Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Christ the King, and Simplicity Amidst Complexity

Father John J. Lombardi

There are eight hundred million hungry people in the world, Pope Benedict recently observed-and so, is Christ really King?

One hundred fifty people were killed in one day in Baghdad last week-Is Christ Really King? We live in a culture of death (abortion and euthanasia) and a culture of divorce (families routinely split up), and materialism rampantly reigns-amidst all this: Is Christ really King?

This Sunday we celebrate the end of the Liturgical Year in Christ the King: Is He reigning in your heart? In your parish? In our World? Cling to the King! As Advent begins next Sunday we may choose the Savior, or we may choose needless human suffering (the cause of the above ills, when you get down to it). We may choose simplicity or complexity; the Cosmic-Christ-King, or the passing kingdom of the world. Amidst the suffering mentioned above, Christ is still King-if we allow Him to be…

Simplicity is Sane Spirituality: A New York City avidly-busy artist goes to his country cabin-- no electricity, no cell phone, no stove or shower, no television, no heating or indoor plumbing…He goes to escape it all…Do you? The artist (and art professor), Scott Williams, 47, says: "Nervous agitation is part of everyday life, so for me coming up here (upstate New York town of Hobart) is a way of reclaiming my own consciousness … Every day there are these peak experiences, and they repeat: sitting on the front step and listening to the bees; jump starting the day with a dive into the very cold pond (who needs coffee?), or observing the pyrotechnics of an electrical storm. And being alone in this natural environment promotes a kind of introspection about larger issues." (NY Times, Bethany Lyttle).

Ever long for that bare simplicity of life without phones ringing, a computer buzzing away, the constant noise of the daily drum of life? So, instead of giving into the complexity and needless suffering of life take a day retreat sometime soon-or a half a day, to listen to God speak thru the ordinariness of life, and contemplate the "larger issues of life" too. Whether you're married with children or single, what's stopping you? Most likely, you! Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, went out on retreats-so, shouldn't you? The Popes make regular retreats-can't you? Busy artists like Mr. Williams, above (with a wife and two children) can-why not you? With or without a retreat, this Advent, during the busiest time of year, practice stillness and silence regularly in your life thru prayer and mediation and prepare for the King of the world to be born-in your heart.

Another exemplary example of simplicity is my brother. He's downscaling-while just about everyone else is up scaling, pursuing possessions and more gadgets and secular gods. Doug, my bro, is relying less on electricity and amenities and money and corporations and processed food and-and, to tell the truth, though I don't understand it all, I admire him and his path of simplicity. He's showing me the path of the possible-we are not prisoners of materialism and convenience and homogenized-sterilized-busy-body life but are, rather, makers of our own lifestyles and we can make a change-if we know we are ensnared and if we are courageous enough to try to simplify.

Speaking of pursuing possessions-and buying them. I recently met a pilgrim who visited Mary's Grotto and he said that instead of buying Christmas presents galore, alternatively, he makes a home-cooked meal for friends at Christmas time and spends quality time with them-and, actually, enjoys his Christmas time. Obviously, sometimes it's easier to buy things for others (and, even necessary), but, now, consider instead of mindlessly doing this, bring your own presence to others thru the gift of time or talent spent with them. Why not be liberated like this guy and do something different?

Now! Here's a little aspiration I sometimes pray to remind me of God's gift of the now: Present moment, holy moment. Precious moment, only moment. Think about it. Realize it. Do you live in the here-and-now of the present moment or are you always flitting unmindfully to the future or the past, anxiously caught up in what will be or what was? Practice the presence-now.

Breathing spiritually: Hesychasm--Orthodox--Eastern Christianity promotes a kind of "spiritual breathing". You don't' need a lot to be happy and, in fact, maybe the excess actually overwhelms what God is trying to do for you in the here-and-now. Remember Adam, the first man? He was breathed into existence. God gave him life by His sacred breath (pneuma means "spirit" or "breath"). So, think: each breath you take, then, is God's gift and bestowal of love to you. At Christ's Resurrection, Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit…" (Jn.20:22). You are being loved and breathed into existence and grace each moment you realize, through your breath, slowly, lovingly, God's penuma-Spirit. Do you know of and embrace this discipline of loving realization? Serenity (meaning, clearness) comes from this practice, so, even in the busiest time of year: Stop and sense God's love through your breathing awareness. You have no life apart from Him (Jn. 15:5)--He is breathing you.

Worry: this word is known to us all, the reality of it, that is-in our minds and hearts and daily lives. The Greek word for worry comes from two root words, meaning to divide the mind. When we worry-about what and how many presents to get whom for Christmas, when we worry about the weather or the football game-our tender minds are divided, not whole, and we can become un-holy. Overcome this common division and anxiousness by: counting consciously God's blessings to you; calling on the Name of Jesus immediately and reputedly; recalling that He has infinitely and providentially cared for you in the past; thinking of others who are less fortunate-and helping them; finding His Love in the simple, near-at-hand things of life.

Meditation: I just read an article on meditation and it stated the benefits we seldom take advantage of: less stress/more mindfulness, better health, longer living, etc. Look: you don't have to be a priest or hermit or even embrace a life denying attitude to embrace this lost practice. I just had lunch with a friend, John, and he lamented after reading about a Buddhist retreat center, and session, of how "all this" has been part of our Catholic Church for ages-in past religious orders and saints writings and other Catholic people's lives-what happened to it all. Ditto for another devout soul, a priest who became disappointed in the rise of Buddhist mediation centers in Italy and the lack of Catholic spiritual teachers. Take-no make-a session of mediation-"an audience with God-the Most Important Person in Your Life"-ten to twenty minutes each day-silence and stillness through Him, with Him and in Him. Read Psalm 46:10-now!

Giving: A friend just visited a ninety year old lady and gave her a hundred bucks because this elderly lady didn't have any money to buy groceries. The elderly lady used to live in slave's quarters near Baltimore. Now she's destitute and lonely. The cheerful giver said: "Money is to be given away-that's what money's for-not hoarded." What a witness of simplicity and sacrificial giving! Another friend who was offered a tremendous job offer of a huge salary increase was thinking, to my amazement, of how, amidst all the new money and opportunity, he could still do volunteer work in Africa and help poor souls around his digs on Capitol Hill. While, in a way, his future bosses were up scaling him, he himself was still thinking of how he could divinely downscale and help the needy. Will you think this way at this time of year?

Our Grotto organist, Morris, volunteers each week by playing the organ gratis because, as he says, he loves "the job," the people and praising the Lord -it all brings delight to his soul… Are you giving of your time and talent to the Lord in generous ways?

This Advent, prepare the Way of the Lord by embracing simplicity, sacrificial giving and silent prayer-it is the Way of the Lord! And remember the paradox of prayerful giving: If you wanna keep it, give it away.

Christ the King…

Just think: How could a simple itinerant preacher, Someone condemned to death, a praising poor pauper, who claimed the poor as His friends, One who walked across the railroad tracks of division, Someone Who was abandoned by all His friends and Who was crucified amidst common thieves, be called King, King of the universe? Other kings have royal thrones-His, Christ's, was a Cross. Earthly kings have powerful retinues, His are common fishermen. Other kings have powerful diplomats-His are the Mystical Saints. Worldly kings have materialistic kingdoms; Jesus' is a spiritual, celestial Kingdom. Political kings sometimes use weapons and violence, Jesus uses Love-caritas. One of the biggest problems of Christ-the-King is this: our world, and especially US of A, is filled with libertinism. Translated: Everyone wants freedom at the expense of rulership; few today want to be under other's authority. While Nietzsche said God is dead (strike one) and the Ten Commandments are currently seen as "Ten Suggestions" today (strike two) and we have the "Don't put your religion or morality on me" spirit pervading so many minds (strike three)-Christ-as-King is seen as silly, out of date and/or counter intuitive: He, it, just doesn't fit. Well, rather than despairing, what are some ways we can celebrate Him as King?

Is Christ King and center of your heart?-your passions, your emotions, your affections? Give your heart to Him, to His Sacred Kingly Heart. He says: "My Kingdom is not of this world" (Jn. 18:36). I once read a commentary on this line and it said that a better translation would be, from the Greek, "My Kingdom is not from this world." Makes all the difference. Difference?-there is no duality and separation of Kingdoms-Christ's Kingdom may be pervasive in this world but is not from or of it. Jesus says: "The Kingdom of God is within you" (Lk. 17: 21). Yes, the Kingdom of Jesus is to be fully realized apart from this world, but doesn't He want us to try to both realize it within us and also establish some of it here and now through our good deeds and prayerful presence?

Theocracy anyone?-American evangelicals have been pummeled in the post election season for trying to supposedly make America a theocracy-a local Kingdom of God. In unjustly accusing them of this, is it so bad to try to bring a little of God into our Global Village, to make Christ King, to make His Rule more apparent? Yes, we must guard against naiveté trying to realize fully the transcendent Kingdom in earthly, passing terms and by "political promiscuity" (by aligning too close to a political party or form of government). But, as saints thru the centuries have done, inside and outside of Christendom, feeding the poor, acknowledging and promoting God's public Presence and Commandments in our daily lives we may, at least a little, realize and build up a little of God's Kingdom and Christ as King…Do your part here and now! Cling to The King! One of the problems of post-Vatican II Catholics is that they too easily get deterred by the "Don't mix politics and religion" mantra and run scared, and others are filling the void.

Meanwhile, the Amish folks nearby Mary's Mountain experienced a tremendous loss when seven children were killed this past October. Thing is: as my friend Graham recently told me, the relatives of the murdered all attended the killer's funeral. Yes, true. Graham said the Amish don't, can't hold grudges-it's not in the Bible. And so they forgive, they forgave. Now, as Jesus was King, the prayer from Mass for this Solemnity calls Jesus' throne the Cross-and that's where He said: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing". So; forgive and be forgiven.

Christ and Kingdom-linking these two realties together is your spiritual consciousness-the kinetic aspect of your soul-spirit-mind which heightens your awareness of divine realties,

Some or many Catholics now wince at this-and do the opposite-politics and religion cannot mix.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi