Last month I watched a news story, which most people probably paid little attention to. It was the funeral of the King of Thailand, who incidentally was born in Massachusetts.
A Beloved KingSeveral years ago I was given an opportunity to go to Thailand and work with some of the Thai alumni from Long Island University where was working at the time. Before I left, a Thai student in the United States said to me, "Whatever you do, don't say anything bad about the King, he is beloved there. It is the one thing you can do to really upset people." Although he has no constitutional power, he is highly influential. I found out that he is so beloved that the Thai legislature passed a law making it an offense so say anything negative about him or the Queen.
The King, was beloved because he deeply tared about his people. He championed a case that brought water to the poor; he demanded the Prime Minister, who had a hand in the 1997 Asian economic collapse, to resign. He made sure people were not hungry during that economic upheaval.
Watching his funeral, I could see the loss the people felt. He was a good and kind king. The Thai people, for the most part, are good and kind people, much like their King…
Our Beloved KingWhy all this talk about the King of Thailand? As an American, I have little personal knowledge of Kings and their reigns, and so this Feast of Christ, the King of the Universe is a bit of a stretch for me. However the influence the King of Thailand had on his people, and their mimicking of his qualities, caused me to wonder, “Do we, who proclaim Christ our King, really live under his rule or are we ruled by something else? Have we become like our own King or not?
Our lives today seem to be ruled by other forces than the reign of Christ. We are often ruled by fear, suspicion, mistrust, division, sadness, lack of hope and sometimes hatred. These are not the values of Christ the King of Universe. To proclaim Christ the King in any real way would mean that we would allow our hearts, minds, and actions to be ruled by his way of life.
What are the Actions of Our King?The Gospel for the Feast of Christ the King tells us what the values of this Kingdom are and the expectations of the members of the kingdom. To sum up: it means to let our hearts be ruled by compassion and mercy. It means to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the ill, and visit the imprisoned.
To be truly ruled by these things would mean that they become such second nature, that we might not even recognize that we do them. "Lord, when did we see you sick, hungry, or naked?” (Matthew 25:36). To be ruled by Christ the King means that this type of love and compassion is seen as the rule of our lives…
What are the Values of Our King?
To really have Christ as our King, we must let our hearts be ruled by those things Jesus valued. We know Jesus valued and practiced love for all people – those of his faith and those of other faiths. He cared deeply for the sick, the poor, the lonely. He valued compassion, mercy, forgiveness, honesty, and unity. I find it strange that we live a society that claims to be Christian but will announces proudly that their political party is more important than their Christian values. If we look, we can see this attitude on both sides of the aisle.
I heard a talk by Sister Olga Jacob, and Catholic nun from Iraq, now living in Boston. She talked about her work with the Muslim people in Iraq: how she and the other sisters would feed the poor, care for the sick, teach the children. When a person in the audience asked her, why would she, a Catholic Nun, help these Muslim people, she answered, "We help people not because they are Catholic, but because we are Catholic. Our love should be universal!"
If Christ is our King, then we must become more like him
To proclaim Christ as King of the Universe must mean something very concrete in our daily lives. It means we must stand for his values, his way of life, his vision of the world over all else. His reign has to be complete in our hearts. It is the reason we value prayer. In fact, we pray so that our hearts can finally let in the King of Kings – so we can become more like him… Our prayer should help us become better citizens of his Kingdom and we wait our way in expectation through this Season of Advent and the coming Christmas Season.
The Bishop of Albany put it best: We should remember who we are called to be: people who serve our King, do him honor, reflect in our lives the gospel he taught us and the example he gave us. We must remember to notice and protect for the dignity of every human life. Like our King, we are called to stand beside the weak and the helpless, the persecuted and forgotten, regardless of their race or religion… We are Christians and Christ is truly our King.