The Irish-born writer, C. S. Lewis once wrote that the most emphatic noise is the one we are trying not to listen to. A late-night barking dog, an insistent dripping faucet when sleep won’t come, are only a couple of such bothersome noises. A flowing stream makes little sound until it bumps into an obstacle such as a rock.
Prayer is such a stream and our blockages create disturbing noises. We often would rather not listen to these, but actually it is a great freedom to listen to and pray with just what the noise is all about. They become emphatic and persistent, because we pretend that we are ignoring them.
This week as we prepare to celebrate Jesus as the Saving King, turn off the faucet, call the dog-catcher, pray with the noises of your own prevent defense against your personally surrendering to Jesus’ Kingdom. The real prayer of this is to stay positive, hopeful and aware of how God’s grace is quieting your spirit. The most peaceful sound is the silence surrounding the honest heart.
What we hear is a series of “I” statements. God will
now be the Shepherd God who will gather the lost, pasture the flock,
the injured God will bind up and the sick God will heal. These are
loving and gentle boasts of the more and more personal God.
We are familiar with the courtly-climb. Bravery, conquest, daring-deeds, and impressing others all would move an aspiring younger gallant ever upward. Ignatius of Loyola spent his early years doing just this. He was brought to his knees by a cannonball during a local war. In the ensuing months, he became acquainted with a different king and a different courtly-climb.
We hear of this King and His ways of royalty in today’s Gospel. It is a different set of values set forth on this final day of the liturgical year. As we indicated last Sunday, this is the real final exam. All the teachings, all the parables, all the miracles, all the conversations are summed up in these verses. The question is about whether or not we have been attracted to the person of Jesus so as to see Him in the poorest, the weakest, the less celebrated. This is not so much a “social Gospel” meant to move us out to the fringes of society. It is a simple questionnaire about our identifying ourselves as members of His kingdom. Do we like His ways? Are we attracted to His style of relating?
Mark Twain wrote a humorous novel, The Prince and the Pauper, a delightful story of switched identities. Tom Canty, an abused and ragged lad meets, by chance, Prince Edward, rightful heir of King Henry VIII. The two boys decide to change positions, clothing and living conditions. Edward hides the great Seal of England before leaving the palace. Both lads find out the difficulties of the other’s lives. Edward does not know the ways of London’s streets, nor does Thomas know all the courtly ways. Tom had found the hidden seal and was using it to crack nuts. Henry dies and Edward and Tom are moved to switch back.
In our Gospel-Spirituality, Jesus has ennobled us to be a “Royal Priesthood” and has dignified us with the invitation to live forever in the Kingly domain of heaven. He has taken the place and dressed Himself in the reality of the poor. He has buried Himself in the imprisoned, sick, lonely, homeless and ragged. The hidden seal for this Gospel is the vision which faith provides.
Edward was of royalty, but did not appear so. The other street people could not see past the clothing despite what Edward told them. Jesus is saying, protesting that He is within the easily-avoided. Our greedy eyes do deceive us and our ego-centered hearts are challenged by Jesus’ entering these dress-down days of our lives.
We would rather have Jesus stay up there, over there, within some comfortable confines wherein we could deal with Him in predictable and ritualistic parameters. He has chosen, like Edward, not to be dressed-up but addressed within the adventure of relating with others through the eyes of Jesus. He relates with us in our own raggedy, hunger and our personal poverty. He asks for us to relate with His brothers and sisters in a similar loving and accepting way.
“The Lord will reign for ever and will give his people the gift of peace.” Ps. 29, 10
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