Advent hymns for the Office including the O Antiphons and the Alma Redemptoris Mater. Please feel free to use these with the Divine Office or on their own as part of your prayer during Advent.
From Bp. Michael Shirk
26 November 2023
Sermon on the Feast of Christ the King
by Mtr. Sandra Hutchinson
Oratory of St. Catherine of Siena
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Recently I was watching the movie Robin Hood. Not one of the recent movies, but the one with Errol Flynn from 1938. There’s a scene in it that I love. Robin Hood and his men in Sherwood Forest are outlaws because they are taking from the rich who pass through the forest and giving to the poor. They have set themselves up in opposition to the sheriff and especially in opposition to Prince John, who has usurped the regency for King Richard the Lionheart. Robin Hood proclaims his allegiance to King Richard to a group of men who seem to be an abbot and his monks traveling through Sherwood Forest. To his shock, the abbot removes his robes, to reveal Crusader armor underneath. Armor with the three lions of England emblazoned across it. Unexpectedly, the “abbot” whom he tried to rob turns out to be King Richard himself.
First Robin, and then every member of the Sherwood band, kneels before their king. The king is delighted by their loyalty and after a few dramatic sword fights, he pardons them all—and allows Robin, now named Baron of Locksley to marry the king’s ward, Lady Marian.
I’m recounting this story because it both parallels and stands in contrast to today’s Gospel. Both stories focus on a king who has been absent from his realm and returns. Both kings focus on restoring justice in their kingdom, and both pronounce judgment on those who have done well and those who have done evil.
But there is a difference. King Richard is focused on those who were loyal to him—and those who would betray him. In the Gospel account, the judgment goes along much different lines. There the division is between the sheep and the goats. The sheep are those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed those who were without clothes, cared for the sick, and visited those who were in prison. The goats—well, they didn’t do any of those things. In the Gospel, the king, Jesus, declared that what he wants is for each of us to see Him in our brothers and sisters who are in need, in those who are the “least of these.”
If we are true followers of Jesus, and acknowledge him as king, we need to do more than just swear loyalty to him with our lips—we need to show that loyalty in our actions.
If we see him in our brothers and sisters, and we act accordingly, then we see Jesus and Jesus will acknowledge us in the final judgment. If we don’t, well…
I have a favorite story about this passage and some of you might have heard me tell it. I was teaching Sunday School with a class of elementary students. I was pretty cautious about emotionally scarring them, so I was reluctant to get into the judgment aspects of it. Instead, when we acted it out –I liked having the kids take parts and play the roles in the day’s lesson—I had them stop after the division between the sheep and the goats—stressing instead what Jesus wanted us to do.
That didn’t sit well with one of the students, a forthright young lady of 6. She turned to me and said, “Are the goats bad?” I reluctantly answered yes.
She announced, “Then they should be punished.” Before I could say a word, she turned to the goats and proclaimed, “You! You have to go to bed early every night for the rest of your lives!”
Out of the mouths of babes. Because as I thought about it, going to bed early for the rest of their lives was the worst punishment that she could think of—being shut away from the community, and fun, and the light. And yet, the goats, by not seeing God in their brothers and sisters, by turning away from others, are turning away from all these things.
Now, I don’t know how Robin Hood would fare in the final division into the sheep and the goats. While we might definitely be dubious about his acts of violence, it is true that he is portrayed as feeding the hungry, and providing for the necessities of those in need including those who were thirsty and poorly clad—albeit by acts of theft. He also welcomed the outcast and marginalized into his community. So perhaps he would be spared the fate of going to bed early every night for the rest of his life.
More seriously, in both the movie and the Gospel, the King’s return is unexpected and breaks into ordinary life, restoring order and justice to the world. We celebrate that reign of God today in the Feast of Christ the King. But the timing of the feast is not random. It comes just before the 4 Sundays in Advent—which prepare us for the celebration of Christmas, the unexpected incarnation of the Christ the King into our world. The Incarnation was just as unexpected as the future return of Christ will be.
With Advent, we do have time to prepare however. And by prepare, I mean more than decorating the house, baking cookies, and buying presents. I mean looking at our lives and seeing how we are seeing Christ in our lives, both in terms of worship and in those around us, especially in the least of these. I encourage you to take some time to make this concern for others part of your Advent preparation. Each of us are called to respond to the world’s needs in different ways, but we are all called to respond. What is God asking of you?
I’ll be honest, I’m still working through what that means for me this season—I’m still thinking about how I’m going to observe Advent. It will include celebrating mass on Wednesdays for those who are struggling and areas of the world that are in conflict. It will include donations, especially to local charities. It does include meeting the Christmas wishes of a nearby family. And as I said, I’m still thinking about what else it will mean.
May God guide you as you journey through this time of preparation.
National Day of Prayer for LGBTQ+ Youth
Friday, June 30
7:30 p.m. (US Eastern Time)
The Independent Catholic Christian Church was contacted recently by Beloved Arise and invited to join the National Day of Prayer for LGBTQ+ Youth on June 30. Beloved Arise is a movement dedicated to LGBTQIA+ youth of faith. As the first national organization for queer youth of faith, they build relationships, offer support, and inspire youth to embrace life to the fullest.
Ways you can participate in the National Day of Prayer for LGBTQ+ youth:
Since Bishop Timothy W. Cravens announced his retirement as Presiding Bishop beginning July 1, the chapter of canons of the Independent Catholic Christian Church (ICCC) has been meeting together, thoughtfully and prayerfully considering the next steps forward.
The chapter of canons determined that the needs of the ICCC would be served best by electing two bishops. On Tuesday, August 17, 2021 the canons selected Lyngine Calizo as the Presiding Bishop of the ICCC and Michael Shirk as the Auxiliary Bishop.
The date of the consecration mass will be September 26 and Bp. Timothy Cravens will be the chief consecrator. Our heartfelt thanks go to Bp. Cait Finnegan and Bp. Lynn Elizabeth Walker, who have graciously agreed to be co-consecrators.
The chapter of canons looks forward to working together with Bishops-Elect Lyngine Calizo and Michael Shirk, continuing to build on the foundation of organization and faith that Bishop Tim began. We invite you to celebrate with us, and pray for them and the ICCC.
God has blessed the Independent Catholic Christian Church with 19 years of service by Bishop Timothy W. Cravens. He has been our Bishop, our guide, our co-worker in Christ, our counselor, our teacher, our friend. With joy and sadness we mark and celebrate the ending of his ministry with us and his retirement beginning July 1, 2021. He has set the church on a strong foundation, helped us to mark our direction, and encouraged us on our way. Together we have served the Lord and his Church in common devotion to the Gospel. Sharing in our joys and sorrows, he has been important to us in our life together in the Church of Jesus Christ. As he has been a blessing to us, may he go forth to be a blessing to others. With gratitude and hope, our prayers and blessings go with him also.
Bp. Timothy Cravens, Presiding Bishop Emeritus, holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Emory University and a Master of Divinity from Harvard University. In the summer of 2004, he officiated at a number of same-sex weddings in New Paltz, NY as part of the New Paltz Equality Initiative organized to continue the courageous work of Mayor Jason West. He co-founded the Independent Catholic Christian Church in 2002 and served as pastor at St. Mary of Grace Parish for 16 years.