View all Novenas | November 19, 2020
Nine Days to Christ the King: Day 8
Meditation Day 8: Christ, Our Lover King
They crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,” in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled (that says): “They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.” This is what the soldiers did.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, for the Sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out (John 19: 18-34).
Our King and Lord. Nailed to a cross.
We look upon him and can only be moved by the love of a king who gives his life for his people… who gives his life for his friends… who gives his life even for his enemies.
Our King is a lover who gives everything, without reservation. He came into the world poor and left it poor: deprived even of the basic dignity of retaining the clothes on his back. Yet, as he himself told us elsewhere in the Gospels, he gave his life and all he had of his own accord (cf. John 10:18). Nothing was forced on him. He chose, moment by moment, to give everything he had, down to the last drop of his blood, for me.
He gave every inch of clothing on his back. He gave his mother. And he gave every drop of the blood coursing through his veins as if to say that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, that he was not willing to give.
Throughout the course of history, there have been many good and kind-hearted rulers, but none has loved as Our King has done. First, he, our omnipotent God, took our frail flesh as his own, so as to live as one of us and accompany us through life’s ups and downs not from afar, but up close, in our very flesh. Further, he gave us this flesh, his own Body and Blood, as our food and drink, that he might live and love not only alongside us but in us. And finally, he took this flesh, assumed for love of us, and he laid it down on our behalf. He gave his life that we might live.
On the cross, his few belabored words were ones of love. He spoke to forgive us. He spoke to give us the gift of his mother. He spoke to express his deep, profound thirst for each one of us. Jesus thirsted to satisfy our thirst. From the cross, his desire was that we might only allow him to satiate our thirst with his love.
We serve a king whose victory came about in apparent defeat. To the casual observer, his life could seem the greatest failure in history—the Lord of Life crucified and put to death on a tree. Yet instead, his life–and his death–were the ultimate triumph of love. Even death could not stand between us and the love of our King. Instead, it only served to prove that he loved us until he literally had no more to give.
Let us take a moment to contemplate our lover King, reigning from his throne on the cross. What does his broken, pierced body say to me? What do I wish to say to him? From the cross, Jesus gives everything and asks for nothing. There are no strings attached to his gift. But there is a two-fold invitation implicit in his self-offering, for such selfless love cannot but elicit a response.
The first invitation is to satiate his thirst. Jesus does not demand that we give him something to drink, but it is not indifferent to him whether we respond to his love. How could a lover be indifferent to the love of his beloved? Jesus’s eyes, half-closed by pain and exhaustion, look straight into mine with longing, with thirst, that I might let his love take over my life. There is nothing else he can give me. He has played all of his cards. It is my turn to tell him that I am willing to bet it all on his love being enough to satiate my own longing and thirst.
The second invitation is a natural consequence of the first. Allowing Jesus’s love to take over my life and truly fulfill my deepest desires entails the apparently contradictory invitation to embrace the path of sacrificial love. Not sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice, but rather love that does not hesitate to die to give life to others. If I choose to follow this King, I must choose the path he chose. I must learn from him what it truly means to love. I must lose my life in order to find it (cf. Matthew 10:39). And if I accept his invitation, I will find the indescribable fulfillment that only loving in this way can bring.
Our celebration of Christ the King is ultimately a celebration of love, a love that our King invites us to share. Our contemplation of our King in his greatest act of love leads us to discuss with him:
- Do I truly believe that Jesus’s love is enough, that it can satisfy my deepest desires? Could it be that I sometimes “hedge my bets,” looking for other answers to satisfy my hidden dissatisfactions? What might be holding me back from “betting it all” on allowing his love to quench my thirst?
- Do I believe that the life of sacrificial love offered by Jesus is truly the way to my greatest happiness? Do I believe that by losing my life through loving God and others, I will truly find it? I am not called to respond to all of the needs in the world, nor can I, but where might I be experiencing God calling me to grow in love, in my everyday surroundings?
- Could I still have a mistaken understanding of sacrifice, seeing it as a Christian obligation to be fulfilled for its own sake, rather than as a natural consequence of loving another to the ultimate consequences? Do I comprehend that sacrifice is not so much a matter of going out of my way to seek discomfort as it is of embracing the small and great inconveniences of life and challenges of relationships as opportunities to love as Christ does?
Jesus, my lover King, you have given everything you have and are, until there is no more to give. As I contemplate you hanging on the cross, I cannot help but be moved by your selfless gift. I want to quench your thirst by giving you my heart and allowing you to quench my own longings and thirst. Teach me to transform my life into a wellspring of life for others and to embrace even the small sufferings I experience as an opportunity to love united to you.
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