A King Like No Other

ChristTheKing A Blessed Advent to all!

About 12 years ago, my friend, Joan, invited myself, my parents and brother to a Christ the King celebration as part of a Regnum Christi outreach. We attended mass and there was a special luncheon after. Purple placemats, gold colored plates and other decorations impressed upon me the kingliness of Jesus. And I appreciated the care they showed me and my loved ones.

Fast forward 4 years to the first Thanksgiving my husband, Glenn, and I celebrated as a married couple. On Christ the King Sunday, he surprised me with tickets to the Lion King. Although not as monumental as Jesus’ struggle, Simba struggles to accept his rightful place as king of the African plain. Jesus struggles to accept His Father’s will and to bear the weight of sin, none of which he committed. But he does say “yes” to Calvary and in his life and death, Jesus shows us the model of servant king.

After the musical, Glenn and I looked out from the second floor lobby at the lights of Times Square. We extended our hands and consecrated the city to Jesus our King. We must have had a few curious onlookers, but that didn’t stop us.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote, “Jesus of Nazareth…is so intrinsically king that the title ‘King’ has actually become his name. By calling ourselves Christians, we label ourselves as followers of the king… The King is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself.”

He goes on to say, “God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways….The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.”

Father Robert Barron (of the “Catholicism” DVD series) writes in the Nov. 2014 issue of Magnificat, “…if you harbor suspicions of what submitting to this King would entail, take a good look at him. He reigns not from a pompous throne, but from an instrument of torture; he wears not a gaudy crown of gold, but a bloody crown of thorns, he issues not peremptory commands, but words of promise: ‘This day you will be with me in paradise.’ Don’t be afraid utterly to submit every aspect of your life to this King, for his power empowers you and his command liberates you.”

In his Apostolic Letter, “On the Most Holy Rosary,” (P.33) St. John Paul II suggests praying the Hail Mary by inserting a phrase to refer to the mystery being prayed. For instance; “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus….who was crowned with thorns.” Countless times, Glenn and I have meditated on a king who was born in a stable, was homeless (Luke 9:58), and hung naked on a cross so that we could have eternal life. I don’t know of any other king as selfless as this. Do you?

Our king pursues people in the gospels to love, heal, and show them our Father’s compassion. Right now He is pursuing you, to heal you – where you most need it. This is the only king who can bring you “the peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7)

This is the King whose birth we await and whose second coming will establish His Sovereignty forever.

ChristTheKing2

The Joy of Repentance

How can joy follow repentance? Most of us think of shame when we think of repentance. Yet, Scripture often gives examples of how joy follows a sincere change of heart.

Today’s readings (Nov. 18, 2014) from daily Mass are a case in point. In the first reading from the book of Revelation(Chap. 3:1-6,14-22), both messages to the communities of Sardis and Laodicea are sharp rebukes from the Lord Jesus. To the latter church, Jesus offers a challenge. He shatters their complacency and their self-reliance, with shocking words;

I know your works, I know that you are neither cold nor hot… because you are lukewarm… I will spit you out of my mouth.” -Rev. 3:15-16

Stark imagery! Later, he comforts them with these words;

Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest therefore and repent.” -Rev. 3:19

What makes these words of challenge and comfort all the more significant, is that they set up one of the most beautiful and important passages in all the New Testament.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me.” –Rev. 3:20

These words have resounded through the ages and brought countless souls into communion with Christ and His Church.

In ancient Israel, to dine with someone was to invite them into friendship and intimacy. We’re being invited into a deeper relationship with Jesus and it must start with an honest acknowledgement of our failings and weaknesses. Jesus is knocking at the door of our hearts, our very lives.

The Gospel reading for today, taken from Luke 19:1-10, is the story of Zacchaeus. Many of us know this tale of the Jewish tax collector, shunned by his contemporaries for his collaboration with the Roman empire and his subsequent ill-gotten gain. Zacchaeus is part of a crowd that has gathered in Jericho to see this famous holy man. The trouble is, he is too short to see Jesus! Running ahead, he finds a sycamore tree, climbs it and to his amazement, gets Jesus to notice him. When Jesus announces that he will eat at his house that day, the tree climber returns to earth, and soon after proclaims in what must have been a moment of ecstasy, that he will give half of his money to the poor as a sign of his… repentance. We can only assume that a wonderful meal followed.

Eating together. In Revelation 3:20, it’s everyone who “opens the door” to Jesus that’s invited to the table. In Luke, it’s the transformed Zacchaeus. At every Mass, this is what we do who receive Jesus in the Eucharist. We acknowledge our sins at the beginning of the liturgy, as Zacchaeus did his. We listen to the Word of God as did the Jewish tax collector. Lastly, like our ‘short brother,’ we’re invited to partake of His sacred meal. A greater and more beautiful intimacy than this, you cannot find in all the world.

At one point in my one-man performance, “A Visit With St. Paul,” I address my audience;

Brothers and sisters, do you realize how much you are loved? Your Creator loves you and wants to remove every obstacle that stands between you and the truth. That’s why I preach the gospel of repentance, echoing the words of Jesus himself, who at the beginning of his mission proclaimed, ‘Repent and believe the good news!’ ”

Whether you’re unhappy with yourself or the circumstances of your life, or you know that you’re not the person you want to be; if you’re ‘lukewarm’ and in danger of being spat out of your Savior’s mouth; if you’re “too short” to see Jesus and you need to “climb a tree,” then the Word of God invites you today to enter into the joy of repentance… which might even lead you to the sacrament of Reconciliation.

May we open the door of our hearts to the Jesus who knocks! If we let him enter, then like Zacchaeus, we too will enter into His joy.