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What kind of King do you believe in?

November 20, 2017
Father Mark Doherty

Scripture reflection for Sunday, November 26, 2017, the Feast of Christ the King

What kind of King do you believe in? Do you sometimes believe that Jesus is a thief who is in the business of stealing things from you and asking you to give things up? That he is always asking you to suffer and sacrifice? That he is depriving you of things you need or deserve to have and enjoy? That he’s all about making your life miserable, hard, and dull?

To what extent do you believe that Jesus is a noble King who is constantly seeking to give you more than you could fathom? That he only invites you on occasion to return certain goods to him so that he can give you something even better in exchange? That he is truly the magis, the more, in that he always seeks to create more room in your spirit to place more of his grace and love within?

As we ponder this astonishing scene depicted for us in today’s Gospel reading, one question that rises before us is: how, really, do we get to the point that some people seem to be attentive and generous to those they meet while others seem to seek to grab more and more for themselves? At bottom, I think, an important part of the answer depends on what kind of God people believe in.

What I mean is that, to the extent I believe that God is an ever-generous giver, the more I find myself disposed of sharing the wealth I’ve come by with those in need because I trust that God is always there to look out for me and provide for me. Some might push back against this and say that true love doesn’t consider such things are repayment or compensation. They maintain that true, perfect love, disregards the consequences of our giving in such a way that, prompted by true love one should be ready to give everything away without any consideration to the question of whether or not they will be provided for in return.

This is simply not true. Jesus knows as much because on many, many occasions in the Gospel he tells us specifically that those who are generous will be repaid abundantly. This is not Jesus condescending to us, suggesting that we simply are incapable of being generous without thinking finally of our own good. Rather, Jesus understands that God made us for life, so in fact it is entirely appropriate for us to be concerned about well-being. We want to live, and we should want to live. God made us this way. Being generous with others is possible to the extent to which I believe and experience that in giving of my treasure I receive a hundredfold in return from the author of Life.

Those who end up on the left of our Lord at the judgment find themselves there because, in part, deep down, they are not convinced that in giving of their treasure they will receive a hundredfold in return. They become misers and scroungers precisely because, like those on the right, they want to live; but, unlike those on the right, they don’t believe that life is to be found precisely in being generous with life. So, they hoard, in a futile effort to preserve their life.

Today, on Christ the King Sunday, let us examine our hearts and ask the Lord to reveal to us the ways in which and the places where we struggle to believe that the Lord is in fact a Generous, Noble King.

Doherty_Fr. Mark - web 100x125Father Doherty, who serves at St. Peter and St. Anthony parishes in San Francisco, is studying moral theology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.

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