Sunday, November 21, 2010

The King of Hearts

Readings for Sunday, November 21/
Christ the King Sunday:
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Psalm 122:1-5
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43

On this the last Sunday before Advent, the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King. We honor the Lord and recall the fact that He has defeated Satan and now reigns as king of all creation. But the question I want to pose today is this: is Jesus Christ the King of our hearts?

A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a statue of Christ that I keep on my desk at the seminary to constantly remind me of this question. It depicts the Lord standing in front of a door with His hand raised, about to knock. The beauty, though, comes in one little detail; there is no doorknob. This easily-passed-over detail is actually the key to the meaning of the statue. You see, the door is not the door to someone’s home; it is the door to our heart. And the fact that there is no doorknob emphasizes the point that it is only the one who stands behind the door that opens it. Christ knocks. But do we let Him in? And if we do, do we allow Him to really reign as King of our heart?

Our first reading from the First Book of Samuel recounts for us the anointing of King David, who reigned over Israel around the year 1000 B.C. But remember that Israel didn’t always have a king. In the early history of the Chosen People, it was not a man who ruled over them but rather the Lord God Himself. God reigned over them, giving them the law to live by, providing their food, drink, shelter and many other things. But as the Israelites went through life, they began to look around and see all of the things that other cultures did. They began to see people who worshipped other gods, people committing adultery and other serious sins, people who elected men to rule over them as kings. As they were around these other peoples and cultures, they began to have a distaste for the Law of God and for His ruling over them. They began to worship other gods, commit adultery, and desired to have a king of their own. In all of this, their hearts gradually turned away from the Lord, little by little. One day they finally told God that they wanted a king of their own, to be like those around them. And a king they got – many kings in fact. And not one of them was able to provide for the people Israel as the Lord had done, and yet they were content because they finally had their king. So hard were there hearts that they willingly endured slavery to a mortal man than put themselves in the hands of the invisible God.

At this point it is easy for us to wonder what was wrong with the Israelites. After all, they had God Himself leading them through their journey of life, the Lord provided for their every need, and yet they just simply turn away from Him and seek after the things of the other peoples and put their trust in a mortal man rather than God Himself. And yet as easy as it is to look at them and wonder at how easily they turned away from the Lord, we’re not all that different. After all, we Catholics are called the ‘New Israel’ and in some sense, history does repeat itself in our lives.

At our baptism we were totally consecrated to God, who desires to provide everything we need in this life. We simply must ask for it and be open to it. And yet, we get curious eyes and start to look around. Like the people of Israel several thousand years ago, we start to see all sorts of things that appeal to us and start to take those things and make them our own. And it is an easy step for us to make those things our idols, just as the Israelites began to honor the gods of other people instead of the Lord God Himself. Think about it - how easy is it for us to spend an hour every day watching TV, playing on the internet, playing our phone, shopping at the mall or some similar activity? I find it pretty easy to do any of those activities for an hour or more each day. And I would imagine that I’m not alone in that. But when it come to prayer, how easy is it for us to spend a whole hour with the Lord everyday? And if we are trying to commit that time to the Lord, are we really praying? I have to be honest, yesterday morning I went to do a holy hour in our chapel at the seminary and all that kept coming to mind was the LSU-Ole Miss game, what would be for lunch, and when I was gonna write my paper. And this is where we have to really be honest with ourselves and ask the question of who is really reigning over our hearts? Are we allowing all of these things out in the world to rule over us or do we allow the Lord to really come in and reign in our hearts and our lives?

On this last weekend of ordinary time in the Church year, we recognize that in just a few weeks we will be celebrating Christmas, when the Son of God first came into the world and invited people to open up their hearts to Him. But we don’t have to wait until then to have His Presence dwelling among us and within us. In just a few moments on this very altar we will have present the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist. And as we come forward to receive Him in our mouths, we are reminded that most important of all is that we receive Him into our hearts. For in that moment, as He unites Himself to each one of us in a special way, He speaks to our heart, saying: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”

How will we respond?