Sunday, November 24, 2013

Not That Kind

Sorry I'm a little behind my usual schedule today.  Since getting back from retreat (which was great!), it's been go, go, go...

My jokes this week are really bad.  REALLY bad!  I could hardly get a groan out of 'em at early Mass; I gave the folks a "bad joke warning" at the next two.  You can't say I didn't tell you...

   Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe    

Q. When is a piece of wood like a king?
A. When it's a ruler.

Q. What member of the royal family should always carry an umbrella?
A. The reigning monarch.

Q. Why did the king go to the dentist?
A. To get his teeth crowned.

As an article I just read was pointing out,
we Americans have an awkward relationship with royalty—
even more awkward than those unfortunate puns.
The very founding of our nation goes back
to fighting for our freedom from an unjust king.
And things don’t get much better if we look north of the border:
our Canadian neighbors live in a very modern democracy,
yet their head of state is in fact the Queen of England.
We’re left with two rather divergent views of monarchy:
cruel tyrants who exploit their subjects
and ought to be overthrown,
or smartly-dressed figureheads whose curious family dynamics
add some intrigue and elegance to the evening news.  (cf. J. Martens)

Where do such perceptions leave us on this solemnity
of our Lord Jesus Christ the King?

Oh, there are some who are quick
to write Christ off as a divine dictator—
always telling us mere mortals what to do.
That would make him the worst sort of despot of all:
one who actually is almighty.
How many in the world today fancy themselves revolutionaries
as they incite their compatriots to throw off
the purportedly oppressive shackles of true religion!

But when the “good thief” turned to get a look
at the man crucified beside him,
was it is a tyrant he saw?
Christ is not that sort of king.

And we’ve got plenty of folks around
all-too-happy to let Jesus be little more
than a charming figurehead of heaven on earth.
His life provides us with nice stories
with a good message to tell the kids.
And it makes for some pretty pictures, too,
especially at Christmastime.
Attractive to look at, pleasant to think about,
but without much real influence—and even less real power—
to make much of a difference in day-to-day life.

But when St. Paul writes about the all-important “image” of this ruler,
do you suppose he had in mind
maintaining a high standing in popular culture?
Christ is not that sort of king, either.

Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Father,
is the flesh-and-bone image of the invisible God:
the perfect embodiment of divine sovereignty.
No mere figurehead 
(he won’t be dismissed that easily),
he’s an absolute monarch.
He’s absolute in his power—
a power he employs, not to keep us down,
but—on the contrary—to save us and set us free:
to rescue us from the power of darkness—
the darkness of error, the darkness of sin,
the darkness in which we enslave ourselves
to so many false kings and so many false regimes—
and instead to transfer us into his kingdom of light;
an absolute power he wields 
not by shedding the blood of his enemies,
but by shedding his own.
That’s because Christ’s power
isn’t the only thing about him that’s absolute.
So is his love.
The Lord Jesus loves us absolutely—
enough to even die for us.

Neither a tyrant, nor a figurehead,
Christ is a unique kind of king
reigning over a unique kind of kingdom.
And why does that matter?
What difference does a feast such as this make?
Because the sort of king that Christ is
dictates the sort of subjects that we ought to be.

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