History has no favorites when it comes to kings. She lets us learn about both the good and the bad among them. There is Saint Louis IX of France who, among other good works, gifted the world with the magnificent Saint-Chapelle in Paris built to house relics of the true Cross. Contrast him with Henry VIII of England, who only built pleasure palaces for himself, and left the Catholic Church just so that he could divorce his legitimate wife and satisfy his lust for another woman.
While most freedom-loving Americans are distrustful of the whole idea of monarchs and majesties, there are still a great many of us who remain fascinated by their mischief and mayhem. Consider the size of the American TV audience for their weddings and funerals. These folks seem to have forgotten what our Revolutionary War was all about. But we have to forget all that when it comes time to celebrate this Sunday.
Each November we honor and celebrate Christ our King, and close out the Liturgical Year. We know we’re in a different realm of history when we call Jesus “King of the Universe” in the formal name of this feast. That brings an added dimension to our reflections. We are still in the category of history, but now we are considering the Person whose coming divided it into “before and after Him.” He is at its center, as He ought to be. He in fact never wanted to be a king. Only in His last hours on earth, when He was put on a sham trial, and a certain Pontius Pilate asked Him “Are you a king?” Jesus quickly answered “You say so,” which can be interpreted “That’s your word. (For My part,) I came to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.” To which cynical Pilate quickly asked, “What is truth?” Unfortunately for Pilate, and ourselves, he never got a direct answer from Jesus. But we readers of Scripture remember when Christ said: “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life.”
Such a deep, bold and royal answer! It’s up to us to remember that. The whole matter of truth becomes problematic for us in the unique time and place we find ourselves occupying. Let’s face it: lies are all around us. They emanate from all the usual suspects, and even a few we never would have expected, like some of our bishops and cardinals. Did truth flee our world, only to orbit another planet? Not at all, for Jesus also told us “I am with you all days even to the end of the age.” He is here with us, dwelling first of all in the Eucharistic presence, and also in the hearts of men and women who exemplify what He stood for when
He was personally present here on earth. Fortunately we have both a Book and a Body to remind us of all that, the former being the bible and the latter being this Catholic Church He founded. While His truth always offers a criterion to decide by, there is now a problem we have to deal with. We, who are so concerned about speaking in politically correct terms, have to remember that the Truth of our King does not always resonate with an idea that is current or popular. Our Lord really doesn’t care if someone is made uncomfortable by hearing His truth spoken. Our King also despises the timid. Ultimately believing the Truth leads us to the Way, and the Life. ‘
Our King in fact demanded as much. This is the practical way to make our response to His ineffable love. Otherwise we’re just playing games. The worst pretender is, of course, the devil, who as father of lies uses every clever disguise he can to trick us into accepting his truth which leads to us bowing before him. That is precisely why I always love hearing stories of saints who beat the devil at his own game, who accepted our true King and how He thinks about things.
One famous story you may know is that of a reporter who watched Mother Saint Teresa of Calcutta as she cleaned the maggot-infested wound of a man on the street. All he could say to Mother was, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” Mother is supposed to have replied immediately, with a bit of a wry smile, “I wouldn’t either.”