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Bible Reflections View Comments

God's Kingdom, Not Ours
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, November 24, 2013
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A few years ago, the movie The King’s Speech gave us a poignant and personal look at one moment in the history of Britain’s royal family. The changes of the 20th century took their toll on a historical institution as the absolute authority of George V was rejected by his son Edward and then uneasily assumed by the man who would become George VI. The reluctant monarch overcame a severe stutter to inspire a nation during World War II. He grew in an understanding of what it meant to be king that his father or brother never could have imagined.

One of the things that has so charmed the world in the first year of Pope Francis’s papacy is his conscious turning away from those trappings of papal life that have been adopted and adapted from the world of secular monarchies. We sense in his humility an authority that doesn’t need pomp and elaborate vestments.

Throughout Christian history, the notion of Christ as king has jostled somewhat uneasily alongside the concept of an earthly king. When Caesar was proclaimed as divine, Christians asserted that they followed the one true God, a greater king and ruler. But as Christianity was absorbed into Constantine’s empire, the lines between secular and religious power tended to blur at times.

From its beginnings in the Hebrew Scriptures, the concept that eventually came to be known as the “divine right of kings” was not immune to the flaws of humanity. All institutions on earth are limited by the fact that they are made up of flawed human beings.

In our first reading today, we hear the story of the great King David. Chosen by God while still a shepherd boy, anointed by Samuel, David is now acclaimed by the people as their king. But the Scriptures will show that even someone as graced as David can falter if he forgets the source of his authority and becomes too enamored of the trappings of power and privilege.

In today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, the people jeering at Jesus frame their abuse in terms of Jesus not using his power to save himself. This was one of the temptations in the desert. Once again on the cross, he overcomes it. The Lord’s kingship is simply not about earthly power. As his followers, we need to remember this. Jesus was victorious through his wounds, not in spite of them.

Luke is the only Gospel writer who gives us the scene of the two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus. It highlights the recognition of Jesus willingly taking on the sins and weaknesses of all humanity. And yet even in this final moment of degradation, those with eyes to see can recognize his inherent nobility. The repentant thief says to him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus responds, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus’s followers as well as his opponents try again and again to shape him into their image of a leader, a ruler, a priest, a king. Again and again he resists those attempts. At the crucifixion, we finally see the reality for what it is.

As we look to Christ as our King, we see what true divine authority looks like. We are called to make sure that we, along with our leaders, always strive to follow that model. It’s not that we don’t need leaders; it’s that we need leaders taking us in the right direction. Power must always be used to heal, not hurt.


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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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