The hidden king

Poet and lecturer Malcolm Guite writes: We come now to a feast of Ends and Beginnings! This Sunday is the last Sunday in the cycle of the Christian year, and next Sunday we begin our journey through time to eternity once more, with the first Sunday of Advent. We might expect the Feast of Christ the King to end the year with climactic images of Christ enthroned in Glory, seated high above all rule and authority, one before whom every knee shall bow, and of course those are powerful and important images, images of our humanity brought by him to the throne of the Heavens.

But for this Sunday the Church’s lectionary does an unexpected, but very wise thing. It sets as a reading the passage in Matthew in which Christ reveals that even as He is enthroned in Glory, the King who comes to judge at the end of the ages, he is also the hidden King, hidden beneath the rags and even in the flesh of his poor here on earth.

Our King is calling from the hungry furrows
 Whilst we are cruising through the aisles of plenty, Our hoardings screen us from the man of sorrows, Our soundtracks drown his murmur: ‘I am thirsty’. He stands in line to sign in as a stranger
 And seek a welcome from the world he made,
 We see him only as a threat, a danger,
 He asks for clothes, we strip-search him instead. And if he should fall sick then we take care
 That he does not infect our private health,
 We lock him in the prisons of our fear
 Lest he unlock the prison of our wealth.
 But still on Sunday we shall stand and sing
 The praises of our hidden Lord and King.

From “Sounding the Seasons” Canterbury Press

Pope Francis’ day of the poor

This Sunday has been designated by Pope Francis as the First World Day of the Poor. His distinct concern for the poor and marginalised has attracted the attention of people far beyond the Catholic Church. He has asked all Christians to refresh our understanding of the nature of poverty and our responsibilities. It is too easy to regard the poor as being far away and in need of material support alone.

While individual acts of generosity and service are always meaningful as expressions of Christian charity, each person is called to exercise a deeper and more personal commitment to the relief of poverty in all forms. Pope Francis identifies all who have become marginalised in society as suffering from poverty – the homeless, the addict, the refugee. Poverty can be found in lack of opportunity or in isolation and unjust discrimination. The elderly and infirm may be numbered among the poor when they are particularly in need of our care and compassion.

Pope Francis writes: “We are called to draw near to the poor, to encounter them, to meet their gaze, to embrace them and to let them feel the warmth of love that breaks through their solitude. Their outstretched hand is also an invitation to step out of our certainties and comforts, and to acknowledge the value of poverty itself.”
The poor are not merely recipients of generosity or a problem to be solved, but a route towards our own salvation. This will often demand a new relationship with the poor, a re-assessment of our capacity to respond to the challenges facing us all, not least in challenging the structures of injustice which so often dispossess people of rights and responsibilities. Our Archdiocese has a proud record of work with the poor through bodies such as the Society of St Vincent de Paul, and so many others who reach out to their neighbour. Representatives from each deanery will meet at The Cornerstone this afternoon to explore what action might be initiated throughout the Diocese as a result of this special day. Hopefully, together, we may create the “Civilisation of Love” spoken of by Pope Paul VI in our homes, our parishes, our schools and our Diocese.

(Edited from today’s Pastoral Letter of Archbishop George Stack)

Remembrance Sunday

Extracts from an Order of Service for Remembrance Sunday composed by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland:

We commit ourselves to work in penitence and faith for reconciliation between the nations, that all people may, together, live in freedom, justice and peace.
We pray for all who in bereavement, disability and pain continue to suffer the consequences of fighting and terror.

We remember with thanksgiving and sorrow those whose lives,
in world wars and conflicts past and present, have been given and taken away.

O God of truth and justice, we hold before you
those whose memory we cherish,
and those whose names we will never know.
Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world, and grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm. As we honour the past, may we put our faith in your future;

for you are the source of life and hope, now and for ever.

Let us commit ourselves to responsible living and faithful service.
Merciful God, we offer to you the fears in us that have not yet been cast out by love: May we accept the hope you have placed in the hearts of all people,
And live lives of justice, courage and mercy;

When you go home tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow we gave our today.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them