Quiet?

Quiet. Stillness. How it reverberates in the soul, speaks to the moment. In a chaotic human experience, Quiet is the gift of the soul to the clamor of each day. Quiet alone draws the curtains of calm and comfort. Quiet marshalls that strength to a soul that has none, and dances with the real meaning of a moment. Quiet lingers while the waves roar until stillness finally arrives and the surface becomes like glass. Quiet makes all the rest palpable and pertinent and possible. And so Quiet is the most extraordinary of gifts in this Ordinary time. And while the Gospel this week has Jesus calling to his disciples, it is the Old Testament reading about the city of Nineveh and the second readng from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians that shout about Quiet.

Nineveh was a city wracked by lawlessness and self-destruction, divisiveness and degradation. Warned of imminent danger by the prophet Jonah, the city united in reparation, fasting and sackcloth. What would have seemed impossible occurred. And according to the story, the city was thus spared. Then there is 1 Cor 7: time is running out…the world in its present form is passing away. Nineveh’s lifestyle shifted; in the world we live in, lifestyles are shifting. And still, Jesus is calling, inviting his disciples to a new life.

And there rests the link to the Quiet. As humanity wanders through this era of loss and recrimination, the power of social and economic structures, the unfolding calamities can devour well being as well as rational focus. Finding footing while juggling the responsibilities of everyday in a pandemic world is daunting. Add to this the uncertainty of what and who is safe, the sharp divide on mask wearing, the struggles of every family to manage what was once so clear: daycare, school, work, travel, leisure, celebrations and gatherings. The din of confusion easily reaches an overwhelming crescendo.

But there is, in each and every ordinary day, the chance for Quiet, to step away, to indulge in a moment of nothingness. That can occur even in a crowded space, if allowed. There can be those moments of deep breaths to gather thoughts, to relinquish fresh pangs of emotion and find something more. We are, after all, the guardians of our own souls, and most responsible for navigating what life brings. Quiet is a tool to tackle the toll of living. This week, the readings promise the presence and necessity of change throughout life. More importantly, each also promises the Divine presence through all of that.

It may be difficult to discern in contemporary rhetoric or in the hypercriticism aimed at one another that a god could be present. It may be implausible, in a world of heightened anxieties, to shift past the tangible to something deeper. But the message of this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time seems profoundly clear: change is a part of life, possibilities always exist, God is always communicating. A big part of the way that happens is in the Quiet. The Quiet of conversation, of silence, of celebrating the Eucharist, of believing that Something Greater Than Self might just be God. Quiet is the venue of becoming, of believing, of choosing to know life more deeply and love more fully.

Here and Now

In the havoc of the past week, the temporal world conspired to frighten and scandalize, threaten and undermine all that the US holds sacred. Fractured and violent actions allowed political posturing to steal the stage from the cadence of tradition. There have been frantic searches to resonate with righteousness, to claim victory. The ordinary citizen is left processing what would have seemed all but impossible a generation ago. The United States struggles to find footing in the midst of a global pandemic, philosophical divergence, racial dichotomies and economic collapse. Not yet chastened by the visible issues, even deeper bunkers are being dug. Words are now the tools for labelling and vilifying; only limited glimmers of common ground are visible. And so everywhere people search for ways to grasp the situation, to determine how to live and what to do. Turn off the news, separate from social media, practice acts of kindness, take walks….perhaps there is more.

In this very extraordinary time, the liturgical calendar ironically points to the beginning of Ordinary time. It is the voice from 1 Samuel 3: 3b-10, 19 that speaks to the complexiy of this moment: “Here I am, Lord.” Anchored in the quiet and the familiar, the story itself overflows with a profoundly timely message.

Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”
Samuel ran to Eli and said, “Here I am.  You called me.”
“I did not call you, “  Eli said.  “Go back to sleep.”
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
“Here I am, “ he said.  “You called me.”
But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son.  Go back to sleep.”

At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am.  You called me.”
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”

Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.

Perhaps, in this moment, listening for the voice of God, responding to God, matters more than we realize. Maybe in the midst of all the churning tumult, there is a message being overlooked: maybe this is an opportunity to listen for the deeper meanings, to stand willing to serve with all the learning that implies. It is a moment to step beyond the familiar, to risk believing in something far greater than self. Maybe it is a moment to re-discover what it means to be here, to realize limits and to trust in the wealth of what it is to truly listen to one another.

Unworthy

There he was, on hands and knees, gathering the trash after the Capitol breach. One representative, working methodically and quietly, resanctifying the space he felt to be so sacred. It is, after all, the people’s house. And now, it had been desecrated by the chaotic crowd. One person who put aside the rhetoric, the outrage and the grief. One man doing what needed to be done at the moment. And so in sheer simplicity, he demonstrated what it is to be humble and to do the right thing. In a thousand ways, he was showing what it is to be called to a moment, to a purpose, to a role.

And so it is somewhat ironic and yet terribly appropriate that this Sunday, the Baptism of Jesus is celebrated. This is a launching, a new beginning. And it is John the Baptist who describes himself as “unworthy” in Mark 1:7-11. He understands the “greater than” as well as his own mission. He chooses commitment, purpose. Conscious of who he was, and with a deep appreciation for other, John lives out his birthright. In our world where social media produces influencers without discrimination, such humility is a rare privilege. John the Baptist models a gift that inspires service, the ability to give without credit or recognition, to believe that a sense of purpose makes a difference for self and, more importantly, for others. Humility is born of that sense of knowing self and knowing something greater than self exists.

Acts 10:34-38 explores other dimensions of this. Phrases stand out in support: God is impartial to all, welcoming to all. There is no rigidity, no exclusion, no exception. That openness is there for all. John the Baptist embraced this, and his doing so indicates that opportunity is there for all. And then there is that final fragment: “He went about doing good 
and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him”
. This confides God’s presence with Jesus. Transcending millenia, the words echo the holiday season’s “Emmanuel”, “God with us”. In this very time, in the midst of our unworthiness, God is with us. The passage illustrates Jesus doing good. Good in his own way, just as each of us is called to do.

The Baptism of the Lord is a chance for each of us to re-launch. It is about realizing who we really are, that we, too, are unworthy and yet beloved. We, too, have the presence of God with us. We have the chance to live out role and mission with a clear purpose for the greater good. We, too, can resanctify the space that we are living in. We can choose what appears to be the least of all tasks. And we can be aware that humble service builds for the greater good, brings the touch of God to the messiness of human life and enables us to become more than what we were before. Baptism marks this new beginning; even unworthy as we are, the chance is there.

Hand carved

Roughly carved and painted with the soft strokes of a folk artist’s love, the figures are gentle testimony to the Gospel’s Nativity story. They bear the honest simplicity of faith; there is little adornment and yet no doubt about each character. There is a shepherd, two nuggets of sheep, Joseph and Mary and an inch long manger bearing a smiling child. And then the three kings, gifts and cultures defined by strokes and color. And so they speak in the very silence of their configuration.

Humility emanates from the scene. After all, it is about honoring the miracle of birth, a birth intriguing and even beguiling in implications. Most importantly, each character allows the Infant’s story to supersede and yet become part of their own. That is the shared task for all who dare to kneel before the manger or even fashion such figures. There is a trust in living and a hope in life that defies the complexities of 2020 and the mysteries of this millennium.

Inequalities collapse before this scene: economic class, gender, race, fail to delineate a hierarchy. Instead, it is about a shared vision and view of the world, the beauty of beginning again. The Nativity story invites each to that moment of realization, that here is a chance to begin again wherever we are, whatever the chricumstances are. It invites us to realize the strength and beauty of others, to trust in the goodness that is born in them and the wonder that draws them, too, to the manger.

It is unnerving to dispose of the pretenses that life provides: the roles, the choices, the impressions and even the narratives. But here, before the manger, none of those are needed. To dare to conspire with the divine, the self must dare to be known in every phase of reality. Kneeling there means realizing life is continually exploring the wonder of relationships, of the dance between the human and the divine. It means accepting that life is difficult and challenging, but love sustains and empowers. It means brokenness, imperfection, and confusion are part of what it means to be human. Before the manger, this is known and understood. A handful of tiny, handcarved figures confide greater secrets than we may have imagined, but most importantly, they invite us to a deeper, stronger, epiphany.

“Epiphany” is an insight, a deepened understanding, a recognition of something that always was but now can be seen. In the history of the Church, the three kings arrival is celebrated as the Epiphany. “Epiphany” is so much more: it belongs to everyone who embraces the journey and dares to seek the Child in the manger. Discovering more about who we are and what exactly is “divine” is the chance given to all of us, the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the strong and the fearful. Daring to be simple, daring to believe. Daring to hold the hand carved figures and wonder what the message really is for me.

The Mirror and the Manger

Students and colleagues who claim the richness and freedom of aetheism have prompted much thought and consideration. Stepping back, bathing in the technological innovations and scientific shifts of the last decades, excitment and awe cleanse ignorance and embolden possibilities. The very earth quakes with the rapidity of change and the stress of multiple generations caught in the riptide of transition. And so we evolve as human beings, re-creating the world we live in, the communities that shape lives, and the thinking that enables being. Healthy skepticism stalks the stories that offered satisfaction to earlier worlds. Revelation and prophecy have found a home as supposition, lost ground to statistics and data. So where does faith fit? With the Bethlehem Star intersection of Jupiter and Saturn, where does the narrative of the birth of Jesus fit? Has it a place in this new world? What does the Nativity story offer?

As Catholics and Protestants alike recall the birth of Jesus, there is a palpable connection to the reality of human life: family, birth, joy, fear, uncertainty and promise. The story mirrors the most basic facets of human life, and so every incarnation of it that is sculpted by culture bears a depth of validity and holds out an invitation to the rest of the Gospel. Beyond that point is another: a God who chooses human shape, form, interaction, connections. In other words, this is not a God trapped in the myths of pantheons or the statues of artists. This Jesus walks, talks, emotes, provokes, invites, shares and dares to hope. This is a story of layers, textures, woven together as every human story is from a variety of perspectives. And the angels of Luke, the Magi of Matthew, meld together the understandings of generations about an extraordinary life with Jesus’ simple and direct teachings and an extraordinary birth.

Faith in this Jesus offers a series of lessons. First, we are all simultaenously ordinary and extraordinary. Second, we are not alone; we exist in communities with persons and connections that we both need and contribute to. Third, decisons and choices, purpose and moive truly matter. The Nativity story itself frames each of these, and it invites serious consideraton of the ways in which each of us lives.

We are each the heroes of our own story. The Nativity story is a reminder that is fallacy for everyone plays a role in every story. There is the innkeeper, the shepherds, the angels, Joseph ever so reticent and Mary just barely detailed. Learning from the story means beginning to believe in the magnaminity of a God who cradles each life as extraordinary in the midst of its very ordinariness. It is the chance to begin to believe that each of us is loved, cared for, by the God who dares to provide all this: each life matters. That sense is wound healing; that belief is empowering. It establishes hope and confidence, the kind of love that sustains through crisis, tragedy, and brokennesss. It offers forgiveness, hope and well being. It survives trial and triumph. Most importantly, it is the glimmer of the divine, something beyond what is merely human. It is the gift of unfailing divine love, given to mere mortals to navigate events and relationships. That all echoes the measures of 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails.” It provides a pathway for life that is not simply about self. It is a consciousness of who we are and who we can be when we dare to look in the mirror of the manger and know the reality of divine love.

Four Flames

For a week, the fourth candle on the Advent wreath will trace heightened anticipation on the hearts of those who wait. There is a magic to the waiting, even a wanting. For its roots stretch bravely beyond each human heart into the worlds of earlier generations, decades and millenia past. It is the candle, this fourth week, that captures the connections among us all and opens up the possibility of oneness in awe, unity in diversity and freedom in faith. Beyond all the realties of 2020, there is a world waiting for hope and promise. This final week is all about that: discovering what is really there and beginning to believe in what could be more than what should be.

Interpreting Scripture in its most literal sense empowers some sense of clarity and historicity. There is another way: take a step back. Imagine the words leaping into heart and mind. Hear them as part of your own story. Allow yourself to enter the passage, to be David, to be his offspring, to experience the goodness of the Lord, to see Gabriel confiding her future to Mary, to feel the awe and wonder of being connected to something far greater than self. Linger for a moment there. This is far more than virtual reality. It is the openness that characterizes risk, daring, and vision.

In the first reading, David notices the splendor of his own lifestyle versus the treatment of the Ark of the Covenant. The prophet Nathan (2 Sm 7:14a, 16) conveys the real message:

“The LORD also reveals to you
that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.”

This is not about buildings, monuments; it is about human beings, people connected to one another and to God, conscious of the Divine in the muddle of the mundane. It transcends culture, color, ethnicity and nationality. It is about birth, beginnings and endings, change and continuity…..if we allow it to be. The fourth candle invites us to allow it to be.

There are the tantalizing words form Romans 16:

Brothers and sisters:
To him who can strengthen you,
according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested through the prophetic writings and,
according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ
be glory forever and ever.
Amen.

“To him who can strengthen you” exudes the element of choice, of possibilities. But there is also “the obedience of faith”, words that yeild a wealth of interpretation. Suppose there that unity can be found in the acknowledgement of faith, a sense of the divine. Suppose this is not about rules or laws or rituals, but the ideal of seeing human beings as linked to the divine, the spiritual, a rich and intangible dimension of human existence? That shared understanding enlivens mutial respect, collaboration, purpose and possibilities.

And there, of course, is the Gospel story. Scholars can dance with each phrase and expression; skeptics can slice through with the scientific. Listeners can imagine the scene, the quiet, the flood of emotions, the clash of rational thoughts and an impossible situation. Every one of us has been there; we all cope with the impossible. But here, here are words that impart confidence, strength, without a promised outcome. Luke 1:21-36 invites trust.

“Nothing will be impossible for God…”

Darkness bows before the flames now. The final days before Christmas 2020 unfold in the cold chill of winter air. And here, awash in the light yet resting in the darkness, here we have the chance to see who we are, to choose who we can be, and to become who we are each meant to be. The Mystery continues to unfold in each of us…

Three Flames

Crumpled and forgotten, the notebook pages were begging to be unfolded. Jagged-edged, each page bore the engaging rounded script of a child. “Human beings are greedy and selfish. They are responsible for all the hate in the world and have caused discrimiantion, racism, and cruelty to the LGBTQ…Human beings are horrible creatures…” Every word dripped with hardcore experience, and a weight too great for the young to bear alone.

There was a logic to it, an echoing reality founded on 2020’s agonies. But there was a wistful sadness as well, a sense of resignation. The Third Sunday of Advent addresses that very sense of hopelessness, the darkness that overwhelms and defines who we are and what we are about. In contrast to the greed and selfishness so visible to that child, the readings from the Third Sunday of Advent offer hope and promise. In an era of science, skepticism and secularism, these readings offer comfort in ambiguity, a path in uncertainty and a hope in these unsettling times.

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11 describes the experience of the presence of God, the sense of joy in that, and literally partaking in that presence. There is no doubt here that each person, animated by the Spirit, is part of the parcel of the presence of God.

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

 

There is more, of course. In the Gospel, John the Baptist invokes these very words. He also acknowledges his small place in the universe as he lives out his call. This third week is all about living and being which entails seeing the goodness in ourselves, the slivers of God in the sparkle of an eye or the beauty of a touch. The flicker of these three flames invites reconsideration of greed and selfishness; each literally calls us into service to one another without a focus on self. Each flame illuminates the path ahead, a path that opens up a vision beyond the present and that promises meaning and purpose. After all, at the best of times, life is challenging and frustration can be overwhelming. But at this time, the simplicity of faith and the joy of knowing love offers comfort and hope. All is not lost. Discovering the goodness of humanity against the backdrop of a pandemic is not easy. The possibilities are there!

Two Flames and Faith

Thomas Aquinas claimed that for those who have faith, no explanation in necessary; for those who do not, none is sufficient. This second week of Advent, two flames burn on the Advent wreath. Each brightens the darkness of night; each testifies to time’s passage. For the faithful, these weeks unwind salvation history in the readings from the Old Testament, and the Gospel. Most importantly, every passage is a reminder that each person has a place in that story, a home in that history. The candles of the second week of Advent are all about that and more.

Faith is at the very heart of Advent. Two flickering flames offer the promise of a pathway. And the journey is really to more than the manger: it is the chance to recognize Jesus as a human being, a teacher, and the Son of the Father. Every step of the way is a beginning, a deepening, a chance to breathe deeply. The readings speak of the centuries of desire, of longing. Isaiah’s prose is unrivaled; it echoes the intricacies of human desire.

40:3 A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

40:4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

40:5 Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Once again, the portal to faith is opened. To dare to imagine that there is something beyond what is visible, measurable, and tangible, is audacious. To suggest, or intimate or simply trust, that there is a reality beyond the physical human dimensions is mind-bending. Grasping for understanding, for explanations, for “facts” and unassailable truths and realities is so much a function of humanity. But to suspect that there is more, to dream that there is something beyond, reflects another facet of human life: hope. And it resides in the second reading, from 2 Peter 3: 8-14, “we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.”
Perhaps, then faith is more than irrationality or misplaced confidence in a deity. Perhaps faith is a commitment to something better than what is, a confidence that there is a reality that transcends legal and economic, social and educational systems.

Or perhaps faith is built on something like humility. Maybe it is about realizing that human beings are not the sole proprietors of reality. Maybe it is actually about the chance to recognize that there could be something greater than we are. Maybe that is what John the Baptist’s message was actually all about.

John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
Mark 1:1-8

And so the lights of Advent, tender and tentative now, are invitations to look more deeply at the meaning of faith, at the essence of the journey, and at the possibility that there is a message worth hearing. Advent offers us the chance to understand how small we are in the history of the world and the universe, how very precious our thoughts and experiences are, and how there is so much more to life than what we might suspect.

Waiting

Tonight, the moon dances brilliantly against the night. Darkness frames that shining light. Besotted with the contrast, the liturgical year re-opens just as the secular year slides to its close. It has been a calamitous year, one that will re-shape our culture for generations to come. Each of the readings for the First Sunday of Advent have a powerful relevance to the torturous year of 2020. The first reading is from Isaiah 63, “Yet, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” The responsorial psalm is Ps. 80, “O shepherd of Israel, hearken, from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth. Rouse your power, and come to save us.” “He will keep you firm to the end.” comes from the second reading from First Cornithians. Finally, there are words from the Gospel of Mark 13: “What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

In the midst of such turmoil socially, politically and economically, these phrases are priceless reminders of what it means to be who we are as Christians and Catholics. The first speaks to the universality of humanity, the realization that each of us is only and always human, flawed and fabulous at the same time. The second imparts the sense that there is the something greater than self, that reaching out for help, support, even rescue, is intrinsically human. Each of us has that capacity to interact with one another in the awareness that we are each the hands and heart of Christ. The third speaks to trust, that elusive sense of confidence in one another that is fundamental to absolutely interaction. And the last is about choosing to be attentive, observant, and therefore becoming intensely alive. There is no denying the grief, confusion, conflicts and confrontations that have raged in 2020. But these four constructs are the springboard for a season of new beginnings.

Advent, after all, is about waiting. As a child, I thought it was meant to mark the months of Mary’s wait for the birth. As a young adult, I learned about theological significance. As a middle-aged adult, I felt the sense of anticipation underlying both. Waiting is about wondering and wanting, trusting in something that has not yet arrived but is on the way. This year, that is true on a thousand different levels. The ambiguity and uncertainty of the pandemic has given even more significance to this time of waiting, of wanting.

How we wait matters as much as that we wait. So much is simply beyond our control. But these phrases, lifted from readings that echo through time and throughout the Catholic world, are reminders of what really matters. In the midst of anxiety, fear, and change, these words tell us to embrace this moment, to be who we are, to draw on our best selves, and to dare to live each moment to the fullest. The challenge is right there, and the chance to welcome that, to live that, is ours. God is waiting for us.

The King

This final Sunday of the liturgical year: Christ the King. 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time. It is crowded with meaning and significance. The feast is an allusion to monarchy while living through 2020’s challenges of democracy; it whispers of grandeur while struggling with the human, economic and emotional tolls of the pandemic.

This last Sunday is an invite to live with compassion and consciousness, to recognize need and purpose, to take action and to make a difference. The tenderness of a benevolent monarch is embedded in the readings: the simple shepherd, faithful to his call, tends to his sheep. And then, in the Gospel from mat. 25, it becomes even more clear.

For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

This kingdom, this Christ, seeks benevolence from each person. This is a kingdom that is about recognizing realities and moving with courage and conviction towards providing immediate assistance. In a sense, it is tasking the role of shepherd to each human being. Each is meant to care for the other, to do what can be done for each other. It is about living goodness, sharing compassion, and accepting responsibility for self and others.

The concept of a benevolent, generous god is aligned with the vision of a monarch who truly loves and cares for the people of the kingdom. It is not about power, aggression, subjugation or oppression. It is about loving with gracious fidelity and opening pathways that may not have existed before. It is about leaving the world better than we found it, about daring to live with generous hearts and accepting spirits. It is about realizing we belong on both sides of the equation, as givers and receivers, and that life itself is part of the exchange. And, finally, it is about the constancy of Christ’s presence in the very routine matters of daily life.

The King provides an example, a model, an inspiration. Aligned with the subjects, the King faithful to their issues and concerns. The King is trusting in the fidelity of the subjects. In every way, it is an active relationship, real and very human. For hundreds of years, the monarchy model was familiar and understood. Now, in a secular society grappling with the rich realities of democracy, the fullest meaning is more elusive. It can be shrouded in misunderstanding or dismissed as something irrelevant.

But the feast points, too, to a second reality. Human life does not stretch beyond the grave. But the acts of kindness, the moments of generosity and love, those live on. History is made in the healing of hearts and heroes are carved from the choices they make. The grand narratives of history are resplendent with victories and triumphs. But tucked beneath all that is this Kingdom of Christ’s: a place where conflict is met with charity and suffering with compassion, all the things that really matter to human beings. Long Live the King!