This is the last time I write these SUNDAY REFLECTIONS. After seven or eight years of writing them, I have found myself repeating many of the same ideas, sentences, images, again and again and sometimes the well just runs dry. I thought this time might be a good time to stop these soliloquies since this Sunday marks the end of the Liturgical Cycle C and next Sunday we celebrate a new beginning with the First Sunday in Advent. I have enjoyed these musings immensely and I hope some of my ideas, memories, Bible images, and approaches to the reality of God in our spiritual life, stay with you. Minimally, I hope I have given you some food for thought through other person's eyes. And now, here are a couple of lines for the Feast of Today.
Let me begin by asking: What is your favorite image of Jesus when you pray? What is your favorite image when you worship at Sunday or weekday Mass? Or when you meditate on the imminent and the transcendent God? This might be a thought to ponder as we come to the end of the liturgical year and participate in the prayers of the Church in worshiping on this day, "The Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe." People surely have different images of Jesus, because we come from different social, ethnic, and familial backgrounds, which shape our lives, including our spiritual lives. All of us are products of our families, education, and environments from the very beginning on into adulthood. All these factors play an important role in shaping who we are. However, I am also aware that over time we are likely to change some of our perceptions or assumptions about life. I will never forget the axiom of John Henry Cardinal Newman (d. 1890), who said: "To grow is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often." Yes, even our images of God change over the years.
There are many images of God. There are images that may be more precious to us now than they were five, ten, or forty years ago. In the autumn years of our life or in times of grave illness, the images of God that may be more dear to us are: Father, Comforter, Healer, Friend, Source of Strength, Source of Mercy, Compassion, Consolation, and Hope.
There are others we may have favored over the years: Creator, Judge, Lover, Good Shepherd, Teacher, Ruler, Preacher, Servant, Messiah, Brother, Gentle Savior, Lord who is all Powerful, Infinite, and Omnipotent. Still, I am sure that of all the images we have or have been exposed to by the prayers of the Church, KING not one that easily comes to mind when we pray. We may have a natural aversion to such a concept, because of the constant barrage of the media about what the Royals on this earth do, which most of the time is unflattering and inappropriate.
We seldom have good images of kings. We may have played the game "king of the hill" where the strongest person pushes everyone else down and off the hill. We may have played checkers where the king jumps in all directions, taking over and winning. We probably remember the king in The Wizard of Oz as a self-serving bumbling dictator; or the song "the king of the road" of a person who wanders all over creation without a care in the world, and the famous or infamous singer whom the media dubbed "the king" whom some people think is still alive. A famous movie from the Rudyard Kipling novella, in 1975, was titled: "The Man Who Would Be King", where two British soldiers, Sean Connery and Michael Caine, resign from the Army and contrive to deceive a tribal people of the Himalayas so that one may be crowned king. And they succeed but at a great cost.
Against this background of negative images of kings, we celebrate today The Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe; a different king, indeed, who has come to establish a different kind of kingdom, of love and service-one where true justice, love, and peace reign, one who reigns supreme from the cross (Luke 23: 35-43). At times, we may consider this to be
a utopia as we see so much sin, evil, terror, violence, and killing going on in the world that does not even spare the unborn. But it was for this concept of a kingdom that Jesus lived, preached, suffered, and died. It was for claiming to be KING that Jesus was hauled in front of Pontius Pilate. He affirmed that he was a king, but not of this world. From the Cross He reigned and promised paradise in his Kingdom to the thief who repented. It was for this vision and kingdom that he died for and rose from the dead and sent his apostles into the world to preach to make ALL humans partakers of the Kingdom of His Father.
We are now preachers of Jesus our Lord and King. In a world that often chooses to worship idols such as money, pleasure, false rights, and the human person, the Christian chooses to surrender his or her life in complete freedom to the ONE who as gentle Shepherd carries us to safety and saves us from damnation. He is the ALPHA and the OMEGA, the Beginning and the End, our LORD and KING who invites us to the eternal Banquet of the Father in Heaven.
Here in the Eucharistic celebration, we have a prelude of that eternal Feast of our King. The Banquet of the Word and the Sacrament is ready. Y'all come. The KING invites.
May the peace of God be with you,