Daily Reflection
November 25th, 2001
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
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Preparing for Sunday anticipating this day.
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King
Second Samuel 5:1-3
Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43

Some men have had kingship thrust upon them as from birth.  Others have achieved that state through conquest.  Some have just happened to marry the right queen.  For the most part kings have been noted for either doing wonderful things for their subjects, or doing wonderful things to magnify their own littleness.

The ancient Greek kings were known to give large bonuses or gifts to their soldiers.  These bonuses were above their due payment.  They were undeserved and more a revelation of the goodness and generosity of the king.  The Greek word for these pure gifts is "charis" which the Christian Scriptures translate as "grace."  We also get the word "charism" which in our days has come to mean some personality trait having qualities of attractive dynamism and leadership.

Today we liturgically celebrate Christ The King Who has not been thrust into Kingship but has emptied Himself becoming a Servant-King.  He became little in the eyes of some, so as to magnify the One Who sent Him and those with whom He wished to grant the undeserved gifts of salvific Grace.  We celebrate a strange kingliness today.  His throne is cruelly decorated with His Blood.  His regal dress is a crown of pain and a robe of mocking purple.  His battle-wounds do not tun a distant time of victory, but rather stand out as signs of defeat.

In our First Reading today we hear of the anointing of David as King of all of Israel.  He too had kingship thrust upon him in a strange way.  He was not born first of his brothers, but last.  He was a leader, but trusted God more than the military power at his command.  David was attractive and was ordained by the elders of Israel, because he had been successful in battle and humble before the Lord.  David lived a history of showing up for his life's events.  He faced his shame and his fame.  He was tested and he trusted.  He was king by acclamation and by his own accepting of his call.

The opening lines of today's Gospel highlight the nature of this God-Made-Man King.  The rulers sneer at him and shout a clever, but ironical proclamation.  If Jesus, Who like David, trusted in God and was the Chosen One, could save others, and then He ought to be able to save Himself.  Here is the nature of a real king then.  Does Jesus magnify His own Self by using His power to wrench Himself from the cross and defeat His sneerers and jeerers, or does he do something unheard of.  As King He does a great battle scene with Himself by accepting, not acclamations, but accusations.  He did save others from their physical pains and needs, but if He comes down from heaven to save us all from eternal deaths, then He cannot come down from the cross to save only Himself.

The kingly court comprises also two criminals who in their attitudes reveal a common theme in Luke's account of Jesus' life.  Jesus is the invitation of God to human beings to make a genuine response.  In most settings, Jesus made the gestures of healing, feeding, teaching, and always there were those who wondered in awe and those who wondered in fear and rejection.

The first criminal makes a plea for himself by continuing the themes of those soldiers around the cross.  "Save Yourself," he chides "and save us."  If He is the King then He must stay faithful to Himself, His call, and us as well by staying on the cross.

The other criminal makes the opposite prayer of faith.  He does not ask Jesus to come down, but rather raise him, a justly condemned man, to His kingdom.  Jesus replies in almost the same words as He had addressed Zachaeus a few weeks ago in our liturgy, "Today you will be with me in paradise."  "Today salvation has come to this house."  Today and for every day, an unearned gift, an eternal "charis" will be offered from the Throne of Fidelity.

David and Jesus remained faithful, showing up for their lives even to their deaths.  Both, as kings, did not subject others to their powers, but offered themselves as servants.  We are not subjects to the Kingship of Jesus, but rather we stand with open hands of prayer to receive the bonus.  We bring our own infidelities, our failures in showing up for the crucial events of our lives.  We wonder in awe at what it has taken God to get our attention, to attract us, and bring us to our knees in joyful reception of His humble service.  This King continues to magnify us and His love for our littleness.  We are glad He came down to stay up there.

"The Lord will reign for ever and will give His people the gift of peace."  Psalm 29

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