Author Archives | Father Michael Van Sloun

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

St. Anna, the prophetess

January 25, 2019

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St. Anna

Anna, the prophetess, an exceptionally holy woman, was present with Simeon the priest when Mary and Joseph presented their child Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:22-38). Throughout the world February 3 is the memorial of St. Blasé, but in the Holy Land, February 3, the day after the Presentation, is the dual commemoration of Saints Simeon and Anna. Saint Luke mentions a number of praiseworthy spiritual characteristics of this remarkable woman.

Seven years married. In this case, the number seven is not to be taken literally, but metaphorically. Seven represents perfection. When Anna was married, she was the perfect wife, completely faithful to her husband, loving, generous, and kind.

Age 84. Anna was advanced in years. Biblically, a long life is regarded as a reward from God for living a good and holy life. Sarah lived to be 127 (Gn 23:1), and Judith, who also was a longtime widow after the death of her husband Manasseh, lived to be 105 (Jdt 16:23). Anna was virtuous, honest, blameless, and respectable, an outstanding example of righteousness.

A widow. Throughout Scripture, the widow, along with the orphan and stranger, are considered to be weak and powerless, but not in this instance. Anna was strong spiritually. When she was married, her focus was divided between her love for her husband and her children and her love for God. Freed of the responsibilities of marriage and family, her sole focus was upon God, her first love, and freed of household duties, she was available for prayer and service. In ancient times and today, women have a longer life expectancy than men, and over the final portion of their lives are in a position to accept a variety of church ministries such as visiting the sick, serving meals, teaching religion, and caring for the disadvantaged.

She never left the temple. After the death of her husband, Anna could have stayed home, depressed and withdrawn, but after a period of grief and mourning, she decided to re-engage, to get up and get going, and instead of remaining in her home she went to God’s house. By doing so, she imitated her namesake, Hannah, who also spent long hours in the temple fervently praying to God (1 Sm 1:9-16; 2:1-10). Anna went to church every day, and her example is an inspiration to older women to go to church not only on Sundays but also on weekdays.

Fasting and prayer. Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert, and he prayed in synagogues and the Temple, as well as along the seashore, on mountainsides, and in gardens. Anna did what Jesus would do. Fasting and prayer were spiritual practices that Jesus and Anna had in common, and her example is an invitation for believers to do likewise.

She gave thanks to God. Many losses are associated with the aging process, the death of family and friends, as well as diminished health, strength, energy, and mobility, all which can lead to discouragement and a sour attitude. Anna was not mired in self-pity. She was able to see and count her blessings, was cheerful and upbeat, and had an attitude of gratitude.

A prophetess who spoke about the child. A prophetess speaks about God, and there are several examples in the Hebrew Scriptures, Miriam (Ex 15:20), Deborah (Jgs 4:4), and Huldah (2 Kgs 22:14; 2 Chr 34:22), who offered prayers, led the people, and spoke on God’s behalf. Anna was an early evangelizer and is a shining example of how to speak about Jesus to others.

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Mother Mary’s Advice

January 18, 2019

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In the account of the Cana wedding feast, Mary gives the best advice anyone has ever given. These are Mary’s words to the wise: “Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you” (Jn 2:5). Another way to say this would be, “Obey him all the time.” Mary initially addressed these words to the servers, but they apply to all of us.

It is important to consider the source. Who gave the advice, and is the advice worth following? Mary is the Seat of Wisdom. She was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:25). She is filled with knowledge and insight, knows the truth, and is a fountain of wisdom. She is without sin, full of grace, and the Lord is with her (see Lk 1:28), her heart is pure love, and she wants nothing but the best for us. Mary would never point us in the wrong direction or recommend something that would be harmful to ourselves or anyone else.

The wedding at Cana

The Cana Wedding Feast, St. Louis King of France, St. Paul, MN

Moreover, Mary is the Mother of Good Counsel. One of Mary’s most important roles is to give instructions and directions, guidance and recommendations. She is the greatest of all spiritual directors, she always gives sage advice, and she helps us to do the right thing.

Mary knew her son Jesus better than anyone else. She had experienced his personal holiness, the brilliance of his thinking, and his power to do amazing things. She knew the depth of his love and compassion for others, and his concern for their well-being. Mary knew that her son knows best, that his instructions provide the best plan for how to proceed and the best solution to the problem at hand. Sometimes his instructions led to a miraculous outcome. So when a problem situation developed during the latter portion of the wedding celebration, Mary delivered her wise counsel: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Obey him.

Jesus was obedient himself. In fact, he is the model of perfect obedience, which is reason for us to heed Mary’s advice and obey her son. Initially Jesus was obedient to Mary and Joseph as a child (Lk 2:51), but ultimately he was obedient to his Father as he said during his agony, “not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). Jesus became “obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). Obedience was Jesus’ test of Sonship, and obedience is our test of discipleship.

Obedience is hard for us. We want to make our own choices. We want to do things our way. We do not want anyone else telling us what to do or bossing us around. Obedience is one of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life, to submit our will to God’s will, to do – not what we want – but what God wants, to do whatever Jesus tells us. And because Jesus is all good, his instructions are completely reliable and give us the right way to think and act.

Mary has given us good advice, and we can follow her example and give good advice to others. It can flow from one spouse to another, parent to child, teacher to student, friend to friend, or counselor to counselee: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). It is the best possible advice, and when we do what Jesus tells us, we will always be on the right road, always be headed in the right direction, on the path that leads to salvation and a share in Jesus’ eternal glory.

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St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

January 11, 2019

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St. Hilary was born in Poitiers, a town in southwest France, in 315, into an upper-class, non-Christian family. He was raised as a pagan, given a solid liberal education, and was fluent in both Latin and Greek. He was married as a young man, and had a daughter named Apra.

St. HilarySometime later he became aware of the Bible, and out of curiosity, and with his facility in the biblical languages, he began to read Scripture. He was fascinated with the prologue to the Gospel of John (Jn 1:1-18), and developed a deep appreciation for Jesus, the gospels, and the wisdom and truth of the Bible, which led to his conversion and baptism in 350.

Three years later, in 353, Hilary was elected bishop of Poitiers, over his objections, while still a married layman. He was a staunch defender of the Trinitarian doctrine of the Council of Nicaea (325) which declared that Jesus is divine, eternal, and consubstantial, of the same substance, as the Father. Furthermore, he strenuously opposed Arianism which held that Jesus is the greatest of human beings but less than God, created, and not eternal.

Arianism had many adherents, both in France and throughout the West. The emperor, Constantius II, himself an Arian, called a synod in Milan in 355 which Hilary refused to attend. The synod produced a document that condemned Athanasius, the chief proponent of Nicaea in the East, which all bishops were required to sign. Hilary defiantly refused. The synod of Beziers followed in 356, comprised mainly of Arian bishops, which condemned Hilary for his orthodox beliefs. Subsequently, Constantius exiled Hilary to Phrygia, a region in Asia Minor.

Upon his arrival in the East, Hilary was invited to attend the Council of Seleucia in 359, where he, like Athanasius, remained insistent about the divinity of Jesus. He was deeply disappointed that so many resisted him and clung to their erroneous ideas, and that so many bishops who supposedly were his allies remained silent and in effect yielded to the opposition. The Arians detested his presence, regarded him as “the sower of discord and the troublemaker of the Orient,” and petitioned the emperor to end his exile and allow him to return to Poitiers, and they were overjoyed when he departed in 360.

Hilary was warmly received upon his return. He convoked a synod of Gallic bishops in Paris in 361 to unify and solidify their support of Nicaea. He exerted his leadership, not only in France, but throughout Europe, and he traveled extensively, constantly a vigorous proponent of the Nicene Trinitarian doctrine. In 364 he publicly denounced Auxentius, the Arian bishop of Milan. He also objected to the emperor’s interference in the church, and insisted on separation between the church and government.

Hilary wrote De Trinitate, his most famous work, a multivolume treatise on Trinitarian theology, as well as De synodis and Opus historicum. He also wrote scripture commentaries, most notably on the gospel of Matthew and the Psalms, and composed a number of liturgical hymns. Hilary died at the age of 53 of exhaustion, worn out from his travels, his exile to the East, and the relentless bitter wrangling. St. Augustine called him “the illustrious doctor of the churches,” and in 1851 Pope Pius IX declared Hilary a Doctor of the Church.

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We saw His star

January 3, 2019

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Christmas Star

When the magi looked into the night sky, they “saw his star” (Mt 2:2). It was the star of Jesus. It was crystal clear that night. There was an array of lights spanning the sky. The moon was glimmering. Stars were twinkling. Planets were shining. Meteors were glowing. Comets were sparkling. It was breathtaking, a sight to behold.

The star of Jesus was not like the other stars. It stood out. It glared with true beauty. It was brighter and more intense, attractive and captivating. Jesus is light, the light of the world, a beacon of goodness and truth, illumination for the mind and guidance for one’s path.

The magi were star gazers. They watched the sky night after night, and they knew the usual arrangement of stars and constellations, and would be quick to notice anything out of the ordinary. That night there was a star that was extraordinary, like nothing they had ever seen. The magi were highly selective. They chose one star over all of the others, and made a conscious decision to follow the brightest star, and not to follow any of the other lights.

We, like the magi, are confronted with a similar situation. Our world is filled with bright lights. There are movie stars and star athletes, glittering diamonds and shiny cars, neon lights and flood lights. The world is aglow. There is a vast array of lights, some brighter, others dimmer, but there are lights everywhere, all competing for our attention, all beckoning for us to follow them.

We, like the magi, need to make a choice. Can we sort out the lights? Can we avoid being distracted by the lesser lights? Are we able to see the one light that shines more brightly than all of the other lights? When we see the brightest light, can we lock onto its beam, and follow it always and everywhere, wherever it may lead?

The magi are wonderful examples. They chose one light above all of the other lights, and followed the one true light, and no other. Now is our time to choose as well as they did.

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Mary and Joseph, model parents for a model child

December 28, 2018

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The Holy Family

The Holy Family – Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – is the model family, and they, more than any other family, offer the best spiritual example on how to be the kind of family that God wants.

Major Feasts. “Each year his parents went up to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover” (Lk 2:41). Passover was one of the three major Jewish pilgrimage feasts, along with Pentecost and Booths. It was a big effort to go from Nazareth to Jerusalem, roughly eighty miles, on foot or by donkey. When it came to the main feast of their faith, all three celebrated it with great faith and devotion in the Temple each and every year. Likewise, when it comes to our major Christian feasts, Christmas and Pentecost, as well as the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, following the example of the Holy Family, every Christian family should commit themselves to celebrate these feasts together as a family in church each and every year.

Age Twelve. Luke is careful to mention that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to Jerusalem when he was twelve, the age a Jewish boy celebrates his bar mitzvah, when a young person, after being well-formed spiritually by his parents, would make his own adult faith commitment. Similarly, Christian parents are to form their children in the faith with prayer at home, Mass every week, conversations about Jesus and Bible stories, the reception of First Reconciliation and First Eucharist, faith formation classes, all directed toward the Sacrament of Confirmation when a young person, after being well-formed spiritually by one’s parents, would eagerly and gladly make his or her own adult faith commitment in Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church.

Caravan Travel. The Holy Family made the trip to Jerusalem in a caravan, a large group of relatives and friends that traveled together. Mary and Joseph surrounded their child with like-minded people, other faithful Jews who were firmly committed to God and their faith, people who would have had a positive influence on their son and help to protect him from evil threats. Likewise, Christian parents have an obligation to surround their children with good people who are positive spiritual influences, whether it be adults or peers, relatives or neighbors, teachers or classmates, coaches or teammates. It is crucial to monitor with whom we spend our time on the “caravan through life,” because who we associate with says everything about our values.

Rules and Obedience. “He [Jesus] was obedient to them” (Lk 2:51). Mary and Joseph had house rules based upon the values of their Jewish faith, and they insisted on them with their young son Jesus, even after he made his adult faith commitment. He may have been older, but he was not free to do whatever he pleased. His parents insisted that he do the right thing, and Jesus complied. Similarly, Christian parents must have house rules for their children based upon Jesus and the gospel, and they apply not only to their children when they are small, but also when they are teenagers, or even older if they decide to stay at home.

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The glory of the Lord shone on Christmas night

December 18, 2018

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Christmas night, Christmas star

When Jesus was born, the glory of the Lord shone around them (Lk 2:9). The glory was more impressive than the Northern Lights, a full moon on a clear night, or an exploding star. There was a grand and glorious light, resplendent in beauty, emanating from the heavens, flooding the sky, bursting to the outer limits, converging over Bethlehem, funneled into a luminescent beam, and shining over the place where the newborn Jesus was lying in the manger.

It was the holiest of nights. God is light, and God’s light is glorious. Radiant in the heavens, it was a spectacular sight to behold on earth. The glory of the Lord was majestic in beauty, captivating, breathtaking, overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and heartwarming.

When Jesus was born, God dawned from on high (see Lk 1:78). The glory of the Lord confirmed the presence of God, that Jesus, the light of the human race (Jn 1:4), had appeared on the earth, that he is the light shining in the darkness (Jn 1:5), that the true light had come into the world (Jn 1:9), that the Word had become flesh and was dwelling among us (Jn 1:14a), and with his presence on earth, the glory of God was shining for all to see.

The glory of the Lord is mentioned in the Old Testament, and it indicates the presence of God. God’s glory is conveyed in many ways: clouds, fire, smoke, lightening, thunder, earthquakes, trumpet blasts, miracles, a whispering sound, and light. When one or more of these are present together, it is a theophany, a mystical revelation of the presence of God.

The glory of the Lord was evident when God fed the Israelites in the desert with manna (Ex 16:7), when the Lord appeared to the Israelites in a cloud when Aaron spoke to them (Ex 16:10), when a cloud enshrouded Mount Sinai at the time that Moses received the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments (Ex 24:15,16,17); and when a cloud covered the meeting tent to signify God’s presence (Ex 40:34,35; Lv 9:23; Nm 9:15-22).

The prophet Isaiah foretold that the glory of the Lord would be made manifest when the long-awaited Messiah would appear. In his second Immanuel prophecy, he wrote that, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Is 9:1). At the coming of the Messiah, “The glory of the Lord will be revealed” (Is 40:5), and it will be a time of salvation and liberation for God’s people. Isaiah further described the arrival of the Messiah: “Arise! Shine, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you. Though darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds, the peoples, upon you the Lord will dawn, and over you his glory will be seen. Nations shall walk by your light, kings by the radiance of your dawning” (Is 60:1-3).

When Jesus was born, there was a magnificent array of lights in the night sky. It was the glory of the Lord, the greatest theophany ever. God was present that night. The child Jesus born of Mary in Bethlehem is the Son of God (Lk 1:35).

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Gaudete Sunday

December 14, 2018

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Gaudete Sunday

A Joyful Sunday. The Third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday. The word “gaudete” is derived from the Latin words “gaudium,” joy, and “gaudeo,” to rejoice or be glad. Gaudete Sunday occurs eight to thirteen days before Christmas, and the nearness of the feast is reason for great joy.

The Term “Gaudete.” Gaudete is taken from the Entrance Antiphon: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near” (paraphrase, Phil 4:4-5). Advent is a time of joyful expectation and eager preparation for the Solemnity of Christmas.

Multiple Reasons for Joy. There is joy in looking forward to the annual celebration of Christmas, but there is also joy in looking back to remember the birth of Jesus on the first Christmas. The joy is heightened by the importance of his birth that he was born to save people from their sins (Mt 1:21b). The joy also extends to anticipation of the Second Coming, either at the end of physical life or the end of the world, the time when believers will be given the crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8) and a place in the Father’s house (Jn 14:2) to dwell with God and his angels and saints for all eternity.

A Joyful Color. Rose represents joy and may be used as the liturgical color for Gaudete Sunday. Violet remains the official color for the Season of Advent, the Third Sunday included, because all of Advent has a penitential tone, a time to be absolved of sin and be in the state of grace for Christmas. Gaudete Sunday offers a brief respite to focus on the uplifting, upcoming joyful celebration of the Nativity.

Joyful Adornments. The priest may wear a rose chasuble and the deacon may wear a rose dalmatic. Church decorations may include roses or other flowers, a rose-colored altar cloth, drapery on the pulpit or ambo, chalice veil, tabernacle curtain, or wall hangings. The third candle of the Advent wreath is rose.

Joyful Prayers. The prayers in The Roman Missal on the Third Sunday of Advent convey a joyful message. The immediacy of Christmas is addressed in the Collect, “O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,” followed by two explicit references to joy: “enable us … to attain the joys of so great a salvation” and “to celebrate them [with] … glad rejoicing.” Preface II of Advent says “we rejoice at the mystery of his Nativity” and that we are “exultant in his praise.” The Communion Antiphon contains the joyful message, “Behold, our God will come, and he will save us” (cf. Is 35:4). Two invocations in the Solemn Blessing for Advent refer to joy: the second, “may he make you … joyful in hope,” and the third, “So that, rejoicing now with devotion at the Redeemer’s coming.”

Joyful Readings. The scripture texts for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year C, are filled with references to joy. The first reading exhorts, “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult” (Zep 3:14), and continues, “The Lord … will rejoice over you with gladness … he will sing joyfully” (Zep 3:17b). The refrain for the Responsorial Psalm begins, “Cry out with joy and gladness” and the first stanza adds, “With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation” (Is 12:3). The second reading repeats the Entrance Antiphon, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). In the gospel, John the Baptist makes the joyful announcement: “One mightier than I is coming” (Lk 3:16).

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St. Barbara — Virgin, Martyr

November 30, 2018

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St. Barbara

St. Barbara is one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages, particularly in Europe. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and is invoked against lightning, fever, and sudden death.

According to the story, which may be a legend, Barbara was born in Nicomedia, Turkey, in the Third Century AD. Her father was Dioscorus of Heliopolis, a pagan. Barbara was so beautiful that he hid her in a tower to protect her. A Christian disguised as a doctor went to the tower, and after he told her about Jesus and the gospel, and after considerable time in solitude to reflect, she converted to Christianity. Meanwhile, one eligible bachelor after another approached Dioscorus to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Her father approached her to suggest marriage, but she flatly refused, explaining that she had reserved herself completely for Jesus, and her father, infuriated, left her confined in the tower.

Her father then departed for a while on business, and during his absence a new bathhouse was under construction near the tower, and two windows were to be installed. Barbara commanded the builders to add a third in honor of the Most Holy Trinity. When her father returned and discovered what she had done, he became enraged, and attempted to kill his own daughter, but she escaped. The account of her breakaway varies, either that she leapt out of the window and landed safely or that a hole miraculously appeared in the wall. She fled to a mountain and hid in a cave, but an evil shepherd betrayed her whereabouts to her father, and the shepherd subsequently turned to stone and his sheep turned into locusts.

Dioscorus, her father, dragged his daughter by the hair before a judge, who had her tortured, but her wounds healed instantly. Her father then took her up a mountain and beheaded his own daughter with a sword. Reports on the date and location vary, somewhere between 303 of 306 AD, and either in Rome, Antioch, Heliopolis, or Nicomedia. Shortly thereafter there was thunder in the sky, fire came down from heaven, and her father was struck dead by lightning, and he was reduced to a pile of ashes.

The symbols of St. Barbara are a tower, often with three windows, where she was held captive; a chalice, because she drank from the cup of suffering (see Mt 20:22,23; 26:39; Mk 10:38,39; 14:36; Lk 22:42); a sword, which was the instrument of her martyrdom; a crown, because she was crowned with martyrdom (see Acts 7:60); and a palm, the symbol of the martyrs (Rv 7:9).

St. Barbara is the patron saint of stonemasons, architects, and builders, because she was held captive in a stone tower; of those afraid of being struck by lightning or fearful of sudden death, because her father died suddenly due to a lightning strike; firefighters, because many fires are started by lightning; gunners, artillerymen, gunpowder makers, fireworks personnel, and miners, anyone associated with explosives, because of the fire that rained down from heaven; and mathematicians and those suffering with a fever.

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The Kingdoms of Jesus and Pilate

November 21, 2018

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The Gospel for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year B, is a conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate, the Procurator or Governor of Judea (Jn 18:33-37). The juxtaposition of the two of them, both rulers, presents a striking contrast between two drastically different styles and approaches to kingship.

Christ the KingPilate was well-born in Italy. Jesus was humbly-born in a stable in Bethlehem.

Pilate began his career as a soldier. Jesus began his career as a carpenter.

Pilate lusted for power and climbed to his high position by stepping on other people to get ahead. Jesus had a position of power in heaven, relinquished it for a time, lowered himself, came in human likeness, and took the form of a slave (see Phil 2:6-7).

Pilate was named procurator by the Emperor Tiberius in Rome. Jesus was named King by his Father, God in heaven (see Acts 2:33; Phil 2:9-10).

Pilate was a militant civil leader. Jesus was a peace-loving spiritual leader.

Pilate maintained his power with intimidation, threat, and force. Jesus gained influence with mighty deeds, sound teaching, personal relationships, and gentle invitation.

Pilate wanted to stay in power. Jesus empowered others.

Pilate wanted the best for himself. Jesus wanted the best for all people.

Pilate commissioned ruthless Roman soldiers to carry out his orders. Jesus commissioned his apostles and ordinary people to carry the gospel.

Pilate had authority over a geographic territory that encompassed Judea, Samaria, and the Negev Desert. Jesus has authority over the entire earth, the universe, and heaven.

Pilate was governor from 26 to 36 AD. Jesus is king for all eternity.

Pilate was arrogant. Jesus was humble.

Pilate did as he pleased. Jesus obeyed his Father in heaven (Jn 6:38; 14:31).

Pilate lived in elegance in his palaces in Caesarea and Jerusalem. Jesus lived simply.

Pilate was cruel. Jesus was compassionate.

Pilate was dishonest and corrupt. Jesus is truth (Jn 14:6) and testified to the truth (Jn 18:37).

Pilate inflicted untold suffering on others. Jesus endured untold suffering on behalf of others.

Pilate surrounded himself with soldiers. Jesus surrounded himself with his disciples and common folk.

Pilate tried to win the favor of the crowds when he handed Jesus over to be scourged and crucified. Jesus desired to win the favor of his Father alone.

Pilate sat in judgment over Jesus, and he abused his authority; Jesus will come in glory to judge the world (Mt 25:31-32), the Father has given all authority to the Son (Jn 5:22,27), and his judgment is just (Jn 5:30).

Pilate’s kingdom belonged to this world. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36).

Pilate’s throne was on earth. Jesus’ throne is in heaven (see Jn 16:28; Heb 1:3b).

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The Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ

November 21, 2018

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When Jesus was interrogated by Pilate, he testified, “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18:36a). Jesus is a king, but not like the kings of earth. Earthly kings are powerful rulers, hold supreme authority, reign over the land and the people, issue edicts, impose their will, bask in luxury, have many servants, maintain an army with well-trained troops, and go to battle to protect themselves and their kingdom. Jesus is nothing like worldly kings.

Christ the KingJesus went on to say, “If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting” (Jn 18:36b). The attendants are body guards and soldiers, and they are fighters. They use brute force to deter threats and repel attacks. Jesus did not have soldiers to fight for him. Jesus made it clear to Pilate, “My kingdom is not here” (Jn 18:36c). If Jesus’ kingdom is not here, where is it and what is it like?

The kingdom of Jesus is a spiritual kingdom, not a worldly one. The Preface for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, found in the Roman Missal, pages 360-361, lists the distinctive features of the kingdom of Jesus. It is eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth, life, holiness, grace, justice, love, and peace.

Eternal. Worldly kings reign for a time, from when the king’s father dies until his own death, or from the moment of conquest until he is conquered. The reign may be as short as a few months or last as long as forty or fifty years, but this is nothing when compared with eternity. Jesus reigned as King from the Cross, and his kingship was confirmed when he was enthroned by his Father in heaven, and his kingdom is everlasting, timeless; it goes on and on and will never end.

Universal. Worldly kings reign over a geographic territory. It may be as small as a city state or as vast as an empire, but this is nothing when compared with the universe. Jesus is king, not over a region of the world, but over the entire world, and not only over the world, but over the entire universe, the sun and the moon, the planets and the stars, the totality of all in existence, as well as heaven and all that dwell therein.

Truth. Worldly kings are notorious for their disregard for the truth. They ignore and distort the truth, practice deception, and tell lies, all to accomplish their evil objectives, to get their way, eliminate opposition, and oppress others. Jesus said, “I am … the truth” (Jn 14:6), and he told Pilate, “I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (Jn 18:37). Jesus declared earlier, “The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). A kingdom of truth is honest, fair, ethical, unbiased, impartial, correct, and reliable, and it liberates people from sin and evil, domination and oppression.

Life. Worldly kings are also notorious for their callous lack of regard for human life. Many were quick to go to war, fully aware that many of their own soldiers would be injured or die, and pleased to have their troops slaughter the enemy, and then to sweep across the countryside and massacre defenseless villagers, and for those who were allowed to survive, to force them into cruel slavery. Worldly kings also took the front seats in amphitheaters and watched with glee as prisoners were devoured by wild animals and gladiators maimed and killed each other. Today worldly kings allow abortion and euthanasia, develop weapons of mass destruction, practice terrorism, ignore the starving, and restrict freedoms. They are all sins against life. Jesus said, “I am … the life” (Jn 14:6). Jesus is the source of all life: “all things were created through him” (Col 1:16). In his kingdom, every being is of supreme value – precious, respected, and to be protected from womb to tomb, from conception until natural death. And then, after physical death, Jesus, the Savior and Redeemer, out of his grace and mercy, grants eternal life in heaven.

Holiness. Worldly kings are like the people of the world, sinful: prideful, greedy, jealous, angry, lustful, gluttonous, and lazy. Jesus, and all those who belong to his kingdom, are holy and practice the virtues: humility, generosity, graciousness, purity, self-control, and industriousness. Worldliness is to be like everyone else, while holiness is to be set apart, different, “in the world but not of the world.” There is no place in the kingdom of Jesus for evil, wickedness, immorality, idolatry, or licentiousness.

Grace. Worldly kings are self-centered and self-serving. They dole out special favors to those who can help them, while those who are useless to them go without. In the kingdom of Jesus, God doles out divine favors to everyone. God graciously grants abundant spiritual blessings: the desire to live a good life, the guidance to walk in right paths, the resolve to do good works, and the energy to carry it out. God provides help in every situation, is present in every moment, and is a companion for every step of the journey.

Justice. Worldly kingdoms are riddled with corruption. Worldly kings take advantage of their positions and give special privileges to their friends and allies. They take more than their fair share. They lie to get their way. They slant things in their favor. Adversaries, outsiders, and common folk are oppressed, abused, neglected, and exploited. Jesus, on the other hand, is just, blameless, innocent of all wrongdoing, and righteous, law abiding. As judge, Jesus sees all, and his judgments are honest and true, yet his justice is tempered with mercy. His kingdom is riddled with compassion. All are treated equitably. The common good is upheld. The poor and powerless are protected and receive special care.

Love. Worldly kings are impulsive, mean, jealous, pompous, arrogant, rude, narcissistic, temperamental, resentful, and vengeful. The kingdom of Jesus is characterized by patience, kindness, courtesy, respect, modesty, humility, politeness, selflessness, levelheadedness, willpower, self-restraint, forgiveness, mercy, and truthfulness.

Peace. Worldly kings are stubborn and unyielding, controlling and manipulative, quarrelsome and argumentative. They cause rivalry and dissension. They threaten and intimidate, and use force and violence. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and his kingdom is forever peaceful. It is a kingdom of flexibility, empowerment, reverence and respect, mutuality and cooperation, harmonious relationships, amiable communication, openness and honesty, common concern, and equitable sharing, where the lion lies down with the lamb, where swords are beaten into plowshares, where war is unthinkable, and all live together, safe and secure, with goodwill toward everyone. Beyond this world, the heavenly kingdom is eternal rest and peace.

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