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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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Louis of France: At his coronation as king of France, Louis IX bound himself by oath to behave as God’s anointed, as the father of his people and feudal lord of the King of Peace. Other kings had done the same, of course. Louis was different in that he actually interpreted his kingly duties in the light of faith. After the violence of two previous reigns, he brought peace and justice. 
<p>He was crowned king at 12, at his father’s death. His mother, Blanche of Castile, ruled during his minority. When he was 19 and his bride 12, he was married to Marguerite of Provence. It was a loving marriage, though not without challenge. They had 11 children. </p><p>Louis “took the cross” for a Crusade when he was 30. His army seized Damietta ini Egypt but not long after, weakened by dysentery and without support, they were surrounded and captured. Louis obtained the release of the army by giving up the city of Damietta in addition to paying a ransom. He stayed in Syria four years. </p><p>He deserves credit for extending justice in civil administration. His regulations for royal officials became the first of a series of reform laws. He replaced trial by battle with a form of examination of witnesses and encouraged the use of written records in court. </p><p>Louis was always respectful of the papacy, but defended royal interests against the popes and refused to acknowledge Innocent IV’s sentence against Emperor Frederick II. </p><p>Louis was devoted to his people, founding hospitals, visiting the sick and, like his patron St. Francis (October 4), caring even for people with leprosy. (He is one of the patrons of the Secular Franciscan Order.) Louis united France—lords and townsfolk, peasants and priests and knights—by the force of his personality and holiness. For many years the nation was at peace. </p><p>Every day Louis had 13 special guests from among the poor to eat with him, and a large number of poor were served meals near his palace. During Advent and Lent, all who presented themselves were given a meal, and Louis often served them in person. He kept lists of needy people, whom he regularly relieved, in every province of his dominion. </p><p>Disturbed by new Muslim advances in Syria, he led another crusade in 1267, at the age of 41. His crusade was diverted to Tunis for his brother’s sake. The army was decimated by disease within a month, and Louis himself died on foreign soil at the age of 44. He was canonized 27 years later.</p> American Catholic Blog God passes through the thicket of the world, and wherever His glance falls He turns all things to beauty. <br />–St. John of the Cross

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