This weekend the Church proclaims our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as King of the Universe. This offers us an opportunity to meditate on what it means to proclaim Jesus as King. And it offers us an opportunity to evaluate what influence this should have on our life.
We all have some preconceived ideas of what it means to be king. And these ideas cause some confusion when we apply the title King to Christ.
When we look at the Gospel reading (Lk 23:35-43), we see the Cross. And on that Cross we see that the Romans hung a sign that read, “This is the King of the Jews”. To the Jewish bystanders this was blasphemy. In their opinion, their long awaited messiah was to free them from their Roman oppressors and restore the kingdom of their good King David; not die on a cross like a criminal.
But the irony proclaimed by that sign that the Romans posted on that cross is that Jesus was indeed their King. And He exercised His royal authority by granting pardon to the repentant criminal at His side.
The problem that those early Jews had is the same problem that we have today. That problem is the associations we form in our mind when we hear the word “King”.
What is the first picture that comes to your mind when you hear the word, “King”? Do you envision a palace, and riches? Do you see a person of power with attendants and royal surroundings?
Jesus came to this earth poor. He was born in a stable, not a palace. He lived the life of a poor man. And rather than having attendants serving Him, He lived His life as a servant to others.
Jesus said the greatest of all must be the servant of all. This is totally contrary to the world’s notion of a king. But Jesus redefined the role of emperors, lords and kings. In Christ’s model, the ruler must be the servant of the people. This is radically new and contrary to the ways of the world.
Not only did Jesus redefine the role of King; Jesus said that His life should be the example that we are to follow.
This Feast Day of Christ the King should give us cause to pause and think about what it means to follow His example. How does His example influence our behavior? And what demands does it place on how we live our lives?
We may long to possess the riches of the world, but Jesus never owned a thing. We may enjoy the thought of living the life of a king in a royal palace, but the only crown that Jesus ever wore was a crown of thorns. We may enjoy the thought of living the life style of the rich and the wealthy, but Jesus befriended the sick and the poor. We may have great difficulty befriending, or even accepting, certain people because of their past mistakes or their life style or their nationality or their religion; but Jesus offered His love to everyone. No one was too wrong or too right, too rich or too poor.
We recently returned from a short vacation. While attending Mass one Sunday, we were privileged to hear this following story. I repeat it here because I think it beautifully demonstrates the directive given to us by our Lord and Savior.
“One day during our Mission Trip, while visiting the people of Jamaica, my life was affected dramatically by a very sweet young boy. We visited Martha’s Village, a former leper colony which houses people with physical and mental disabilities, as well as children born with HIV and AIDS. The children were in a separate, fenced-in area of the village. This is where my life changed forever. As we walked into the village we passed a house where the children were sitting in the front room waiting anxiously. They were listening to their caretakers explain why we were there to visit. I caught the eye of a little boy through the window. He had a beautiful, big smile and sweet, innocent eyes.
The group I was with, Food for the Poor, a non-profit organization based in Florida, sat at a picnic area waiting for the children to come out and play. As soon as the kids were released, the first person out of the house was Jimmy. Jimmy, a four year old boy, weaved in and out of every visitor there, made a beeline directly to me and jumped on my lap. He was immediately fascinated with my blue-lensed sunglasses. He wanted to see every side of the glasses. I’m sure he had never seen anything like them before. He asked me to take them off so that he could see my eyes. As I did so, he smiled tremendously. I put the glasses on his face and it was evident he felt proud of and good about himself wearing them.
One of the other boys asked me Jimmy’s name. After I told him with a bit of an inquisitive tone, he explained that it was Jimmy’s first day in the village. We had been told that many of these children are abandoned or placed in Martha’s Village because of their poor health. Perhaps these children were not wanted, or perhaps their families’ lacked the ability to care for them.
Without a word, Jimmy stood up, grabbed my hand and led me to a toy car situated near a row of wheelchairs. Jimmy hopped in the car. The steering wheel was not working and there was no means of moving the car unless it was pushed. I began to push Jimmy around the yard and without even thinking he put his hands on the top outside of the front wheels and began directing the car. Wearing the sunglasses the entire time, Jimmy looked like a little NASCAR driver. I pushed him around the yard non-stop for about 30 minutes.
When we were told that it was time to go, I bent down and told Jimmy I had to leave. He immediately took the glasses off of his face and handed them back to me. I told him to keep the glasses because he looked great in them. I also told him that if he was ever scared or feels like crying, to put those sunglasses on and no one would be able to see him. He immediately flashed a gorgeous grin and gave me the best hug of my life.
This was an incredible experience. It hit me as I stepped back on the bus. I was overwhelmed with emotion. It must have been absolutely terrifying for such a young child to be moved from his family and home because of a medical condition. I cannot imagine his loneliness and how awful it was to be sick without the love and support of his family. In the United States, there is access to the necessary medicines to assist patients like Jimmy living with HIV and AIDS, but unfortunately this isn’t the case for these children in Jamaica. These children did nothing to deserve the cards they were dealt in this life. They are so sweet and innocent. By accident of birth into a third world country and inflicted with illness, they are unable to live their lives to the fullest.
These children live their lives at Martha’s Village. They die there. Then, they are buried at this former leper colony, in a white mausoleum, built especially for them. It is situated outside of a small church in the village courtyard near a shrine of Our Lady and across from a statute of St. Jude – the patron saint of hopeless causes.” (By Jack Osborne, who traveled to Jamaica with a Food For The Poor mission group in July, 2013)
Today offers us an opportunity to reevaluate our priorities and to think about what it means to truly live like a King.