The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
First Reading: Daniel 7:13-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 93:1-2, 5
Second Reading: Revelation 1:5-8
Gospel: According to St. John 18:33-32
This Sunday brings to my mind a phrase that has worked its way into the American lexicon, but has probably never been seen to have any theological significance – “hanging chad.”
To those who are too young to remember the presidential election of 2000, the phrase “hanging chad” was introduced to the nation as that thing upon which the election of either George W. Bush or Al Gore was literally hanging. A chad is a small box on a ballot that would be punched with a stylus in order to remove that box (chad) from the ballot when marking one’s choice for a particular candidate. Because Bush won Florida by less than one-half of one percent of the votes cast there, there needed to be a recount, and thus the discovery of ballots with hanging chads (three corners punched), as well as swinging chads (two corners punched), tri-chads (one corner punched) and the ever-popular pregnant or dimpled chad (pushed but not punched).
How much easier is it in a monarchy? Monarchies don’t have to worry themselves about messy things like elections. When the monarch dies the line of succession literally continues without skipping a beat. There are no recounts, there are no Supreme Court interventions, and there certainly are no hanging chads.
As Americans, we are programmed to see elections, even contested elections with chads hanging and otherwise, as better than the simple succession of a monarchy. In fact, our collective memory as a nation feels justified when the “Parks and Recreation” character Ron Swanson says to a Londoner: “Enjoy the fact that your royal overlords are a frail, old woman and a tiny baby.”
The Irish American in me wanted to high-five Ron. The Irish Catholic in me cringed at the mention of a tiny baby. Catholicism is nothing if not a vision of reality that recognizes that our “royal overlord” is a tiny baby, and a tiny baby born not in a castle, but in a stable.
Today we celebrate the tiny baby who has come into His inheritance as the King of the Universe. We need to put aside our American prejudices and recognize that when one is trying to run the universe monarchy is better than democracy. Today reminds us of one of the great truths of life: God is God, and we are not. No matter how hard any of us works, none of us can ever become King of the Universe.
Sadly, we all can act like the King of the Universe. Anyone who has ever said, “If I were God, then I would have done …” is someone who has played at being King of the Universe. We are taught that anyone can grow up to be president, but it would be rather foolish to be taught that anyone can grow up to be God. That only happened once, and I have a feeling that there was a lot of nepotism involved.
So here we stand at the end of the Church year, looking ahead to the beginning of Advent and the entry of a tiny baby into the world – a tiny baby who is our Royal Overlord. But before we turn our gaze to the stable let us look to the cross and the ultimate triumph of the One who was nailed to it. Let us recognize the King of the Universe in all of His glory as the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end, “the One Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty.”
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