Ben Irvin wrote a children’s book for his little daughter Elizabeth, called The King Jesus Story.
Spoiler alert! Here is the central theme of the story:
"God gave us the King we needed, a King who loves, forgives, and changes everyone who comes to him.
"This King gave us a job to do: love each other with all we’ve got.
"Because that’s how we show others what it’s like to be loved by God."
We will conclude our liturgical year with the feast of Christ the King, which was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925. This feast’s emphasis was on the social and political implication of Christ’s kingship. In an era that was marked by the rise and fall of extreme ideological tendencies, our church wanted to make a strong statement with a simple message: Jesus is our King!
This year, Luke’s Gospel for the feast is loaded with surprises: the poor are rich, sinners find salvation, the Kingdom of God is found in our midst. And the greatest surprise of all … we are confronted with the crucified Jesus, whom faith tells us is King and Savior of all. Christ’s kingship is different from all that we are used to. He does not come with political power or might. He does not come with weapons or threats. No! He comes as one of us. He is a king that became as ordinary as you and me.
From there we enter into the season of Advent. Our readings have Jesus coming to us in history, as one of us; in mystery, as he comes into our lives each time we step forward in love of God and neighbor; and in majesty, as he comes to us at the end of time bringing the fulfillment of the reign of God. Advent challenges us to anticipate his coming on all three levels … making every moment of our lives ready to meet our loving God, face to face.
So how do we ready ourselves to meet Jesus? What practices might help us to be aware and available to the ways God breaks into our lives each day?
I live in a community in which we pray together every morning at 7 a.m., and I pray privately and journal at 5:30 a.m. I know if I didn’t pray then, I would let the busyness of the day take over, and I am entirely too tired to spend some quality time with God at the end of my day. In my prayer I ask Jesus to help me see him in everyone I meet and then reflect on how I let the face of Christ be seen through me.
When Jesus tells us to "stay awake" in one of our Advent Gospels, he’s not saying we should never go to sleep! Rather, he is encouraging us to ready our hearts for what’s to come. Ask yourself, "What do I need to change in order to better love my neighbor and God?" By reflecting on the changes we need to make, we prepare our hearts to welcome Christ into our lives in a new way this Christmas.
As the writer Ben Irvin tells us, "This King Jesus gave us a job to do: love each other with all we’ve got."
Because that’s how we show others what it’s like to be loved by God.
Sister Del Santo is director of vocations for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester.