"Christ is alive!” That was the message from Bishop Robert Deeley, as he celebrated Mass on the Solemnity of Christ the King at two Aroostook County churches, St. Joseph in Mars Hill and Our Lady of the Lake in Portage. The feast marks the end of the Church's calendar year, with Advent beginning on Sunday, December 1.
“We hold before us in this feast the person whose life changes ours, Jesus. Today, we are asked to honor him as king: Christ, Our Lord, King of the Universe,” the bishop said. “In placing Jesus as king before us this Sunday, the Church reminds us that he is the center of our lives, as Scripture says, 'Yesterday, Today and Forever.' He will be with us in the new year as he has been in the one that is passing."
The bishop told the faithful that Jesus redefines what kingship means, pointing to the Gospel reading chosen for the feast day. It tells of Jesus’ final moments on the cross, crucified with two thieves beside him, one of him whom repents and seeks mercy.
"He comes to understand that Jesus is the Son of God and Eternal King. He asks Jesus to make him, a thief and sinner, a part of the kingdom. Jesus responds, 'Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.' By such a statement, Jesus shows his kingly power. He uses it not to save himself from his crucifixion, as the jeering crowds have asked him to. He saves another and restores this sinner to communion with God and paradise. He shows himself the Servant-King. The thief shows us that Jesus is our way to the Father, and as such, he, our king, shows us how to live our lives," the bishop said.
Pointing to Pope Francis' letter to young people, "Christus vivit," which means "Christ is alive," the bishop said that the pope wants us to remember that God loves us at every moment of our lives and that putting our faith in Jesus changes the way we live.
"Because we believe in Jesus, we turn to him for direction. We seek to see things as he does," the bishop said. “We serve one another because we believe that is our duty in gratitude for what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. He has shown us a love which is eternal, and he calls us to live in that love, gratefully sharing it with others in the many good programs, activities, and individual acts of kindness that make our world a better place to live.
"Jesus has shown us his kingly power today, ruling from the cross. He shows that power in giving mercy to the sinner. He calls us to follow in his way – serving one another, working to build and sustain relationships based on mutual love and respect, and always recognizing the need for mercy and forgiveness in our human condition. He invites us to use our powers to help and encourage, to heal and give comfort. If we do, then, as we celebrate this Feast of Christ the King, we will find ourselves citizens of the same kingdom Jesus proclaimed from the cross to the thief dying at his side.”
As he travels around the state, Bishop Deeley enjoys celebrating Mass at churches in different cities and towns. That not only includes larger churches, where major parish celebrations are often held, but smaller, community churches like St. Joseph and Our Lady of the Lake. They are among the 10 churches that make up the Parish of the Precious Blood in Caribou.
“I like to work my way around the diocese and visit our smaller communities where the faith is being lived out by wonderful people like yourselves,” the bishop told those gathered in Mars Hill and Portage. “It is so nice to be able to be with you this weekend.”
Following the Masses, the bishop lingered to shake hands and chat with parishioners, and at Our Lady of the Lake, a reception was held after the Sunday morning Mass.
The bishop was in Aroostook County to chat with youths at Theology at Tim’s, a monthly youth ministry gathering. Modeled after Theology on Tap for young adults, Theology at Tim’s, held at Tim Hortons in Caribou, allows teenagers to gather to discuss their faith in a casual setting.
During his visit, the bishop also attended a chicken stew & ployes fundraiser at Holy Rosary Church in Caribou. Money raised will be designated for emergency fuel and shelter for those in need.