November 23, 2014
A Two Ring Ceremony
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today, the Solemnity of Christ the King, is the last Sunday of the church’s liturgical
year; next Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, we begin another anew. I love the image
of a wedding ring to explain the liturgical year. With the ring of the liturgical year Christ
weds the church, his bride, us. But his wedding to us isn’t a simple one ring ceremony.
We place a ring on Christ’s finger: we worship him and love one another.
When we are baptized, Christ bestows upon us his three-fold dignity as priest,
prophet, and king. In return we lovingly worship Christ when we exercise our priesthood,
that is, when we make sacrifices; when we prophecy, that is, when we tell the truth; and
when we live our royal heritage, that is, when we care for one another.
Let’s focus on our priesthood and making sacrifices. It seems to me that when we
teach our children why and how to make sacrifices then we are teaching them to grow up,
to be free and accept responsibility, live the truth, and care for one another. In a very real
sense teaching children how to make sacrifices is teaching them what it means to be human
and therefore how to worship God most lovingly.
In his book, The Living Bread, Thomas Merton writes that “sacrifice is an act by
which man satisfies the law of his nature which demands that he express outwardly, in a
significant act, his interior submission to and dependence upon a numinous [supernatural]
power.” “It is the offering,” he continues, “the consecration, the ’setting apart’ of some object
that it is precious and necessary to ourselves, so that it is no longer ours but belongs to
the Holy One.” [I am thinking, for example, of video games, cell phones, sports activities!]
And then, listen to this incredible insight. “Sacrifice is a sign that God and man agree: that
man recognizes the fact that God can be good to him, and has in truth been good to him.
Man shows that he hopes God’s benevolence toward him will continue. He promises to
live a life worthy of that benevolence.” And, “If a person has a low idea of God he will also
have a low idea of sacrifice, and in that event his sacrifice will have something of the character
of a ‘deal’ with the divinity, who is imaged to need and desire things that men also
need and desire.”
One of the practical applications of this is found in getting young people to go to
church, to attend Mass. When young people start balking at attending Mass the first question
parents must ask is not of the Mass: “Can’t Mass be made more interesting, entertaining
for them?” The first question parents must ask is of their children: “What is your idea of
God?” If a child’s idea of God is low, then a follow-up question must be asked: “Since children
learn their idea of God from parents, what is the parents idea of God?” Too, we must
teach our children that when they sacrifice, for example, to attend Mass with the family,
then the sacrifice itself is actually worship of God. Young people, all of us, when we bring
our anger, boredom, addictions, the sacrifice of our sports and other non-Sunday activities,
we are in that sacrifice already worshipping God and half-way to pure worship, consciously
joining our sacrifices to that of Christ on the cross.
Today, the Solemnity of Christ the King, let us set apart whatever has become
most precious and necessary to us so that it belongs to the Holy One, who himself set
aside “equality with God” (see Phil. 2) to belong to us. That’s a two ring ceremony, indeed.