Spirituality of the Readings
Christ: a King?
Here is a story which might help us understand.*
Once upon a time there was a king named Arthur. You remember him. He was the one who invented the famous Round Table and had Lancelot as his knight and Guinevere as his wife.
Long before he became a king—in fact when he was just a baby in the cradle—the nurse stepped out for a moment. Quick as a wink Merlin the magician stepped in, then stepped out.
Taking the child with him.
Now, Merlin was a kindly old magician, so this was not really a kidnapping. Alright it was, but it was for a fond purpose. Merlin did not want the boy to grow up in a sumptuous court, spoiled, pampered, and “royal.”
So he whisked young Arthur to the bedraggled castle of a third-rate Lord, Sir Ector. This palace was dirty and run down, but the people who lived there were nice, and the nooks and crannies were perfect for a little boy to run around in and to hide in. All the servants and lords and ladies became his friends, naturally. There was no jealousy about his being heir to the English throne because, thanks to Merlin, no one knew. Even the boy did not know! He was now the foster-son of Sir Ector, and he was given the unpresumptuous name Wart (which in those days rhymed with Art, which is short for Arthur).
Merlin, funny old character, decided to educate Wart in an odd, special way. He began to transform him into various and sundry animals, so that Wart would find first-hand the wonders packed into, say, the life of a hawk. Or a fish. In fact, especially a fish, because fishes go around in schools, and Wart the fish would be able to attend classes!
Our Lord did not go around being called “the Christ,” any more than Wart was called “King Arthur.” He was called “Jesus,” a name we would otherwise have known as Joshua, which possibly meant in Hebrew, “God is salvation.” He was a normal Jewish boy, playing with toys, helping his dad, getting his hands dirty and watching how birds fly.
Like the Wart, Jesus identified with the lowliest, most ordinary people in the land. Granted, there was no Merlin to turn Jesus into a fish or a hawk, but there was something better. This man had come from God and he took on every aspect of our human lives (except sin). Even shame and humiliation. Even death.
Pilate asked him if he were a king. He was, but not in a way that Pilate could understand. Smallness was his power. His Godly smallness characterized him as Christ the King!
Maybe that is why Christ the King, one with the people, one with God, took on all that suffering. Because he was one of us. Why do we have to suffer? Because that is the way of the world. Why didn’t Christ the King change the world and make things perfect? He did. Only, in a way that a good parent would stay with a sick child.
I almost forgot to tell you, I typed a wrong key when I began writing this reflection. I hit a “d” instead of a “g” at the end of the word King. It came out “Christ the Kind.”
Come celebrate Christ the Kind.
John Foley, SJ
* This story of Arthur is based on the book “The Sword in the Stone,” first of the series by T. H. White, called The Once and Future King (New York: Penguin/Putnam Inc., 1965). It is quite worth reading.
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University