Liturgical Year’s End

First off, happy Solemnity of Christ the King.  For the Catholic set, this is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, and we start a new one next week with the first Sunday of Advent.  Wow, time flies.

This year was “C” in the lectionary cycle, so we got the Gospel according to Luke.  Through a fluke, I got to attend daily mass more often than usual, especially in the last month or so.  I chalk it up to not really paying attention before, but several of the familiar parables as told by Luke hit hard.  It’s sort of like reading the Disney version of a Brothers Grim or Hans Christian Anderson tale, then reading the original.  Same story, really, with the same/similar message, but with a much sharper point.

One example is that of the parable of the talents (Wednesday’s reading this week).  The summary is that a man goes away, leaving three of his servants with one, three, and five gold pieces respectively for them to keep for him.  When the sovereign comes back, the one with the most gold had doubled it through some savvy business dealings, the second likewise, and the third still had the one coin since he had buried it, out of fear of losing it through a bad business deal because the master was a hard man.  The master is furious that the lazy servant hadn’t made any more money, gives the coin to the one who had the most, and throws the lazy one in prison.  The extra details that struck me this time around are that the master goes away to conquer a kingdom of his own, and that the people around him reject him and do not want him as a ruler.  The punishment of the lazy servant is also spelled out in more stark terms, and you have no doubt that when Judgement Day comes, it will not be pretty.

Another example is today’s Gospel (Lk 23:35-43), which is the exchange between St. Dismas, the penitent thief, the other criminal, and Christ while they are hanging on their crosses.  St. Dismas rebukes the other for mocking Jesus, and reiterates that their punishment is just, while Jesus is innocent of wrongdoing.  The theme of justice and judgement comes through very strongly, and, again, the people reject Jesus, or at least most do.  When I heard it this morning, the incongruence of Jesus, the King of the Universe, hanging on a cross, dying, and yet exercising his kingly and divine authority to forgive sins struck me particularly hard.  In his homily, our priest emphasized that much of the rejection came from simply not understanding the nature of God’s kingdom, and that the Jewish people were expecting a political messiah, rather than the actual Messiah who would open Heaven for us.

So, with that, the year ends, and we look to Advent, not just the remembrance of Christ’s entry into time, but also when he comes again at the end of time.  And, having paid attention to the message in Luke, we should be at least a little worried that we haven’t taken full advantage God’s mercy because when Judgement comes, it will be fully just, and we will get precisely what we deserve.