- See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, lowly (Zech. 9:9)
As I said at the end of my reflection last week, I, a beggar, owe it to other beggars to tell them where to find bread. If it is not enough for me to love God if my neighbor does not love him, it is likewise not enough for me to eat bread if other beggars do not eat it. Moreover, the story of Christianity should continue being told. Also, one should underscore—as did Pope Benedict XVI last November 12 when he denounced the injustice that condemns more than 800 million people to hunger—that the daily bread we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer is not “my” but rather “our” bread ().
So then, it seems to me, Christianity cannot be reduced to Christendom simply (kingdom, by and large, in the past). For Christianity points to the kingdom or authority that is very different from what we usually know on earth. Of course, there are socio-democratic kingdoms and states that have concern for the poor and the less fortunate, but these do not ordinarily aspire to bring about communities made up of people who devote themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to prayer, and who are of such one joyful heart and simple mind that they sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need, so that there is no needy person among them.
And as though neglect of the poor were not bad enough, there are in no few countries rulers who vindicate the divine warning that the prophet Samuel communicated to those who were clamoring that a king rule over them. The warning says (1 Sam. 8, 10-17):
- The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He
- will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses,
- and they will run before his chariot. ..... He will use your
- daughters as ointment-makers, as cooks, and as bakers. He will
- take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and
- give them to his officials. He will tithe your crops and your
- vineyards, and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves.
- He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best
- oxen and your asses, and use them to do his work. He will tithe
- your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves.
I do not think there is lack on earth of rulers who, not taking notice of king David’s spirit of repentance, imitate him insofar as he was not able to resist the temptation to abuse his power. Smitten by Bathsheba, who later became pregnant with his child, the king ordered Uriah’s murder, with the Joab’s complicity, so he could take someone else’s wife. I do not know how many there are, but I have no doubt that there are rules today who give authority, monarchic or democratic, a bad name, in the way that did king Solomon turned apostate, or the hen-pecked king Achab who murdered Naboth, through Jezebel’s machination, so he could grab his vineyard, or the cruel and overbearing Rehoboam, or the abominable Manasseh who shed, among other abominations he committed, “so much innocent blood as to fill the length and breadth of Jerusalem.”
But enough of the recitation of the injustices of those in authority, and it should certainly be admitted that among statesmen are good and even holy individuals. Suffice it to add that human experience—as it is clearly and amply demonstrated by both sacred history and profane history—proves that rulers have given sufficient motive for the common folks to view them with skepticism, to say the least.
But apparently skepticism—or even outright hostility perhaps—does not stop the common folks from wanting to know about royalty and rulers. I suspect every symbiosis—including that between slaves and masters, oppressors and oppressed—vehemently resists uprooting. Due to this resistance, I find it hard to imagine another kind of royalty or authority and, just like Pilate, I cannot understand, much less, accept the truth to which Jesus came to bear witness, this truth that Jesus is king, but not one of those earthly kings who employ weapons to threaten others and protect themselves from them. It is indeed difficult to understand and accept the truth of the teaching that, among us Christians, those who would rule ought to serve instead of lording it over their subjects and making their power over them felt. Right on the mark, for sure, is this saying of both St. Louise de Marillac and St. Vincent de Paul, commenting on common folks’ behavior and wishing them a wholly new and much better vision ():
- Everyone loves to see the king and queen. People stand on lines
- in the streets for hours to catch a glimpse of them. They come
- home excited to tell their families, “I saw the king and the
- queen today! They passed right by me in their carriage.” But
- in the Kingdom of God the poor are the royalty. You have the
- privilege of seeing them every day, of listening to their needs,
- of serving them. What a wonderful gift God has given us if only
- we can see with the eyes of faith!
What a wonderful gift God has given us, yes. And more gifts await us, as is indicated by the dazzling rays of light streaming from the outstreched hands of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. A homily written in the second century assures us that the Lord “is more ready to give than we are to ask.” I should not be ashamed to beg with other beggars, and to keep telling the story of Christianity, the story of the kingdom of an unbelievable king, extraordinary, out of this world.