November 26, 2023: Order, Carry, Feed, Bless
Today’s feast has quite a handle—“Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” What a dramatic title! Pius XI instituted this solemnity in 1925, as a response to the rise of secular, nationalist governments that threatened the rights and privileges of the church. But what does this image of Christ king-of-the-universe mean to us who live in an (arguably) advanced democracy in the 21st century? We might imagine Jesus as the archetype of the “Good King”, or a good leader, whose role-modeling we can bring to our stewardship of family, community, and church. To lead in the imitation of Christ is to fulfill four essential tasks—order, carry, feed, bless.
Good leaders are a source of order, not disorder. They create a sense of safety, stability, and reliability. Jesus extended a safe, loving embrace to people whose lives were riddled with disorder and fear—for example, the woman caught in adultery, or poor blind Bartimaeus. Jesus’ very presence instilled a spirit of love, acceptance, and hope. We have the power to order forces as well within our own small circles. We can do this by being steady, discerning, compassionate, even-tempered, sober, gentle, and consistent.
The Christ-like leader does not expect others to carry him but seeks instead to carry. Jesus certainly had fears and anxieties of his own, but he did not make those the center of everyone’s attention. When he was overwhelmed by the demands and expectations people placed on him, he would retreat in solitude to pray. These periods of spiritual renewal with his Heavenly Father enabled him to be totally present to his family of disciples. Promising rest, Jesus invited others to bring the burdens they carry to him, the one whose “yoke is easy and burden light” (Matthew 11:30). We live this principle when we tend our spiritual, psychological, and emotional health so that we can be more authentically available to others. More importantly, we do our forgiveness work so that we’re not transmitting unresolved pain and resentment for others to carry.
Jesus did not feed off the adulation and attention of others. He wanted all to shine, to do their indispensable part in preparing for the coming kingdom of God: “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16). We do as Jesus did when we support others in using their gifts and talents to serve God’s dream for the world. The good leader nurtures and nourishes the student, then rejoices when surpassed by the pupil, and is content to recede so the other may shine.
Finally, the good leader is a source of blessing; she blesses more than she curses. Jesus was blessed by his Father as the “beloved son in whom I am well pleased,” and he bestowed blessing in turn on each of us. We have the power to bless others when we affirm their gifts, welcome them, let them know that they are seen and heard when we speak well of them. I recall the blessing of an older Jesuit colleague at my first teaching job when I was only a few months out of college. As the school year began he took me aside to tell of his gratitude for my presence in the community, how he could see that the students were quickly warming up to me, and that I had the “gift”. For a frightened, inexperienced young man, to hear these words of affirmation from a respected senior was the definition of a blessing!
As we pray today with and to Christ the King, may he give us the grace to order, carry, feed, and bless, as he does. His kingdom draws nearer, his people experience healing, and his vision of peace unfolds when each of us seeks to exemplify the traits of Jesus, the “Good King”.
— Brian Pinter, Pastoral Associate