"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
Nov. 25: Solemnity of Christ the King
• Daniel 7:13-14
Synopsis: Daniel is set in the time of the Babylonian Captivity in the sixth century B.C. It includes a number of stories and visions that show how the Jews kept the faith despite harassment and discrimination.
In this week’s first reading we hear about Daniel’s vision of four kingdoms, each of which passes away before God’s kingdom. The 'Son of Man' stands over and against the rulers of the world because he has 'received dominion, glory, and kingship' from God. Unlike the kingdoms of the world, which eventually pass away, God’s 'dominion is an everlasting dominion.'
Our second reading from Revelation was inspired by Daniel. It was written to encourage Christians who, like the Jews before them, were suffering severe persecution. John’s visions take place on the Lord’s Day, signifying a connection with the Mass. The salient point is that Jesus Christ is 'ruler of the kings of the earth' and that we, the people of God, belong to his kingdom, not Caesar’s.
In this week’s Gospel Pilate questions Jesus about his identity and authority: 'Are you the king of the Jews?' Jesus replies that he is a king, but that his kingdom is not of this world. That doesn’t mean his kingdom has nothing to with politics; it means it’s not defined by ordinary political categories. Christ’s kingdom is not defined by political power the way we normally understand it, but by truth. Even though Pilate, that is to say, Rome, presumes to judge Christ; it is really Christ, that is to say, the truth that judges them. Speaking truth to power is part of the Church’s mission in the world.
Key verse: 'Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth' (Rev 1:5).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: 'The people of God share in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection. The people of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ' (No. 786).
Life application: The Mass is our 'declaration of independence' and the Creed our 'pledge of allegiance' to the Lord and his kingdom. Our liberty comes not from the state, but from God, regardless of what government officials say or do. This week’s solemnity reminds us that religion has political implications, for if Christ is king then Caesar isn’t. That’s why totalitarian regimes suppress the Church whenever they can.In some places, Saudi Arabia for example, churches are prohibited and it’s illegal for Christians to practice their faith openly. If you think that the Church should stay out of politics, just remember Mass itself is political because when we worship God we express our ultimate allegiance to 'Christ the King.'
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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