When I think of Christ the King, I remember the thirty-day retreat I made before I was ordained. It involved four weeks of silence (no reading, even spiritual books). Each day the director gave us several meditations from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. The central meditation was entitled the Two Banners. On one side is the banner of pride, self-indulgence, comfort. It is the flag of the world or Satan. On the other side is the banner of humility, sacrifice, self-denial - the standard of Christ the King. The retreatant, after considering the implications of each, is asked to choose. Are you going to march under the banner of Christ or of Satan? That is the ultimate question all of us have to ask.
I don't want to be like the guy who at the end of his life left this instruction for his funeral: He wanted someone to stand next to his casket and sing this song: I Did it My Way. It is a nice song, but I hope it does not sum up that man's life. If so he could be in for a surprise. The devil may have received him with an ironic smile. “You thought you were doing it your way. I've got news for you,” says Satan. “All the time you were doing exactly what I wanted. You were doing it my way.”
When we do things my way we think we are acheiving freedom, but we actually fall into the worse slavery that is, enslavement to our base nature, ultimately to the devil himself. When all is said and done, there are only two banners we can march under: Satan or Christ the King.
About following Christ, we have been misleading our children. We are anxious they become self-reliant, autonomous, independent, that they develop self-esteem. Those qualities may have some value, but they are not Christian virtues. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are they who think well of themselves, who have everything under-control.” No, he said, “Blessed are the poor...” Those who know their dependence on God.
One of my priest friends was approached by a parent who said to him, “Father, I'm thinking about suing the parish school.”
My friend gave a start, “Why?” He asked.
She said, “They are ruining my daughter's self-esteem.”
“How are they doing that?” he asked.
She replied, "they are telling her she is a sinner!" A lot could be said about that threatened lawsuit, but I will confine myself to noting the woman has not been observant about her daughter.
But we have a deeper problem here than a parent’s wishful thinking. Self-esteem does not come from asserting, “I'm a good person. No one can tell me I’ve done something wrong.” Self-esteem, in the true sense, means knowing that I'm forgiven and that I can forgive others. Self-esteem without humility is a trap. It makes children want to only be around those who reinforce them. And when contradicted or criticized, they sometimes fall apart, even go ballastic. This false self-esteem is the great rip-off of pop psychology.
On the feast of Christ the King we need to acknowledge not just that we require Jesus' forgiveness, but that he has the final authority in our lives. A king in Jesus’ time was not some conversation piece like the British monarchy. A king had supreme power over his subjects; if he gave an order, they obeyed. That is why Pilate is so careful to interrogate Jesus about whether he claimed kingship. Ultimately there can be only one king.
This past week a beautiful person went before the throne of Jesus. Her name was Katherine Satushek. To my sister, brothers and I she was “Aunt Katie.” She raised seven children. Like my mom she had only one daughter and the rest boys. If that doesn’t take care of her time in Purgatory, I can’t imagine what would. I remember how she combined a simple faith with great intelligence and an inquiring mind - like my mom. When I visited Aunt Katie the Saturday before she died, she held a rosary in her hands. She knew the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth - and Jesus as her King. For you and I now is the moment to decide: Who will have final authority in our life?
Obituary of Katherine Satushek
From Archives (Homily for Christ the King, Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Homily for Christ the King 1999: The Final Judgment
Christ the King 1998 The Great Secret
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
St. Mary of the Valley Album
(updated Nov 10, 2009)
Pictures from Peru
News article and television video about Ben's death
Ben with Julien Bloom
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Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
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