Christ the King – I Trust in You!

I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with authority figures.

Strange though that may sound coming from someone
vowed to obedience, it’s the truth. I guess there’s part of me that has a really hard time trusting the good will or competence of those in authority. Though I’ve been aware of this for a while, it has become abundantly clear since I began the 19th annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius a few months ago, where one is “on retreat” for several months, going through Ignatius’30 day retreat while remaining in the world.

In the Exercises, you spend a fair bit of time praying about sin – the nature of sin, the sin of the angels, the sin of Adam, and your own sins. As I went through the various meditations, I was stunned to realize that all these sins are profoundly related to one another. This is due to the fact that they are all ultimately rebellions, uprisings against our first beginning and final end, God. I was grieved by the ways I have rebelled against God (and still do so!) in my own life, and felt sorry for my sins in a whole new way, on a deeper level than ever before.

Following this time, the retreatant makes a famous meditation, usually referred to as “The Call of the King”, where you place yourself imaginatively in two scenarios. The first is that of a subject to an earthly king – a good king – who hears the call of his king to join him in bringing all lands into subjection to Christian rule. This king tells his subjects that he will share with them both the hardships of the campaign and its victory and ensuing glory. It is clear as you pray that only a fool or coward (an “unworthy knight”) would refuse to serve under such a king with such a glorious enterprise.

Next, you replace this good king with Jesus Christ, the King of kings. He calls each person to join him in sufferings and trials as he goes about the work of subjecting all things and people to his authority. The upshot of this invitation is similar: who would turn away from such a request? Who could fail to serve such a good king?

I was surprised as I began to pray with this meditation, because it left me cold and fearful. I saw the beauty of Christ and his goodness. I longed to be part of his work, to share his life and sufferings and death. But I was afraid to offer myself to him because I felt I would disappoint him. After all, I had only days before come to a deeper awareness of my sinfulness and untrustworthiness. So I protested when I heard Christ’s call, “Are you sure you want me to be part of your army, Lord? I am not so good, you see. I will probably betray you, disappoint you, and let you down.”

After a week of prayer where I kept coming to this point of the meditation and hitting this wall, I met with my retreat director – who told me to pray with it for another week! I felt, in part, like I had received a jail sentence and was doomed to spend another hour each day for another week feeling awkward and inadequate and embarrassed before the King I loved but could not serve. But as she gave me this assignment, my director said something really important. “Remember to ask the Lord how he sees you in this. What we see and what he sees are often two very different pictures.”

So I returned to the meditation. And I realized that I was uncomfortable with the whole first part of the meditation, focusing on the call of the earthly king. My heart was protesting the whole time, “there is no such king!” Not knowing what to do about this, I continued to the second part, the call of Christ the King. And suddenly, like a clarion call, it was as if Christ stood before me, looked me in the eye, and spoke straight to my heart, “I am the real deal! I am what I appear to be! You can trust me!” So I returned his gaze and asked him, again, if he wanted me to serve him, knowing what I was. Could he use me, the proud? Could he use me, the self-righteous? Could he use me, the lazy? My vices and inadequacies seemed like such an impediment – why would Christ want me?

Out of nowhere, I had a sense of Christ’s joy, and I, too, was joyful. What was the cause of my joy? Immediately, Mary came to my mind, and I thought about her and the Annunciation – her own “Call of the King” experience. She did not offer God any special giftedness. She offered him only what he had given her: her human nature, all empty and waiting to be filled. She gave him her virginity, her childlessness. And he made her the Mother of Christ. Had she filled her emptiness with a human spouse and natural children, she would have given something beautiful to God, but she would not have been able to give him Jesus, his own son. It seemed to me that God was asking something similar of me. Rather than “fixing” myself or finding something nice or good to offer God, he was inviting me to give him my mess, my incompleteness, my emptiness and trust him to fill it with himself.

Jesus is the rightful King of our hearts. In a world full of confusion, with many harmful examples of authority, where it often seems that nobody can be trusted, Jesus calls all men and women of good will to serve under his banner and he promises that he is worthy of trust. As we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ, the King of the Universe, let us make an offering of ourselves, sinful and sorrowful though we are, and let us trust that he will send the Holy Spirit to overshadow us so that he himself may live in our lives.

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