Monday, November 21, 2011

Who is Jesus?

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Matthew 25:31-46

Below is a rough draft of my homily for the weekend, which turned out different but with the same essential points.

Who is Jesus to me?

At different points in our life of faith, we see Our Lord in a different way. At one time He may be a shepherd, rescuer, or healer as we heard in the prophet Ezekiel. At another time He may be viewed as judge and mighty king, as in the gospel. At another time He may be friend, brother, lover, or intercessor. All of these are good and healthy relationships to Our Lord, but as we gather here today we honor Him specifically under the title of King.

In our intimate personal prayer and devotion, we can come before the Lord and speak informally, as with one we’ve known our whole lives. It is fitting because that intimacy with Christ is necessary for a vibrant faith, and so we can draw near and simply rest our head on the chest of our Savior as St. John at the Last Supper and speak simply to our friend, brother, shepherd, and Lord. But as we celebrate this great feast of Jesus Christ the King, we recognize that this simple intimate speak also is limited to a time and place, and that there is also a time where a more formalized dialogue is called for.

In the gospel reading, Christ is the King and we hear from Him a formalized, kingly language. Rather than simply saying “You blessed ones, come get the inheritance that’s been waiting for you”, Our Lord says rather poetically, “Come, you who are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” There’s a loftiness of speech that is noted, it’s understandable and yet not just common speech.

As we come together as a community, rather than use the simple speech of two intimate friends we come into the house of our God and Christ our King and are called to worship not as we desire individually but as the Lord deserves from us collectively. Rather than simplicity and flexibility, we come with rituals, routine gestures, and rich language. By this we are reminded that the celebration of the liturgy is not one of many things we do, but rather is unique and deserving of its own ritual language.

When the Second Vatican Council permitted the Mass to be celebrated in the language of the people some fifty years ago, there was a great rush to make the Mass in English available quickly. The translation we received and have celebrated for the last forty years is good, but is quite simplified. The theological depth and rich poetic nature of the Latin original was often lost in the translation. With this revised translation of the Latin text, we now can reclaim some of that beauty, richness, and theological depth of our Catholic faith and liturgical celebration. Let us look, for instance at the prayers we’ll be praying next week.

Last year on the First Sunday of Advent we prayed this after Communion:

Father, may our communion teach us to love heaven.
May its promise and hope guide our way on earth.

Next weekend, with the new translation of the same prayer in Latin, we will hear this:

May these mysteries, O Lord, in which we have participated,
profit us, we pray, for even now, as we walk amid passing things,
you teach us by them to love the things of heaven
and hold fast to what endures.

The current translation is rather simple with bluntness and little embellishment. The new translation expresses the same idea in a much more poetic form that is more humble and theological in wording - a form truly worthy of Our King. So as we draw closer to Our Lord, we realize that while He is certainly to us a brother, friend, lover, savior and much more, above all He is our King.