As I gaze out the window, I see the colour of the jacaranda trees in the distance which call us forth to a new liturgical year as we farewell the year of Matthew, Year A.

The gospel of Matthew has within it many great teachings and on this feast of Christ the King, he invites us to consider what is being asked of us and our end time (Chapter 25)

Then the King will say to those on his right: ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s prepared for you in God’s kingdom. It has been ready and waiting for you since the world’s foundation, and here’s why:

       I was hungry and you fed me,

       I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink,

       I was homeless and you gave me a room,

       shivering and you gave me clothes,

       sick and you stopped to visit,

       in prison and you came to me.’

This week I came across the following paragraph in Brother Julian McDonald’s cfc reflection on the Sunday readings:

How, then, is this gospel-reading appropriate for the celebration of Christ, the King? Historically, the solemnity of Christ the King was instituted by Pius XI between the two great world wars, at a time when national leaders were stressing their own importance, their insistence on their citizens showing loyalty, and their emphasis on the power invested in them. It was also a time when the Church’s status and influence, particularly in Europe, was in decline. The Pope set out to stress that the only king worthy of our unswerving loyalty and total allegiance is Jesus Christ, the Messiah and God’s anointed.

Paradoxically, during his life on earth, Jesus refused to have the title of king attributed to himself. He wanted nothing to do with power, pomp and circumstance. His leadership was manifested principally in service, especially service of the poor, the weak and the forgotten. While today’s readings from Ezekiel and Matthew present the end of the world in terms of a time of judgement, the emphasis is not on a judgement of condemnation. Rather it is on the challenge to us to live faithful to the message of Jesus, faithful as members of the flock, the shepherds, and faithful shepherds of those who are entrusted to our care.

I remind you of the words from the Preface of Christ the King of the Universe in which we pray for the mysteries of human redemption:

An eternal and universal kingdom,
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

I have once again joined in the Community Organising Foundations Training for the community alliances of the Hunter, Sydney, Queensland and Te Ohu, Whakawhanaunga (New Zealand). This training is being run via Zoom over seven sessions. There are almost 100 people from diverse backgrounds participating in this training – age, gender, interest groups, faith backgrounds, community groups etc.  What most fascinates me is the number of people in this space who are working for the common good and who share with me their Catholic faith background. Almost all are no longer part of our worshipping community, and yet they are putting their time, gifts and energy into growing a more just civil society. In my words, they are trying to bring about the Reign or Kingdom of God. I find the young people to be most impressive, and because broad-based community organising is based on building relationships, they willingly share their stories of what motivates them to do what they are doing. Almost all speak about social justice being their driver, which was sewn in them in their teenage years, both at school and within their families. Their lives and stories could easily be inserted into the readings of the feast of Christ the King.

I am more and more convinced that this is where we are called to be; out in the community, listening to the hopes, joys, anxieties and struggles of our neighbours and then collectively determining what action to take. Instead of looking inwards to ‘solve’ our problems as a church, we are being invited to look out and to join with others in making a difference, in making real the Kingdom of God.

Our second session of Synod – Building the Kingdom of God Together, was to be held this weekend but because of COVID. we have postponed it to the weekend of Pentecost next year. I invite you to reflect on your own story and then on the circumstances of your family, workplace, church community and neighbourhood. How is the Kingdom looking?

In the past week Richard Rohr has been writing about Jesus and the Reign of God. On Friday, November 20, he wrote the following, titled The Kingdom’s Common Sense:

My friend and colleague Brian McLaren has thought deeply and practically about what Jesus means when he speaks of the “Kingdom of God.” He views it as synonymous with the Gospel itself.

Jesus proposed a radical alternative—a profoundly new framing story that he called good news. News, of course, means a story—a story of something that has happened or is happening that you should know about. Good news, then would mean a story that you should know about because it brings hope, healing, joy, and opportunity. . . .

The term kingdom of God, which is at the heart and centre of Jesus’ message in word and deed, becomes positively incandescent in this kind of framing. As a member of a little colonized nation with a framing story that refuses to be tamed by the Roman imperial narrative, Jesus bursts on the scene with this scandalous message: The time has come! Rethink everything! A radically new kind of empire is available—the empire of God has arrived! . . . Open your minds and hearts like children to see things freshly in this new way, follow me and my words, and enter this new way of living. At every point, the essence of his kingdom teaching subverts the “common sense” of the Roman Empire and all its predecessors and successors:

Don’t get revenge when wronged, but seek reconciliation.

Don’t repay violence with violence, but seek creative and transforming nonviolent alternatives.

Don’t focus on external conformity to moral codes, but on internal transformation in love.

Don’t love insiders and hate or fear outsiders, but welcome outsiders into a new “us,” a new “we,” a new humanity that celebrates diversity in the context of love for all, justice for all, and mutual respect for all.

Don’t have anxiety about money or security or pleasure at the centre of your life, but trust yourself to the care of God.

Don’t live for wealth, but for the living God who loves all people, including your enemies.

Don’t hate your enemies or competitors, but love them and do to them not as they have done to you—and not before they do to you—but as you wish they would do for you. . . .

….. To a citizen of Western civilization like me, kingdom language suggests order, stability, government, policy, domination, control, maybe even vengeance on rebels and threats of banishment for the uncooperative. But on Jesus’ lips, those words describe Caesar’s kingdom: God’s kingdom turns all of those associations upside down. Order becomes opportunity, stability melts into movement and change, status-quo government gives way to a revolution of community and neighbourliness, policy bows to love, domination descends to service and sacrifice, control morphs into influence and inspiration, and vengeance and threats are transformed into forgiveness and blessing.

This beautifully describes the motivations of the people who are forming broad-based community alliances across the globe. I certainly hope that you or your parishes will begin to explore how this might grow your community in line with God’s kingdom.

And on 17 November Richard wrote about contemplation and action with these words:

Only together can we participate in the unity of the Spirit as we learn to relate to each other out of compassion and love. When action and contemplation are united, our lives and actions begin to heal our suffering world by their very presence. Jesus is the perfect example of how the inner revolution of prayer is deeply connected to the outer transformation of social structures and social consciousness. Our hope lies in the fact that contemplation will change the society that we live in, just as it has changed us!

The Diocesan Synod Working Party is presently imagining how to invite the diocesan community into action and contemplation, in order to build the Kingdom of God together.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.