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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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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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