Beloved King

In an effort to organize my thoughts for this writing, I decided to ignore the mist in the air and to head outdoors for a much-needed walk. I reread today’s scripture passages and then bundled up for my trek into autumn. Much to my surprise, I found that the threat of rain had retreated and the clouds had separated just enough to allow an occasional glimpse of blue. I whispered a prayer of thanks for my good fortune and then set my pace for the duration. In an effort to clear my head, I set aside today’s topic and concentrated on the fleeting color around me. Recent winds, my dear husband and our diligent neighbors had removed most of the leaves along the way. The few which remained on the sidewalk made no sound as I walked over them. The morning’s drizzle had robbed them of their crackling crunch. Still, I gave thanks for their once-brilliant color which had so generously gifted us all.

As I walked, I noticed a few stubborn leaves clinging with all of their might to otherwise barren branches. As I continued on, I saw that several more determined leaves held tightly to the trees they called home. Each one seemed unwilling to give in to the inevitable. I imagined these leaves mustering their strength in the face of the cold wind and giving thanks for every additional second during which they remained in place. Those determined leaves had lived life to the full as best they could and they weren’t about to let go before they absolutely had to do so. Those leaves which clung so tightly to their branches weren’t in alone their efforts. I also discovered a smattering of their counterparts nuzzled close to the bases of bushes and fences. I congratulated them for a job well done. I also reminded them that their work on this earth isn’t finished. They will swirl and settle and swirl in the air again until the first heavy snow forces them into a final resting place. While they will eventually lose their leaf-like appearance to decay, they will also enrich the soil. That soil will nourish the trees which will produce another season’s leaves. These new leaves will repeat their brave predecessors’ purposeful ritual.

In spite of my effort to clear my head, those leafy encounters filled my head with a renewed understanding of today’s feast day. For this I was also most grateful. Today, we observe the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year which is The Feast of Christ the King. This timing is intentional. We’ve spent the year reading and listening to scripture passages which recount Jesus’ life and his teachings. Jesus used both his word and his example to teach God’s ways. Jesus preached love, mercy and forgiveness, joy in the face of poverty and peace in the face of suffering. Jesus worked very hard at convincing those he met along the way that God loves us just as we are with all of our human frailties intact. This is the reason Jesus publicly referenced God as his Abba, his Daddy, and the reason Jesus invited us to do the same. While Jesus provided a lifetime of good example, he assured us again and again that God expects only what we are able to do, nothing more and nothing less. Jesus spent his time with the seemingly unworthy, shunning the presumptuous ones who attempted to use his acquaintance to increase their stature. Jesus loved the poor in spirit and the materially poor and he always made time for them. In the end, Jesus hung on a tree with all of his might, determined not to let go until he had to let go. On this Feast of Christ the King, I imagine Jesus pondering the brave leaves who hold onto their trees as he once did. I imagine Jesus smiling because he knows that just as their work to enrich the soil continues season after season and year after year, his work continues in and through the lives of all of God’s children. Yes, through you and me.

As I considered the innumerable reasons I have to give thanks for Jesus’ impact upon my life, his presumed kingship never entered my mind. I researched the history of today’s feast because I wondered why we call attention to the one title which Jesus seemed least anxious to acquire. I discovered that in the grand scheme of church history this feast is relatively new. This observance was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Pius served during extremely difficult times when communism and fascist governments threatened many. Pius hoped that this feast would draw attention away from those political bullies and toward Jesus who ruled with the authentic power of God’s love. When I consider Jesus’ kingship in this light, I find good reason to celebrate.

On this Feast of Christ the King, I rejoice in the many lessons I found among this year’s crop of leaves. Their brave journeys through spring’s budding, summer’s lush exuberance and fall’s decay opened my eyes once again to the wonder to be found in Jesus’ life. So it is that today I celebrate Jesus, our Jesus who clung to a tree to complete his life and to let go of it, just as you and I will do. Even more so, I celebrate the life Jesus lived before letting go of that tree, for it is that life which teaches me how to live and how to love as God asks.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Our Determined Lord

This is the second week of my convalescence and the occasion of my first walk outdoors. Much to my dismay, this walk is not as entertaining as my pre-surgical treks. The cold temperatures and my arm sling challenge my ability to dress appropriately. My husband slips his jacket over my functioning arm, drapes it over the other and then zips me in. I convince him that I am perfectly able to walk our cul-de-sac alone. Though I know he disagrees, he opens the front door for me. Once outside, I discover that the autumn wind and my diligent neighbors have removed most of the leaves along my way. I miss the opportunity crunch and crackle them beneath my feet as I walk. Still, I give thanks for the clear sidewalk which will better ensure my safe passage.

As I walk beneath the trees which line the parkway, I notice a few stubborn leaves clinging to otherwise barren branches with all of their might. As I continue on, I notice that all along the way determined leaves hold tightly to the trees they call home. Each one seems unwilling to give in to the inevitable. I imagine these leaves laughing in the face of the cold wind and giving thanks for every additional second that they can hold on. These stubborn leaves have lived their lives to the full as best they can, and they are not about to let go before they absolutely have to do so.

I stop to look back at our rising garage door. Apparently, my husband has created some outdoor chores which will allow him to keep an eye on me. As I return my gaze to the direction of my walk, I notice a smattering of leaves stuck in the bases of bushes and fences. I congratulate them for a job well done. I also remind them that their work on this earth is not complete. They will swirl and settle and swirl again until the first heavy snow forces them into a final resting place. Though they will eventually lose their leaf-like appearance to decay, they will enrich the soil. That soil will nourish the trees which produce another season’s leaves. Some of these will enrich my morning walks and repeat their brave predecessors’ purposeful ritual.

These leafy encounters on my first post-op trip around the cul-de-sac provide me with a renewed understanding of today’s celebration. This is the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year and The Feast of Christ the King. We have spent an entire year listening to Jesus as he taught us God’s ways. Jesus preached love and forgiveness, joy in the face of poverty, and peace in the face of suffering. Jesus tried very hard to convince us that God –our Abba– loves us just as we are with all of our human frailties intact. Through his lifetime of good example, Jesus assured us again and again that God expects only what we are able to do, nothing more and nothing less. Jesus spent his time with the seemingly unworthy, shunning the presumptuous ones who would use his acquaintance to increase their own stature. Jesus loved the poor in spirit and the materially poor and always made time for them. In the end, Jesus hung on a tree with all of his might, determined not to let go until he had to let go.

On this Feast of Christ the King, I imagine Jesus pondering the brave leaves who held onto their trees as he once did. I imagine Jesus smiling because he knows that just as their work to enrich the soil continues season after season and year after year, so his work continues in and through the lives of God’s children. Yes, Jesus continues his work in you and me.

When I celebrate Thanksgiving Day this week, I must give thanks for today’s trek where I encountered the lessons to be found in the lives of those precious leaves and in the life of my precious Lord. I must give thanks for my family, for the blessing they are and for the opportunities they give me to share God’s love with each one of them. I must give thanks for our parish and for all of the good people whom I encounter along my way. I must give thanks for the persistent leaves who cling to trees and then fall, giving life for seasons to come. I must also give thanks for the Christ, our loving King and Lord. For it is Jesus who clung to a tree as well to give life to you and to me and to all of God’s children until the end of time. Most of all, I must give thanks for the life Jesus lived before letting go of that tree, for it is this life which teaches me how to live and how to love.

©2013 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved