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 all of the craziness that has surrounded recent presidential elections. Claims of foreign intervention and voter fraud have run rampant, and we can only imagine the circus that will ensue when we get to November 2024. Be sure to have lots of snacks on hand so you can settle in and watch the lunacy that will ensue no matter who “wins” the election. All we really know is that “we the people” will once again be the real losers.
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 accusations of fraudulent votes or discussions of how social media or the Deep State or (be sure to shudder when you read it) Putin has rigged the election.
Yet, as Americans, we are programmed to see elections, even contested elections 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.”
I understand Ron Swanson’s patriotic feelings, and I particularly enjoy his crack at the expense of the Saxe-Coburg family of England. But I tend to agree with writer Charles Coulombe who noted that he would “rather be ruled by people who think they're going to fry in Hell forever if they rule me poorly, than by people for whom I'm merely a convenient economic siphon who can be milked like a cow.”
Besides, as a Catholic, I am a bit put off by the assumption that being a tiny baby makes one ineligible to be king. 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.”