We are called to reflect the light of God’s love through the ways in which we live our lives. Imagine the impact if each of us took this call to heart, every day, at home, work, or school, in our parish, in the world. “All nations shall stream toward it,” toward the love that only comes from God. Yet, we must admit that much of the time we fail to be beacons of God’s light. We fall asleep, complacent, preferring to go the easy route, which often leads to darkness rather than the radiance of Christ’s light. As we begin the season of Advent, Saint Paul admonishes us to throw off the works of darkness, to awaken to the call of light and love. In today’s Gospel, Jesus too tells us to stay awake, to be prepared to greet the Lord of light as people of the light.
What kind of King is Jesus? How do you envision him? Remembering that they were promised a king from the line of David, the Israelites hoped for a Messiah who would set their political problems aright and bring about a worldly kingdom of Judaic power. Even Psalm 122 seems to describe this type of ruler. Luke’s Gospel today shreds that image after the whip of the Roman soldiers tore at Jesus’ flesh. Still, the Romans flaunted the traditional notion with their ironic inscription above King Jesus’ crown of thorns. Soldiers and ordinary people jeered the royal title at him. Yet the throne of Jesus was the cross of Christ, from which he dispensed kingly mercy and justice toward the humble criminal who shared his execution. Writing to the Colossians, Saint Paul describes the truth about Jesus and his kingship, using words like fullness, peace, and forgiveness. So let us go rejoicing!
As we prepare for next Sunday’s feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we hear descriptions of dire and catastrophic events. Sometimes it seems as though we ourselves are living in the end times, when life as we currently know it will cease for everyone. In answer to what must have been a fearful question, Jesus does not sugarcoat his foretelling of future days. Nor does the Old Testament prophet Malachi flinch from his pronouncements upon an evil world. Saint Paul, still writing to the Thessalonians, warns them prophetically against succumbing to “The End Is Near” syndrome--indolence in the face of the final days. However, both Jesus and Malachi speak of the recompense for living a just life--healing and vindication. Our Psalm 98, typically associated with Christmastime, helps us to rejoice for the King who is coming to rule with justice.
What happens after we die? Most religions and philosophies provide some notion of this, but we are confounded by the mystery of it all. Today’s readings give us a glimpse through the faith of martyrs and in the words of Jesus. In the Old Testament reading, the Maccabee brothers assert with total confidence that the God who gave them life would also raise them to eternal life. This was not universally accepted in ancient Israel. The Sadducees, who denied any resurrection of the dead, try to trap Jesus with a hypothetical riddle. Jesus, known for turning such things around, dismisses their unbelief, noting that even Moses knew that all are alive in God. Saint Paul tells the Thessalonians that we live in everlasting encouragement and hope, and Psalm 17 echoes this with words of faith that we will see God’s face, waking in God’s loving presence.