who come to the end of life with nothing to show but their works of darkness.  Even at the “eleventh hour,” there exists a possibility of letting the sunlight into our broken lives.  Through His sheer goodness, Jesus can turn our darkness into light.  Salvation is always a free gift from God.  He gives it most freely to those who (like the “good thief,”) know they are poor, and who ask for it with empty hands and expectant hearts.

Goodness

Sometimes, just to see goodness radiating from another can be all people need in order to rediscover it in themselves.  The memory of those who have been of service or have been exemplary examples of good behavior can save us in crucial moments.  Empathy is what calls a human being back from the darkness.

While studying to become a portfolio manager for the investment firm of E. F Hutton, in the 1980s, I encountered a text entitled The Money Masters.  In it, I learned about the techniques of several notable money managers in American history, and among them, I first encountered the techniques and style of Warren Buffet.  I read about his method of discerning the true value of companies, through assessment of their stalwart business practices and astute asset management.  Further, I learned about risk that companies asume by incurring debt, and how it can sap long-term development prospects, due to the “cost” of borrowed money.  In short, Buffet’s “buy-and-hold” strategy of good companies’ stocks became my money management style, as well.

Some years later, while working for Ben Bridge Jewelers, I learned that Buffet’s company, Berkshire Hathaway was to buy our firm.  His habit of buying well-run enterprises, and then allowing them to continue to prosper without his direct influence, was borne out in his acquisition of Ben Bridge.  Rather than acting as a pro-active director of operations, he allowed the existing structure of the businesses he acquired to remain intact, and continue flourishing—due to the valuable characteristics he had identified in their operations at the outset—that had prompted his bid to purchase the company in the first place.  His role was that of a benign leader.

Our Blessed Lord is that kind of sovereign as regards humanity.  Rather than demanding fealty and obedience, as would a despotic ruler, He allows us to exist in complete control of our own free will, allowing us to pursue everyday thoughts, words and deeds, with full responsibility for our fate.  If we have freely accepted His “Way” of living, and act justly and righteously, then our lives will be in keeping with the precepts He has given us for a holy life.

This is of key importance to understanding God’s role in “managing” our lives.  Rather than being a “hands-on manager,” He has set our world in motion—replete with its physical parameters—and human beings within it—as His creatures—to do with it as we will.  In addition to the moral law native to all sentient creatures, Jesus gave us the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to Whom we can direct our pleas for help, along the way.  Then, as we are able, in spite of the frailties of humanity, each of our lives unfolds in an unique manner, according to our conscious choices.  If we humbly accept our weaknesses, confessing our sins and pledging to “sin no more,”—to the best of our ability—then, like the repentant thief, we have the opportunity to learn from our successes as well as our sins and offenses, as long as we live.  If we truly have contrition for our missteps, we will be enabled to enjoy everlasting life through the benevolence of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  

May God Richly Bless You!

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To view a recording of today's Holy Mass, click here:  

 

Edited by Father Michael
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