The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

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Today’s Mass celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.  I was reading in the Magnificat, and I wanted to share a quote included in today’s readings from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

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…God did not intend Israel to have a kingdom.  The kingdom was a result of Israel’s rebellion against God… The law was to be Israel’s king, and, through the law, God himself…God yielded to Israel’s obstinacy and so devised a new king of kingship for them.  The King is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself.  This is the usual form of the divine activity in relation to mankind, 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.

I love that last line.  I love the image of a God who “writes straight” on our “crooked lines.”  How often in my life do I feel crooked.  Crooked, and so unholy.  Always so much more ready to submit myself to the world than my God.  Yet God, all-merciful and all-loving, continues to reach down to us in our weaknesses and in our failures and look upon us kindly, and bless us when we are undeserving.  He continuously calls us back to himself; to He who is the source and summit of all of our deepest desires.  What a generous and loving King we have.

In connection with this feast of Christ the King, the Psalm for the day is one of my very favorites, Psalm 23.  Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar psalms, and is often said or sung at funerals.  It never really occurred to me just how precious this psalm is until I read it as a prayer, closing my eyes to imagine the Lord, our King, taking my hand and leading me as he led the inspired King David.

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.

In God, we lack nothing.  If we place all of our trust in him, all of our hope…how can we have fear?  He is the answer to our deepest desires; he hears us when we call him; he is by our side when we are suffering or afraid.  Like a good shepherd, he watches over us and cares for all of our needs.

In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.

I love this verse.  This image is so perfect because it paints a clear picture of our caring Father, our God.  He knows what we need, even when we don’t.  In all the hustle of the world, and in everything we tangle ourselves up into, we have a God who knows our needs, who whispers in our heart to rest in him.  I love imagining the Lord bringing us to a safe place—a green pasture—and leading us to peace.  It is such a beautiful image.  Sometimes we need to allow God to lead us, especially when we are afraid.  In this verse I have imagined myself wearing a blindfold over my eyes, giving all of my trust to God.  It is so hard to completely submit ourselves over to God, but uniting ourselves to him is the answer to our restlessness.  The image of “still waters” is also very beautiful.  It calls to mind the reality that often times we try to quench our thirst in waters that are chaotic; waters that don’t completely satisfy us and leave us thirsting for more.  Yet God leads us to still waters, where we are given all that we need in Him. Just as we thirst for him, he thirsts for us.  He wants us to be filled in and through him alone, who is living water.

He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name.

This is a great reminder for ourselves that it is in God alone that truth is found.  Not in myself, not out in the world.  He alone is good, and all other goodness is a mere fraction of all that he is.  This line reminds us that he wants to walk with us in our journey.  He wants to guide us forward, pointing us towards the good so that we may have an easier time uniting our souls to him, and so that we may be a witness to others.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.

There is so much evil in this world.  I think sometimes it is much easier to see the evil than the good.  So many people are suffering, and there is such a lack of hope permeating our culture.  There is no denying that evil is real.  There is a cosmic battle taking place in our world, and we have to choose a side.  But where evil exists, there is the Lord standing with his rod and staff, protecting us and casting down all evil that seeks to harm us. He gives us hope in the resurrection, and hope for eternal life and even when we are faced with trial in this world he is there to help us persevere, until we rest in peace with him forever.

 You set a table before me in front of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

I love this verse because when we choose the Lord, when we place our trust in him, he invites us to his banquet, and seats us in honor. When we take him as our King, he brings us into his Kingdom, not as subjects or slaves, but as sons and daughters.  I love picturing the Lord actually setting a table, and anointing our heads.  It is a beautiful reminder of all the goodness that the Lord seeks to give us, how he is our King, and he shares all of his riches with us. It’s also a good reminder that the Lord knows each and every one of us.  He has gone ahead and prepared a place for us, and waits to invite us into his Kingdom, and clothe us in his purple and gold raiments.

 Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days.

There is no greater goodness than God.  All happiness on earth that we may find is fleeting, unless it rests and has its foundation in him.  He calls each and every one of us to enter into a relationship with him; to hear his voice and answer his call.  He wants to establish his kingdom for all of us on earth, that we might have authentic freedom: freedom for the good.  Our world today seeks to be united to a kingdom where freedom is an absolute.  Freedom means doing whatever makes “me” happy, and means being “free from restrictions”.  In this mentality, freedom runs the risk of being separated from Truth.  Having authentic freedom means seeking God on our own accord, and ultimately clinging to him—the one who is the culmination of man’s blessed perfection; the King who has, as Saint Paul says, loved us and given himself up for us.  This is also a reminder that there is more beyond life as we know it.  Our goal should be heaven and uniting ourselves with God in his heavenly Kingdom, and we should never lose sight of that.  We should daily call ourselves to conversion, so that we may one day be blessed enough to “dwell in the house of the Lord for endless days.”

On this day as we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King, may we all be united in the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Lord Jesus, make us yours.  Live in us, gather together a scattered and suffering humanity, so that in you all may be subjected to the Father of mercy and love.”  May our freedom be found in the King, who gives us truth, and truly sets us free.

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