Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Kingdom and Suffering

The Feast of Christ the King
Today the church celebrates the Solemnity of “Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.”
In the gospel passage at mass Jesus confronts Pilate with the assurance that “My Kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:33-37). The old Latin hymn "Vexilla Regis" proclaims "Regnavit a ligno Deus" - "God is reigning from a tree."

But as I was meditating on the Kingdom this morning, shifting in my chair every two minutes because of my back pain, I realized that I don’t consider that my own suffering has anything to do with the Kingdom. And that’s a mistake.

“Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” is Kingdom language. The Kingdom is not for the healthy, the strong and the righteous but for the sick, the weary and the sinful. Besides being a candidate on all three scores, I'm coming to realize a little of the "up" side of my suffering.

Suffering and the Kingdom
Jesus expects us to announce the Kingdom ourselves by the way we live, by the way we act toward one another. Somehow my physical pain and the weariness and discouragement that sometimes go along with it are making me a more effective “announcer” of the Kingdom. I’m a little less full of myself, a little bit hollowed out into the shape of a vessel for carrying something like the Good News. My back pain has given me the opportunity to become more compassionate toward people who are suffering, more understanding of those who are experiencing pain or sorrow. I hope that with God’s grace it will continue to make me a humbler and wiser preacher of the Reign of Love.

Despite my starting to admit some of the good points about my pain, I’m still going for a different kind of injection in my back tomorrow, praying that it might give me some relief. If it doesn't, then at least Advent will be a good time to continue experiencing my own brokenness and neediness.

Sunday November 29, 2010 is the First Sunday of Advent. Over the next four weeks hope to share some thoughts about Advent as “The Season for Troubled Times.”
You may want to read my book “From Holidays to Holy Days: A Benedictine Walk through Advent” (Morehouse Publishing, 2008).

.........meanwhile Rejoice! The Lord is King!

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