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Sunday Readings for Nov. 21, 2010 (34C)
By Fr. John Foley, S. J.
Once there was a king named Arthur. You remember him. He was the one who invented the famous Round Table and had Lancelot as his knight and Guinevere as his wife.
Long before he became a king—in fact when he was just an infant in the cradle—a strange thing happened.
The nurse stepped out for a moment and quick as a wink Merlin the magician appeared.
Then he disappeared.
And took the little boy with him.
Now, Merlin was a kindly old magician, so this was not really a kidnapping. Alright it was, but it was for a fond purpose. Merlin did not want the boy to grow up in a sumptuous court, spoiled, pampered and “royal.” Rulers can be miles above the tiny precious specks of beauty in life.
So Merlin whisked young Arthur to the bedraggled castle of a third-rate Lord, Sir Ector. The castle was dirty, but the people were ordinary and nice, and the nooks and crannies were perfect for a little boy to run around in and to hide in. All the servants and lords and ladies were his friends, naturally.
There was no jealousy about his being heir to the throne because, thanks to Merlin, no one knew that he was. Even the boy did not know! He was now the foster-son of Sir Ector, and he was given the unpresumptuous name Wart (which in those days rhymed with Art, which is short for Arthur).
Merlin, funny old character, decided to educate Wart in an odd, special way. He decided to transform him into various and sundry animals, so that Wart would find first-hand the wonders packed into, say, the life of a hawk. Or a fish. In fact, especially a fish, because fishes go around in schools, and Wart the fish could go to class!
By now you have probably guessed why I am telling this story. Sunday is the feast of Christ the King.
Jesus was not called Christ during his whole lifetime, any more than Wart was called King. He was called “Jesus,” a name we would otherwise know as Joshua, which probably meant “God is salvation” in Hebrew. He was a normal Jewish boy, playing with toys, helping his dad, getting his hands dirty and watching how birds fly.
Like the Wart, Jesus identified with the lowliest, most ordinary people in the kingdom. Granted, there was no Merlin to turn Jesus into a fish or a hawk, but there was something better. He was already like us in every single aspect of his life. Even shame and humiliation. Even death.
This is why he would not answer when Pilate asked if he were a king. He was, but not in the way a Pilate could understand. Smallness was his power.
Christ the King. I almost forgot to tell you. I typed a wrong key when I began writing this reflection and hit a “d” instead of a “g” at the end of the word King. It came out “Christ the Kind.”
Why should a kind man, one of the people, have to suffer? Because he was one of us. Why do we have to suffer? Because that is the way of the world. Why didn’t Christ the King change the world and make things perfect? He did, but not in the way we had expected. He did it as Christ the Kind.
____________*By the way, this story of Arthur is based on the first book (“The Sword in the Stone”) of the grand series of novels by T. H. White, The Once and Future King (New York: Penguin/Putnam Inc., 1965).