Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today’s Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, is enriched by our reception into the College of Cardinals of six new members whom, following tradition, I have invited to celebrate the Eucharist with me this morning. I greet each of them most cordially and I thank Cardinal James Michael Harvey for the gracious words which he addressed to me in the name of all. I greet the other Cardinals and Bishops present, as well as the distinguished civil Authorities, Ambassadors, priests, religious and all the faithful, especially those coming from the Dioceses entrusted to the pastoral care of the new Cardinals.
In this final Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church invites us to celebrate the Lord Jesus as King of the Universe. She calls us to look to the future, or more properly into the depths, to the ultimate goal of history, which will be the definitive and eternal kingdom of Christ. He was with the Father in the beginning, when the world was created, and he will fully manifest his lordship at the end of time, when he will judge all mankind. Today’s three readings speak to us of this kingdom. In the Gospel passage which we have just heard, drawn from the account of Saint John, Jesus appears in humiliating circumstances – he stands accused – before the might of Rome. He had been arrested, insulted, mocked, and now his enemies hope to obtain his condemnation to death by crucifixion. They had presented him to Pilate as one who sought political power, as the self-proclaimed King of the Jews. The Roman procurator conducts his enquiry and asks Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Jn 18:33). In reply to this question, Jesus clarifies the nature of his kingship and his messiahship itself, which is no worldly power but a love which serves. He states that his kingdom is in no way to be confused with a political reign: “My kingship is not of this world … is not from the world” (v. 36).
Jesus clearly had no political ambitions. After the multiplication of the loaves, the people, enthralled by the miracle, wanted to take him away and make him their king, in order to overthrow the power of Rome and thus establish a new political kingdom which would be considered the long-awaited kingdom of God. But Jesus knows that God’s kingdom is of a completely different kind; it is not built on arms and violence. The multiplication of the loaves itself becomes both the sign that he is the Messiah and a watershed in his activity: henceforth the path to the Cross becomes ever clearer; there, in the supreme act of love, the promised kingdom, the kingdom of God, will shine forth. But the crowd does not understand this; they are disappointed and Jesus retires to the mountain to pray in solitude (cf. Jn 6:1-15). In the Passion narrative we see how even the disciples, though they had shared Jesus’ life and listened to his words, were still thinking of a political kingdom, brought about also by force. In Gethsemane, Peter had unsheathed his sword and began to fight, but Jesus stopped him (cf. Jn 18:10-11). He does not wish to be defended by arms, but to accomplish the Father’s will to the end, and to establish his kingdom not by armed conflict, but by the apparent weakness of life-giving love. The kingdom of God is a kingdom utterly different from earthly kingdoms.
That is why, faced with a defenseless, weak and humiliated man, as Jesus was, a man of power like Pilate is taken aback; taken aback because he hears of a kingdom and servants. So he asks an apparently odd question: “So you are a king?” What sort of king can such a man as this be? But Jesus answers in the affirmative: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (18:37). Jesus speaks of kings and kingship, yet he is not referring to power but to truth. Pilate fails to understand: can there be a power not obtained by human means? A power which does not respond to the logic of domination and force? Jesus came to reveal and bring a new kingship, that of God; he came to bear witness to the truth of a God who is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8,16), who wants to establish a kingdom of justice, love and peace (cf. Preface). Whoever is open to love hears this testimony and accepts it with faith, to enter the kingdom of God.
We find this same perspective in the first reading we heard. The prophet Daniel foretells the power of a mysterious personage set between heaven and earth: “Behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (7:13-14). These words present a king who reigns from sea to sea, to the very ends of the earth, possessed of an absolute power which will never be destroyed. This vision of the prophet, a messianic vision, is made clear and brought to fulfillment in Christ: the power of the true Messiah, the power which will never pass away or be destroyed, is not the power of the kingdoms of the earth which rise and fall, but the power of truth and love. In this way we understand how the kingship proclaimed by Jesus in the parables and openly and explicitly revealed before the Roman procurator, is the kingship of truth, the one which gives all things their light and grandeur.
In the second reading, the author of the Book of Revelation states that we too share in Christ’s kingship. In the acclamation addressed “to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood”, he declares that Christ “has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (1:5-6). Here too it is clear that we are speaking of a kingdom based on a relationship with God, with truth, and not a political kingdom. By his sacrifice, Jesus has opened for us the path to a profound relationship with God: in him we have become true adopted children and thus sharers in his kingship over the world. To be disciples of Jesus, then, means not letting ourselves be allured by the worldly logic of power, but bringing into the world the light of truth and God’s love. The author of the Book of Revelation broadens his gaze to include Jesus’ second coming to judge mankind and to establish forever his divine kingdom, and he reminds us that conversion, as a response to God’s grace, is the condition for the establishment of this kingdom (cf. 1:7). It is a pressing invitation addressed to each and all: to be converted ever anew to the kingdom of God, to the lordship of God, of Truth, in our lives. We invoke the kingdom daily in the prayer of the “Our Father” with the words “Thy kingdom come”; in effect we say to Jesus: Lord, make us yours, live in us, gather together a scattered and suffering humanity, so that in you all may be subjected to the Father of mercy and love.
To you, dear and venerable Brother Cardinals – I think in particular of those created yesterday – is is entrusted this demanding responsibility: to bear witness to the kingdom of God, to the truth. This means working to bring out ever more clearly the priority of God and his will over the interests of the world and its powers. Become imitators of Jesus, who, before Pilate, in the humiliating scene described by the Gospel, manifested his glory: that of loving to the utmost, giving his own life for those whom he loves. This is the revelation of the kingdom of Jesus. And for this reason, with one heart and one soul, let us pray: Adveniat regnum tuum – Thy kingdom come. Amen.
Wisdom and love from the lips of His Holiness, as always. Hearkening back to a minor point I made on an earlier thread suggesting it’s more accurate to call Pilate “prefect” than “procurator”, I see Pope Benedict, twice in his homily, referred to him as the “Roman procurator”. I guess that’s settled, then.
Still à propos Pontius Pilate: for those who’ve not got ’round to it yet, I recommend Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, widely considered one of the great novels of the 20th C. It contains several imaginative chapters about the interaction between Pilate and “Yeshua Ha-Nozri”, which is how the author refers to Jesus, presumably the Aramaic form?
Ah! johnhe, the canon of literature is a vexacious issue. 🙂
…I believe Ulysses by james joyce is considered the best novel…how one measures these things can become a vexatious affair is indeed true …i like how ezra pound stated it…what thou lovest well remains and the rest is dross…
Yes John Henry, Bulgakov is one of the greatest writers of the 20th. century. His “The Master and Margarita” is definitively a masterpiece. There is also a Russian TV production which is highly recommendable.
Btw. his father was a professor of Orthodox theology in a seminary.
Toad , thanks to JH, is loading Bulgakov’s TMAM on his Kindle, ahora mismo, for a mere seven bucks. He has meant to read it for some while.
If it’s anywhere up to “The First Circle,” “Anna Karenina,” and “Resurrection,” it will be dirt cheap at the price of a gin and tonic.
(Very good biog entry regarding Bulg on Wiki, he thought)
The Russians are often good at big books. Long dark winter nights, possibly?
“Ulysses” might well be considered the most ground-breaking and original novel of the last century, John K. Generally is, in fact.
Not an easy read, though, as you no doubt know.
To you, dear and venerable Brother Cardinals – I think in particular of those created yesterday
I know what he means…. but somehow that’s still funny.
I picked up a copy of Ulysses once, words all over the place, and in no particular order! Loved it.
Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” is a biting parody of the Stalinist era during the 30s and was not allowed to be published until 1980s, though it was circulated secretly among Soviet readers in form of copies. It has a cult status in Russia.
Though Bulgakov wrote such a dangerous book he was not sent to Gulag by Stalin because the latter appreciated him.
The canon continues to produce endless and fruitful debate. Blows have been struck in seminars on the topic of who’s in or out and who’s the ‘best’. A lecturer was sacked at Cambridge for questioning the English version of the canon.
Salman Rushdie admired this writer immensely, and ‘The Master’ was an inspiration for the ‘Satanic Verses’.
Interesting to see Jesuit educated Joyce get several mentions here, despite his views on the Catholic Church.
Astonishing that Bulgakov escaped murder by Stalin – unbelievable given the millions who were killed, including his daughter’s fiancée. Stalin didn’t kill Shostakovitch either, but did cause the death of Osip Mandelstam.
Joyce is big fun. Nobody without some knowledge of Catholicism will understand his Ulysses, which is full of allusions. For example, the very beginning of Ulysses is an allusion to Mass.
The discussion on what belongs to canon is quite silly though according to my opinion.
T is absolutely right that Catholicism is needed to understand Ulysses, among many other sources of reference of course. Perhaps T has missed the point that the “allusion to the Mass” is heavily ironic, to put it at its mildest.
And a Catholic awareness is needed even more for ‘Portrait of the Artist etc”. In fact, no matter how much knowledge one has *of* Catholicism here, I’d say one would still miss something without *being* a Catholic. Mind you, a Catholic born after say Vat II might miss much, because of changes.
Joyce as you say is “big fun” … especially in language and in ‘Portrait’ he explores this, rejecting language, nation and church. He wrote of Ireland as ‘the sow that eats her farrow’, because of the people and institutions who turned their backs on Parnell. It’s possible to find out more on this… if you wish.
You don’t say why you find the discussion of canon content to be “silly”, so that opinion must rest ….
I know it was a parody of the mass but why should I write this on this site, after all, I don’t want to promote anti-catholic sentiment. Some people who are already hostile to the Church are silly enough to mistake literature for ideological propaganda so they might misuse James Joyce to bash the Church and Christians. And I don’t wish to provoke this kind of reaction.
I am here not because I have issues with the Church and always wish to find some fault with her, like some do much too often. I am here because I love the Church and I enjoy James Joyce because of his vast learning and wit, and not because of his negative depiction of Irish Catholicism.
I find discussion on canon silly because I choose my literature according to my own interest and I don’t need a canon to guide me and I don’t want to waste time on a blog to discuss this question.
It is better to say what you really think about this issue with Joyce, rather than let some people think it was a benign piece of writing. It is not anti Catholic for you to do that. You actually think it is a parody , so dont be afraid to say so. We both agree it was ironic/satiric so I can’t see why you are upset at this.
The “silly” comment about the canon still awaits an answer.
Literature can be ‘ideological propaganda’ and it’s no good some people sticking their heads in the sand.
Question: how did ‘some people’ use Joyce to bash the Church?
Joyce did that, not ‘some people’ is my answer; what’s yours?
If you want to criticise ‘some people’ for sticking to history and facts then it’s not good. Some people really shouldn’t shoot the messenger.
I think it is silly to deny what you actually think yourself, and to blame others for saying what you think. It is silly to make allegations which are simply allegations.
How patronizing. People can read James Joyce themselves and don’t want nor need my interpretation, after all great literature is there for people to read and not there for us to show off how learned we are. Literature is written for people to enjoy it, so my opinion doesn’t count anything but neither do I wish to have you patronizing over what I should write and think.
Now enough comment from me for today. This thread is becoming bickering and disagreeable and further discussion will only be a very unpleasant waste of time.
I agree with your last sentence Teresa; I’m sorry you won’t address the issues YOU raised. It’s easy to throw out allegations, but not so easy to back them up. Whatever my faults, I don’t behave in the way you do.
Patronising? We were discussing Joyce. Comments were offered, as they are every day here. Mine were polite, uncontroversial and factual. Yours?
Now you say that to speak is to show off and to be patronising . What a worry this is. The whole world knows about the opening of Ulysses, and that includes you, but you want ‘some people’ to shut up and deny it. I won’t deny it. Once more Teresa, you dig a hole for yourself and keep on digging; this is why you become incoherent.
I don’t mind disagreement, but you are disagreeable.
It seems we might be morphing into a new topic here: That of, “Should we allow the beliefs, and/or opinions of an artist colour our view of their works?”
Should a Catholic shun Joyce, Picasso, Francis Bacon, Prokofiev, or Sartre? (Or Marx, come to that) Should Muslims refuse to read Rushdie? Should Jews block their ears to Wagner?
Should Atheists despise Evelyn Waugh as a writer and a human being? Or only as a human being? Or neither? Or either?
Some people say yes to the original question, as we all constantly hear, or read.
Teresa apparently doesn’t, and neither do I.
Bit of a biggish topic, though. There is an “agenda problem” I think: Reading Joyce is one thing. Reading Marx is another. Or is it?
Toad will dogwalk and brood.
“Should we allow the beliefs, and/or opinions of an artist colour our view of their works?”
That’s a very interesting question Toad, and I’ve been musing over it.
On the whole I agree with Teresa and you that one shouldn’t, if they are (like Joyce) obviously talented writers. However, one can have too much even of a genius, if his mindset is very different to yours. A well formed character is also necessary beforehand, if you wish to avoid being influenced by authors/artists with such very contrary views and ideas.