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Spirituality of the Readings
Solemnity of
Christ the King
November 25, 2018
John Foley, SJ

I typed a wrong key when I began to write this week and hit a “d” instead of a “g” at the end of the word King. It came out “Christ the Kind.”

Let me tell you a story.

Once there was a king named Arthur. You remember him, the one who thought up the Round Table and had Lancelot as his knight and Guinevere as his wife.*

Long before he rose to high office, in fact when he was just an infant in the cradle, a strange thing happened. The nurse stepped out for a moment and, quick as a wink, Merlin the magician stepped in and then stepped back out …

… taking the boy with him.

Jesus was “king” because he understood every minutest texture of everyone’s life and world.
This was not really a kidnapping. Merlin was a kindly old magician and his job was to let the boy grow up as a normal person—not as a spoiled, pampered or “royal” thing. Not miles above the people and the animals and the tiny, precious specks of beauty in the most surprising places in our lives. He was to live right with us. So, Merlin transported Arthur to a bedraggled castle, ruled by a third-rate Lord named Sir Ector. The people were nice enough, and ordinary, and the nooks and crannies of the castle were perfect for a little kid to hide in and the halls to run in. All the servants and even the lords and ladies were his friends. How could they not be: he was just an ordinary lad, even though he would be king one day. They called him Wart (which in those days rhymed with Art, which is short for Arthur).

Merlin, funny old character, decided to educate Wart in a special way. He changed the boy into various and sundry animals, each just for a specified time. He turned Wart into a hawk, for instance, to witness first-hand the world as it appeared in a hawk's eyes. Or a fish. In fact, especially a fish because Wart then could attend a formal school of fishes and learn from their teacher.

Well, it seems that Jesus had a few things in common with the Wart. As a boy Jesus was not called “Christ” “King” or “your highness” any more than Wart was referred to as “your majesty.” Jesus was just called “Jesus,” a common name in those days.** He played outside, helped his dad, rolled in the mud, accidently cut his finger, even helped birds to fly. And his mom was his very most favorite person.

He had a teacher who was even better at teaching than was Merlin. It was the Spirit of God, and it helped him through the creeks and cubbyholes of the earth and made him friends with the funny sweet people who lived all around.

Both Wart and Jesus did grow up to be the kings they were meant to be. But they brought new images of a king. Their love was not just for the noble and the mighty but for everyone. They were lowly. Jesus was “king” because he understood every minutest texture of everyone’s life and world.

Pilate did ask Jesus if he were a king. He was, specifically, but not in any way Pilate could have imagined. Smallness was his power. Persuasion was his scepter, along with an amazing ability to teach.

He was Christ the King.
 *  This story of Arthur is based on the first book (The Sword in the Stone) of the wonderful series of novels by T. H. White called The Once and Future King (New York: Penguin/Putnam Inc., 1965).

** It is said that the real name of the one we call Jesus was actually Yeshua, and that people would have called him by that name. This is probably correct, except that “Jesus” is the translation of Yeshua into our language, not a substitution of one name for another.

Fr. John Foley, SJ, is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go