Thursday, November 20, 2008


Servant Kings
By Paul Dion, STL

This Sunday is a day when we are going to scratch our heads and ask ourselves about this celebration that we call Christ the King. If ever there was a celebration that seemed out of character, this could be the one. We remember all the readings and the homilies that we have heard about Jesus being merciful, kind, generous, patient, forgiving and healing. We look inside of ourselves and remember the times when He said that we had to give up everything and follow him. He, in fact, had nothing. He said that "the birds have their nests and the foxes their dens, but the Son of Man does not have a place to lay His head." (Matt. 8;20). He also said, "you think that I have come to bring peace, but I do not come to bring peace, I come to bring the sword." (Matt. 10; 34) Really? What sword? Whose army? Oh, and by the way, was that a horse I saw you riding the other day? Say, Rabbi, were those tears I saw running down your cheek when John the Baptist was killed? Herod is still around making our life miserable. What are you doing about it? Messiah? HHHmmm. Your ancestor David sure would wonder about that. He was a lot tougher that you have ever been.

It is clear that there have been some good and kind kings in the history of the world. Some of them have even been canonized as saints of the Catholic Church. It is still intriguing to ask if Jesus could have passed for one of them. Most of them, if not all, had nice places to live. If they didn't have them, they built them. Even David did that. However, one day "After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent." (1 Chronicles; 17: 1) Nathan then had an inspiration from God and conveyed it to David, thus: "Go and tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build
me a house to dwell in. I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their leaders whom I commanded to shepherd my people, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" (1 Chronicles 17: 4-7) God told Nathan that it would not be David to built Him His house, but David's son, Solomon. So it came to be that Solomon built the temple.
God in heaven has his angels. Moses had his Joshua. David had his Nathan. Jeremiah had his Baruch. Paul had his Barnabas. Jesus? He had 12 roughnecks who took a long time before they finally got their (His) act together.

This is a King? Is it possible that Jesus would not agree with this celebration? Is it possible that Jesus knew enough of His Bible history to remember how the Israelites got a king in the first place? As Samuel, he last of the Judges was getting old, the people came to him and said: "We want to be like the rest of the people. We want to have a king." (1 Samuel 8. This is required reading for today's feast) Samuel took this to God. God told Samuel to give them a king, but only after explaining to them what it would mean to them. The people insisted on the king idea despite the arguments of Samuel. Instead taking the responsibility of choosing a king for them, He had them vote. Not before
he warned them, in so many words, "Be careful what you ask for." The people chose Saul. He was a miserable king, fighting all the time. He also hated David and tried to kill him. David could have killed Saul on two separate occasions, but spared his life. Saul and his sons finally got killed by the Philistines and God's choice, David, became king.

Ah, David! Great Sinner...Great Saint! We are lucky to have David as a forerunner of Jesus. It is a superb study in contrasts. Of course, Jesus never sinned. Of course, David was a great king too. David came to know that it was better to be a kind ruler and a spiritual force rather than to be a savage warrior. He didn't loose his toughness, he focused it in a different direction. When we consider Jesus, we don't really see a king. We see someone regal who is not afraid of kings. That ran in the family. His cousin John was the same way. He told Herod that what he was doing was wrong. Jesus told Pilate, "You would have no authority if it were not given to you from above." (John 19;11) Jesus knew who was King. He is the the same One who told His Chosen People to be careful what they asked for. Jesus stood before the earthly powers and stood up to them. He remembered the psalms that say that our strength is in God, not in riches nor in human position. David the great saint knew what he was talking about when he wrote those powerful prayers.
Jesus knew that the words had been inspired by God and He lived them out. The victory was won on Easter Sunday morning. It was then that He introduced the good kings to His Father and no doubt watched as the bad ones went
to meet Be'elzebub.
That's when the Kingdom was born. The Man who had not where to lay His head. The Man who warned that He had brought the sword, who warned that He had come to set father against son. The Man who had no secretary. The Man who had nothing but His burning desire to fulfill His mission by serving His Father's subjects won the final battle. He actually beat death. Not only did He beat it, but He took all His followers under His wings and thus we all
beat death too. He also beat back the darkness of people's minds and enlightens us with the secret of how He accompanies us on the campaign towards that self-same victory over death. Under His wings, in the warmth of the Holy Spirit, we are therefore all kings. Kings without a palace; kings without a throne; kings without a horse; kings without a sword, but like Jesus, kings with a towel.
Here's a reminder from today's reading: (John, chapter 13)
"3 during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, 4 he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his
waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.... ''14 You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. 15 I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."
So, we are sent to rule in the Kingdom of God just as His Son did, with a towel around our waist, love in our hearts and the ardent fire of non-negotiable zeal constantly burning a brand in our entire being. It is not the trappings of an earthly kingdom that make us strong, it is the intensity of our faith that we receive from the Holy Spirit and live out in our lives as unwavering disciples of Jesus Christ Himself.

The result of all this intensity? You will be free not to cry at my funeral. Do you know why? Because I won't have to wear that towel any more!