Nine Days to Christ the King: Day 3

Meditation Day 3: Christ, Our Prophetic King

When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:1-12).

REFLECTION

The edicts of a king. The Sermon on the Mount, more than any other place in the Gospel, gives us a view, in Jesus’s own words, of the nature of the kingdom he came to establish. 

When Jesus takes to the mountain to begin his discourse on the kingdom, he does so fully aware of the symbolism of his actions. By taking a mountain for his pulpit, he is positioning himself as the “new Moses,” who, centuries before, had received God’s law in direct revelation on Mount Sinai. He gathers his disciples around him, as did the authoritative teachers of his time, and proceeds to lay out the ground rules of the new kingdom he has come to inaugurate. He is the definitive prophet, the one who will teach us the fullness of truth about God and the salvation he wishes to offer us.

Yet, as he begins to teach, the words that come from his mouth are nothing like what those gathered around are expecting to hear. He does not speak of earthly grandeur and greatness. His promises are not of riches and power. He does not command servile allegiance. His kingdom, it is becoming clear, is not of this world (cf. John 18:36).

Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst. Blessed are the persecuted. If Jesus is looking to make a politician’s pitch, his words are far from enticing. Those held in esteem in his kingdom are not the high and mighty, those of position, those of wealth. Gaining a place in his kingdom involves nothing of beating out others in the race to get ahead. It is not a question of shining brighter or being more qualified. The favored of this kingdom are, in fact, those oftentimes most overlooked by society.

Why the poor? Why the meek? Why the insulted and persecuted? It is only natural that such questions well up in our hearts, and it is to him that we need to direct them. “Teach me, Lord, to see what you see.” Perhaps, deep down, our unvoiced question is, “Don’t you want me to be happy?” Or is citizenship in this kingdom ultimately only a sure ticket to suffering and misery?

To belong to his kingdom, we need to be willing to confront our mistaken, worldly views of power and glory and true happiness. Precisely because Jesus wants us to be happier than we can even imagine, he challenges our preconceived ideas of what it takes to find true happiness. He is not a king who will trick his subjects into submission. He is clear in the conditions he lays out, but he is also clear in his promises. He loves us too much to allow us to seek happiness where it can never be found.

There is a lifetime’s worth of insight to be drawn from the beatitudes, but in these reflections, we will focus primarily on the first, which in some way sums up all the rest: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Blessed are the poor in spirit. Jesus is not glorifying a life in the slums or homeless on the streets. Rather, he is making clear that his kingdom, unlike those found on this earth, is open to those who find themselves in similar situations. What is more, they and all who suffer in any way have a privileged place in his heart. Yet, going even deeper, at their core, his words are a call for us to recognize our deep, existential need for God. 

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). Jesus’s words speak to the hidden riches of those who believe themselves to be self-sufficient and capable of finding true happiness by their own devices, often–though subtly–without the need for God. Where our hearts are full of ourselves and our own false securities, Our Lord cannot reign. When he finds the throne of our hearts already occupied, he does not force his way in, but rather steps aside and waits for us to open the door to him.

The way of the beatitudes is the beautiful way of reliance on God and trust in him. It is the courageous way of placing our lives, and all their circumstances, in God’s hands. It is through embracing this way that little by little we discover the tremendous freedom that comes from belonging to Christ’s kingdom and allowing him to reign in our lives without caveats and conditions.

As we allow Christ, our prophetic King, to speak to us through his word, let us pray that we might not only hear his words but allow them to reign in us. Christ the King will reign in our lives in the measure in which we allow his true, undiluted word to reign in our hearts. And, in turn, as his word becomes living and active in our lives, his reign will also be extended to those around us—not so much by our words as through our actions.

Questions for further reflection:

  • What concrete circumstances of this moment in my life provide an opportunity for me to live out the poverty of spirit preached by Jesus and place myself more fully in God’s hands? What might this look like in my day to day life?
  • What securities or concerns might be occupying Jesus’s rightful throne in my life or the life of my family? Recognizing them is an opportunity to invite him in and ask him to help me to give them over to him and allow him to reign in their place.
  • Is there a part of Jesus’s words in the beatitudes that disturbs me or rubs me the wrong way? Perhaps this is an opportunity to speak to Our Lord so that he can help me to see why that is and in what way his word and his criteria still have not fully conquered my heart.
  • Am I perceiving a call to allow God’s word to reign more fully in my life? Is there a specific aspect of his word that, even unconsciously, I gloss over or skirt around, perhaps because it makes me uncomfortable, or perhaps because I haven’t really taken the time to reflect on what Jesus might be saying to me through it?

PRAYER

Christ, my prophetic King, teach me to make room for your word to reign in my heart. I long to be the fertile ground in which your word can take root and bear fruit. Guide me as I strive to place my life more fully in your hands and live with the poverty of spirit that allows you to occupy your true place in my life. Allow your word to come alive in my life so that I might be an instrument for you to reign in others.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart more like yours.

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The Kingdom without End:
A Retreat Guide on Christ the King

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