Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christ the King, an unanswered prayer: Feast of Christ the King (34th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

           Every now and then I hear the song, “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks.  One of its great lines is, “Some of God’s greatest gifts is unanswered prayers.”  Each time I hear the song causes me to think about some of the unanswered prayers—or prayers that were answered, “NO”—in my life.
            There was a time I prayed to be an NBA basketball player.  That didn’t work out too well and I can admit now I’m glad it didn’t.
            Having parents who insisted we played outside, I prayed that I would get a Nintendo.  That one didn’t work out either, but thanks to my parents I now love the outdoors.
            When I grew up a bit I prayed to marry a girl—any girl.  Yet God had different plans for my life and since being ordained a priest I have never experienced more joy and peace.
            One of the greatest gifts ever given in the world was an unanswered prayer.  For centuries the Israelites prayed the Messiah would come.  Born in the line of King David, they prayed for a man who would bring riches, freedom and military victory for their people.  Yet God didn’t give them an earthly king with power, money or military expertise.  But He did give them His son.  
And Jesus was no ordinary man, but a God-man.  Our Christian faith sprang from Judaism and it is our faith in Jesus Christ that makes us unique.  We reflect on this truth in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  Jesus is certainly our King, but he reigns in a much different way than the Israelites expected.
This can be seen in Luke’s vivid account of Jesus’ crucifixion with the two criminals.  The rulers sneered.  The soldiers jeered.  One criminal was a cynic, demanding ironically, “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us.” 
But the second criminal—the Good Thief—showed his faith in Christ’s divinity.  Remember, Jesus was crucified by the Romans, who thought he was rivaling Caesar, and the Jews, who called Jesus a blasphemer by claiming equality with God.  What the Good Thief says on his cross is a powerful statement of faith: “…we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”
On this great Feast of Christ the King, we renew our faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, once more.  We trust that he is not only the king of the universe but also of our own lives.  We pray for the grace today to be loyal subjects to our King.

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