20 Nov 2016
Solemnity of Christ the King
This past week I had some good conversations with a few parishioners. They weren’t meetings I had on my calendar; they were just casual conversations. And they each shared with me their feelings on the parish and how things were going—which I appreciate. They shared with me their love for the people, for family and friends, for traditions. They also shared their sadness—not anger, but sadness and struggles with the idea of change and the impact it has on community and our faith. As I said, they were good conversations, from the heart, and they were a real blessing.
And, of course, we could expand that struggle with change to include all change, anywhere in life. For instance, for some parents it can be a thing of sadness to see the kids grow up and move out of the house or go off to college; they just want the kids to stay little. But they grow up, and there can be a sense of loss. Suddenly the house is quieter; life is changed.
And for some people, as they grow older, it can be a sad and frustrating thing to see their strength fail, or to have their eyesight grow dim, or to experience one health problem after another. Life changes quite a bit as we get older and, of course, it isn’t always a joyous thing to consider the end of life and death. We’d rather cling to life. And so, we can see the struggle and sadness that comes with change through a very wide lens, not just in the parish setting.
But we don’t just sit with the struggle. We don’t let the sadness and the frustration settle into us to the point that it turns into anger and fear. Instead, we bring God right into it—not so that we can talk to him, but so that we can be quiet and he can speak with us. And what he puts to us is the question: “Do you love me more than these?” It’s what he asked Peter before he put him in charge of his flock as the “first pope.”
At the end of life, when death is approaching, Jesus puts the question to us: “Do you love me more than this—do you love me more than your life?” Or when the little kids grow up and move out of the house, and there’s sadness with that change in life, Jesus asks: “Do you love me more than these—do you love me even more than your own children?” And in that he’s simply asking: “Do you trust me? Will you trust me more than you trust yourself?”
And those are tough questions to answer. Even for people of faith, that’s not an easy question. As much as we might want to trust the Lord, as much as we think we should want to “love him more than these,” sometimes the answer is our heart is . . . no. Sometimes the answer is . . . I want to trust you and love you, Jesus, but right now I just can’t. When life changes, we’re hit with the question: “Who is the ruler of my life—is it God, or is it me?”
This is the same question we face as a community of faith—and it’s good that we face it, because it’s important, even if it causes sadness and frustration. When we look at our beautiful churches; when we consider our traditions, our history, our future; when we think about all the plans we have and all the desires in our hearts for the parish—whatever they are—Jesus steps in and puts that question to us: “Do you love me more than these?” “Do you love me more than everything you hold dear?” And our answer really depends on our faith in Christ.
On this Solemnity of Christ the King, it’s helpful to hear the full title of today’s celebration. It’s “The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” He isn’t just one lord among many; he’s The Lord. And he isn’t just one ruler among many; he’s The King of the entire universe; he’s the Divine Ruler and Caretaker of everything that was, everything that is, and everything that will ever be. Everything belongs to him.
And our faith in Jesus as the Lord, the King of the Universe, the Divine Ruler and Caretaker of everything should give us tremendous hope and peace when life changes and we’re tempted to fall into despair. And that’s because everything that’s truly good and valuable to us is valuable to him as well. He’s not going to destroy anything that’s good, true, and beautiful. But he is going to ask us to trust him, to let him show us what is really good, true, and beautiful.
It’s a tough question Jesus puts to us: “Do you love me more than these?” Where is life going? I don’t know. Why didn’t God make our bodies to last forever, why do we have to die? I don’t know. Why do kids have to grow up? I don’t know. Where’s the parish going? I don’t know, but I’m sure we all have thoughts about that. The question is: “Do we love Jesus more than these? More than our thoughts and desires? More than the sadness and frustrations that come with life changes? Do we love Jesus more than these?”
In time, and with great faith, may our answer be “yes.” Yes, I trust the Lord of Life with my life. Yes, I trust the God of Love with my children. Yes, I trust the Divine Architect of Creator of all to guide our parish, our families. I trust Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe with our destiny.