Praised be Jesus Christ! We celebrate the great Feast of Christ the King, so for all of you who are members of that wonderful parish, “Buona Festa!” Some of you are probably familiar with what are called “demotivational posters” – the first one I ever saw hung in Bishop Listecki’s conference room. It was a framed picture of the pyramids in Egypt and underneath there was the following caption: “Achievement: You can do anything you set your mind to when you have vision, determination, and an endless supply of expendable labor.” Dripping with sarcasm, the poster reminds us that many of the so-called wonders of the ancient world were built by slave labor. And it’s important to remember such things because the effects of original sin will always be with us. For example, being a king comes with certain expectations and one of them is the ability to do whatever you feel like doing. The Roman Emperors began to live like this and the damage done to their credibility was disastrous. Sadly, the widespread mythologies further exacerbated the problem by confusing the people about what one might expect from gods and goddesses. Outside the Jews, most people had very little grasp of the goodness or purity of God. When Jesus claimed to be both God’s Son and a king, many misconstrued this to be a power play that would free the Jews from the yoke of Caesar. But Jesus was a very different type of king – whereas the pantheon of gods and goddesses indulged practically every carnal pleasure imaginable, Jesus had nowhere to lay His head and completely refrained from any sinful pleasures. And where a King was expected to be ruthless in imposing His will, Jesus accepted cruelty and died praying for His murderers. This was a shocking thing and many of the high-ranking Jews were threatened by it because it meant the end of their own power and political machinations. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and His Kingdom clearly was not of this world. Asking His followers to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him was not immediately understood or accepted even by His most faithful followers. It’s no wonder that G.K. Chesterton once quipped, “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. No, it’s been found difficult and not tried.” Yes, Jesus was a different kind of king and we still find Him to be disappointing in that He refuses to do things our way. We want to be saved by strong government or the right political party or the leader with the best ideas and the most power. Instead, it’s a poor man on a cross on a Friday afternoon that saves us and we continue to find this to be foolishness and a real stumbling block. In the middle of the 4th century Julian became the Roman Emperor and he immediately set out to destroy Christianity. Julian thought that by rebuilding the Temple he would defy Jesus’ prophecy about how one day it would be destroyed and never rebuilt. But Julian came up against some interesting forces, as the following quote makes clear: “Though Alypius pushed the work forward energetically and though he was assisted by the governor of the province, frightful balls of fire kept bursting forth near the foundations of the temple and made it impossible for the workers to approach the place, and some were even burned to death. And since the elements persistently drove them back, Julian gave up the attempt,”(The Building of Christendom, Carroll, pg. 52). Legend has it that Julian died while whispering, “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean.” One hopes that it was then that Julian came to realize that Jesus did conquer, but His weapons were a cross and the Blood of the Lamb. Long live Jesus Christ our King, yesterday, today, and forever!
May the power and glory of Christ the King fill our hearts with hope and joy!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin