We celebrated the feast of Christ the King last Sunday. It’s hard to think of Christ as King in a world where kings are few. Most governments are governed by ordinary people, not kings. Royal families, where they exist, have mainly ceremonial roles.
Yet, Jesus Christ is king, and what’s more we share in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet and king. (Catholic Catechism 1546) We’re all priests, prophets and kings by our baptism. “We’re a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people set apart,” (1 Peter 2,5)
How are we kings? Adam, our first parent, may suggest what kind of king we should be. There he is in the illustration from the Book of Genesis above, given kingly powers by God. In the garden, the symbol of the created world, he names the animals and is given care over God’s creation.
Psalms, like Psalm 8 (Saturday Morning, week 2), remind us that’s our role. When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, The moon and the stars that you arranged, What are we that you keep us in mind,, Mortal as we are that you care for us.
Yet you have made us little less than gods, With glory and honor you crown us, You have give us power over the works of your hand, Put all things under our feet.”
Today’s lectionary readings from Daniel and Luke’s Gospel (Friday) can give the impression that the created world is going to be torn apart and discarded when God’s kingdom comes. But that’s not so. Creation itself awaits the promise of resurrection.
We have been given kingly care over creation. Let’s not forget it. We’re not here to save ourselves. The purpose of our life is not to escape from this world. We’re to care for creation and to make it ready for God’s kingdom.
He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Christ is the “firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29) who, by taking flesh, makes the children of God co-heirs of the kingdom. As Jesus’ entire person and mission are oriented toward the Father, learning to pray “Our Father” and “Abba!” are essential steps toward discovering our identity as children of God.
As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Jesus took delight in Mary’s childlike simplicity, listening with loving attention and heedful of the “one thing necessary.” The world needs movers and shakers, but also contemplatives who pull the universe into the divine orbit by the active force of silence and stillness in union with God. Martha and Mary need one another, as the ear needs the eye in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:14-26).
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” In the house the disciples again questioned him about this. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.
The Lord God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. So the Lord God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name. The man gave names to all the tame animals, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be a helper suited to the man.
So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The Lord God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, the man said:
“This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.
The protological account of the first marriage in Genesis to which Jesus refers is a model and standard by which to measure the law of Moses and accommodations for divorce up to the present day. It acknowledges an ideal placed in the human heart, even if fallen human beings fail to achieve it. Jesus, the Bridegroom of the Church, came to heal fractured humanity and will always remain one with her.
God’s creation is always fruitful and life-giving, from plant and animal life, to married and consecrated life.
At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
Matthew 18:1-5, 10
Prayer to My Guardian Angel
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.’ Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
Foreigners often proved more receptive to Jesus than the children of Israel, such as the Roman centurion, the Canaanite (Syrophoenician) woman, and the Samaritan woman at the well.1 In a conversation with the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus used the extreme examples of the “men of Nineveh” (Assyrians) and the “Queen of the south” (Sheba) surpassing the Israelites in faith and repentance.2 In this passage, the privileged heirs of the promise are weighed against the “unclean” cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom.3 The comparison is shocking.
1 Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10; John 4:49-54; Mark 7:24-30; Matthew 15:21-28; John 4:4-42.
After this the Lord appointed seventy[-two] others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.
Seventy or seventy-two? The New American Bible (Revised Edition) brackets off the [-two] in its text with this explanation:
Seventy[-two]: important representatives of the Alexandrian and Caesarean text types read “seventy,” while other important Alexandrian texts and Western readings have “seventy-two.”
Both readings come from authoritative manuscripts. Commentators find significance in the number seventy for three reasons:
1. The spirit of prophecy was given to seventy elders to assist Moses in his work.
Then the Lord said to Moses: Assemble for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be elders and authorities among the people, and bring them to the tent of meeting. When they are in place beside you, I will come down and speak with you there. I will also take some of the spirit that is on you and will confer it on them, that they may share the burden of the people with you. You will then not have to bear it by yourself.
2. The number seventy evokes the Sanhedrin, consisting of seventy or seventy-one elders or councilors, the highest authoritative assembly in Jerusalem. Historians distinguish between a political and a religious Sanhedrin, but the tradition of a supreme magistrate of seventy originated in the Mosaic period.
3. Seventy had mystical significance as representing the number of the nations (Genesis 10; 46:27; Exodus 1:5; see the NABRE footnote to Genesis 10:1).
Seventy and seventy-two may have equal authoritative weight in the manuscripts for another reason: the rabbinic tradition debated whether Eldad and Medad were among the seventy elders called by Moses, or two additional men upon whom the spirit of prophecy fell.
So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. Gathering seventy elders of the people, he had them stand around the tent. The Lord then came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied but did not continue.
Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, had remained in the camp, yet the spirit came to rest on them also. They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent; and so they prophesied in the camp. So, when a young man ran and reported to Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,” Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’ aide, said, “My lord, Moses, stop them.” But Moses answered him, “Are you jealous for my sake? If only all the people of the Lord were prophets! If only the Lord would bestow his spirit on them!”
According to the 13th century French rabbi and Bible commentator, Hizkuni/Chizkuni (Hezekiah ben Manoah), Eldad and Medad were not part of the original seventy, but received the spirit in the camp for mysterious reasons known only to God. The text leaves room for speculation because verse 24 states that Moses gathered seventy elders around the tent. Yet verse 26 states that Eldad and Medad were “on the list” or “enrolled in the list,” which leaves a logical gap.
Another French rabbi, Rashbam (Samuel ben Meir, 1085-1158), on the contrary, believed that Eldad and Medad were numbered among the seventy, but did not join the others at the tent of meeting out of humility. God’s spirit nevertheless pursued them to fulfill the divine plan.
Dr. Rabbi David Frankel, a contemporary biblical commentator, offers the interesting perspective that Eldad and Medad were holy rebels among the seventy, who nonetheless received the spirit of prophecy despite having disobeyed Moses’ command to go to the tent of meeting. For Dr. Rabbi Frankel, this episode manifests the divine freedom to diffuse its spirit beyond the confines of institutionalized religion. See his essay, Eldad and Medad Prophesied in the Camp.1
Missing data and manuscript variations leave room for scholarly speculation, but symbols draw details and divergences into one holistic vision.
The mission of the seventy[-two] and the mission of the Twelve reinforce each other. Both numbers are symbolic, recalling the seventy elders of Moses and the twelve tribes of Israel— the union and communion of all nations in the Body of Christ.
1 Dr. Rabbi David Frankel’s intuition of a need for personal freedom within religious communities stimulates further reflection in light of the revelation of the Trinity. Pluralism is usually seen as a threat to institutions, but divine diversity in the perichoresis of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always respects the dignity of persons and draws them together in love. For God is Love (1 John 4:8). The simultaneity of personal plurality and oneness within the Body of Christ will always be a labor of love in this earthly pilgrimage. Blessed diversity bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
This tercet was written with the Hebrew pronunciations of the archangels’ names. Each name ends with the Hebrew el, which means “God.”
Mi-ka-el means “Who is like God?” Ga-bri-el means “The Strength of God” or “The Power of God.” Ra-fa-el means “God heals” or “God’s Remedy.”
From a homily on the Gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, pope
You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.
Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”
Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: “I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High.” He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: “A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.”
So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle. Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy.