‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.' Sunday Reflections, Solemnity of Christ the King, Year A


The Last Judgement, Michelangelo 

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales,  Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Matthew 25:31-46 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

Jesus said to his disciples:

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

Léachtaí i nGaeilge


St Elizabeth of Hungary 
Sándor Liezen-Mayer [Web Gallery of Art]

In November 1974 some members of the Praesidium of the Legion of Mary of which I was spiritual director came to me and told me of two starving children, a brother and sister, that they had come across on home visitation. The Legionaries were students in the college department of what was then Immaculate Conception College, Ozamiz City, where I was chaplain. At the time ICC was run by the Columban Sisters. It is now La Salle University, under the care of the De La Salle Brothers.

We arranged with the parents to take the two children to the local government hospital. When I saw Linda, as I will call her, I thought she was a malnourished eight-year-old. I was utterly shocked when I learned that she was twelve. Her brother, whom I'll call Nonoy, was five. His ribs were sticking out and his stomach severely bloated. The eldest in the family, a girl aged 13 or 14, showed no signs of malnutrition. This was the first time I had ever met anyone with signs of starvation. I never discovered why the children were in such a state.

After a few days Linda began to shyly smile and slowly got a little better, due to the nourishment and attention she was getting. But Nonoy showed no signs of improvement. He died two days before Christmas, without once smiling. We buried him on Christmas Eve.

Linda was able to go home and on at least one occasion we took her on an outing. She was still very small for her age but always cheerful whenever we met her. However, the severe malnutrition had taken its toll and she died in September 1976 while I was at home in Ireland.


St Martin and the Beggar
El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]


Today's Gospel makes me both fearful and hopeful.

Fearful, because Jesus speaks such harsh language: Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. This is not 'the Church of nice'.

Hopeful, because Linda and Nonoy will be there at the Last Judgment to speak on my behalf.

St Martin de Porres OP 

This portrait was painted during his lifetime or very soon after his death, hence it is probably the most true to his appearance.

During November the Church honours three saints noted for their extraordinary love for the poor, St Martin de Porres (1579 - 1639) on the 3rd, St Martin of Tours (316 - 397) on the 11th and St Elizabeth of Hungary (1207 - 1231) on the 17th. These three gave of their very self. These exemplified in their lives what Jesus is teaching us in today's gospel.

El Greco is one of many artists who have depicted the scene of St Martin of Tours, then a young soldier and preparing for baptism, giving half of his cloak in the depths of winter to a beggar clad only in rags. The following night, the story continues, Martin in his sleep saw Jesus Christ, surrounded by angels, and dressed in the half of the cloak he had given away. A voice bade him look at it well and say whether he knew it. He then heard Jesus say to the angels, 'Martin, as yet only a catechumen, has covered me with his cloak.' Sulpicius Severus, the saint's friend and biographer, says that as a consequence of this vision Martin 'flew to be baptized'.

Sándor Liezen-Mayer in his painting of St Elizabeth of Hungary above, shows her protecting a young mother and baby with her cloak. The saint herself was a young mother. She married at 14, bore three children and was widowed at 20. The painting reminds me of a beautiful Irish blessing, Faoi bhrat Mhuire thú/sibh ('May thou/you be protected by the cloak of Mary'). The young saint, who was only 24 when she died, followed the example of St Francis, with the blessing of her husband, lived very simply and served the poor and the sick each day personally and ate with them at the same table.

Shrine of St Martin de Porres in Lima 

St Martin de Porres, born outside of marriage and of mixed blood, learned some of the medical arts by working with a barber/surgeon in his young days. He devoted his life as a Dominican lay brother to caring for the sick, whether they were rich or poor. It was mostly the latter who came to him and whom he went looking for. Like St Francis he had a special closeness to animals and people brought these to him to be healed. He is often depicted carrying a broom, with a dog, a cat and a mouse at his feet eating from the same plate. 

These three saints from different social backgrounds wrestled with situations we wrestle with today. They spent themselves in bringing about the Kingdom of God by serving the very poorest. St Martin of Tours, who like St Elizabeth was born in Hungary, asked himself as a soldier if it was proper to engage in battle, where he would kill others. Wikipedia tells usRegardless of whether or not he remained in the army, academic opinion holds that just before a battle with the Gauls at Borbetomagus (now Worms, Germany), Martin determined that his faith prohibited him from fighting, saying, 'I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight.' He was charged with cowardice and jailed, but in response to the charge, he volunteered to go unarmed to the front of the troops. His superiors planned to take him up on the offer, but before they could, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service.

Conscientious objection doesn't only concern those called to join an army. A Swedish midwife,  Ellinor Grimmark, was fired in 2014 for refusing to do abortions. This is an area where, more and more, individuals will have to make choices that may involve losing their jobs, or even worse. (In 2017 a Swedish court ruled against Ellinor Grimmark).

The world is still overwhelmed with the needs of those trapped in poverty, victims of wars, of natural calamities. Pope Francis has spoken of the Church as being 'a field hospital'. He has asked priests and others to know 'the smell of the sheep'. St Elizabeth of Hungary and St Martin de Porres immersed themselves in that every day, seeing in each one they served Jesus Christ himself. And those they took care of, whether they were aware of it or not, were being served by Jesus himself through those saints and through the many others down the centuries who have been doing the same.

I am certain that Linda and Nonoy will hear Jesus say to them, Come, you who are blessed by my Father . . . I hope and pray that they and others like them who have crossed my path down the years will put in a good word for me so that I will hear Jesus say the same to me.


Christus Vincit! Christus Regnat! Christus Imperat!
Christ Conquers! Christ Rules! Christ Commands!

This very ancient Latin hymn, which is a litany, is also known as Laudes Regiae. In the video above it is sung in St Mary's Cathedral, Tokyo.

Extraordinary Form of the Mass

Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

This Sunday, 22 November, is the Twenty-fourth and Last Sunday after Pentecost in the calendar that uses the TLM.

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 11-22-2020, if necessary).

Epistle: Colossians 1:9-14. Gospel: Matthew 24:13-35.


St Columban's Day

23 November 

At the Crypt of St Columban, Bobbio, Italy, June 2015

Be helpful when you are at the bottom of the ladder and be the lowest when you are in authority . . . Be submissive to good, unbending to evil, gentle in generosity, untiring in love, just in all things. Be respectful to the worthy, respectful to the poor. Be mindful of favours, unmindful of wrongs. Be a lover of the ordinary man, and don't wish for riches, but cool down excitement and speak your mind.

From a letter of St Columban to a young disciple, c. AD 610.

Happy St Columban's Day to my fellow Columbans and to our benefactors!

Authentic Beauty

Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.

Pope Benedict XVI meeting with artists in the Sistine Chapel, 21 November 2009.

The Promise of Living
Composed by Aaron Copland, arranged by John Williams 
Words by Horace Everett


Happy American Thanksgiving Day!
26 November



  

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