In between Black Friday and Cyber Monday falls the feast of Christ the King. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. I’m not going to condemn people for shopping on either day, because there are stores that need that boost and there are people who need those sales. A great savings can be a good act of stewardship.
Rather, I would encourage people to examine why they’re shopping (and, in the same light, why they ate seven different kinds of carbs yesterday). Shopping and eating and saving and celebrating are not bad, of course! But the feast this weekend gives us reason to pause and examine our lives:
Who—or what—rules over me?
Am I rushing out to shop on Black Friday because I need the latest gadget, because I want to give the most impressive presents on Christmas, because I like…stuff? Did I eat and drink to excess yesterday because I don’t know how to say no to that second piece of pie? What motivates me to head out with the crowds and shop? Good stewardship of saving money, a bonding experience with friends, and a genuine desire to give gifts to others? What motivated my activities on Thanksgiving day? Was my time focused on God, my family, and others?
Who—or what—rules over me?
One way to find the answer to that question is to examine my motives for doing the things I do and asking a simple question: Am I living for this life or the next? When we view our lives through the lens of eternity, we can begin to put our actions and desires into perspective. The great spiritual writers and saints have long recommended viewing our lives with death in mind: memento mori. It is why skeletons and skulls dot the walls of Catholic churches in Europe and an entire crypt is made of bones in the Capuchin church in Rome. Not from a dark obsession with the macabre, but from a wise perspective on the meaning of life.
What have I done today for my family, friends, and the stranger? At the end of my life, will I look back at this day with satisfaction or regret? Who do I answer to: God or myself?
Earlier this week at daily Mass, we heard St. Luke’s parable of the ten coins (Luke 19:11-28). It’s easy to confuse this with the parable of the talents, but there are some distinct differences. This parable includes an interesting detail: when the nobleman left on his journey, there were some that rejected his rule: “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’ His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’”
Who are we in this parable? Am I the obedient servant who uses what God has given me to extend his glorious reign over this earth, as we prepare for eternity? Am I the servant that wasted and hid the gifts out of fear? Or am I one of the people that rejects God’s rule altogether? Do I prefer to be ruled by my emotions, sensual desires, pride, or material goods? Our daily choices will tell the tale.
As we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King this Sunday, we are reminded that we are living for a Kingdom not of this earth. Our ultimate home is in the kingdom of God to come. Our daily actions and choices will reveal whether we are living for now or for eternity.
Christ our King, thy Kingdom come!