Sunday's readings can be found: [HERE]
Many of you are familiar with The Lord of the Rings film trilogy by Peter Jackson. At an early point in the series, there’s a council that deliberates on what to do with the enemy's “Ring of Power” that had come to their possession.
A man named Boromir stands and tries to convince the council that he should be given the ring. After all, it was his people that shed so much blood in the war against the enemy, and he thinks he can use the ring against them. But the viewer can easily see how he’s moved by temptation. His face seems spell-bound by the ring… until someone in particular stands up.
That person is a wandering adventurer whose appearance hides his true identity. In actuality, that adventurer is Aragorn, and he is the heir to the throne of Gondor, the country over which Boromir and his family were stewards, in the absence of the true king.
Boromir reacts upon hearing Aragorn’s identity. In that moment, he seems to attribute all of the evils that have fallen upon mankind to the absence of the true king. And then, somewhat cynically, he rejects Aragorn, saying, “Gondor has no king… Gondor needs no king…” before resuming his seat. It's as if he were saying, "Where were you when we needed you most? How could you be away from us in our darkest hour? Why weren't you with us when we were facing the enemy? We don't need you."
It’s a dramatic scene, so one can easily miss the deliverance that happens in that moment. It’s subtle but it’s there: while captivated by Aragorn’s real presence, the ring had lost its hold on Boromir for the moment.
Later in the film (and I apologize for the spoiler, for those who haven’t seen it), Boromir does give in to temptation and tries to steal the ring. But then a battle with the real enemy quickly ensues, during which he’s mortally wounded.
But before he dies, he makes a last confession to Aragorn. He speaks of how he has failed them all with his betrayal, and how everything will fall into ruin because of him. And he begins to despair. But then Aragorn makes a promise to him, saying, “I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you I will not let the White City fall, nor our people fail.”
With those words, Boromir visibly relaxes, and all signs of anxiety, fear, and regret fade away as he entrusts the future to Aragorn. Grasping his hand, with the other fist over his heart, Boromir says to Aragorn with his last breath, “I would have followed you, my brother, my captain, my king”.
That drama between Boromir and Aragorn reminds me of that drama between the disciple and our Lord.
A disciple of Christ might mean well most times, but nevertheless may also at times be moved by darker sentiments, like temptation, doubt, or regret. He or she may feel angry that evil can seem to thrive in this world, or frustrated at efforts that seem ultimately ineffectual against injustice; to the point where one might cry out in cynicism: I have no king; and I need no king.
But the heart of a disciple can change over time after journeying with the Master. When disciples follow the Lord day after day, they can experience conversion. Like Boromir, who discovered his daily companion to be his brother, his captain, and his king, we too can find that our relationship with Christ also graduates from animosity and resentment to true devotion, until we likewise arrive at the beautiful realization that Jesus truly is our beloved King.
Today, we celebrate the final Sunday in Ordinary Time, under the special title of: The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
In our gospel passage today, we hear Pilate ask Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” It’s a shrewd question, because Jesus couldn’t have looked like much of a king at that point. But appearances can be deceiving. Despite the bruises, torn clothing, and other signs of mistreatment, Pilate sees through the illusion of rags and spittle, and acknowledges the dignified presence of true royalty. After further questioning, he reaffirms his earlier suspicion: “Then you are a king!”
As it was then, our God can be with us without our appreciating his presence. Appearances can still be deceiving. Ironically, we ought to at least be as discerning as Pilate, who himself saw through appearances, and acknowledged our Lord’s noble bearing. This is never more true than when we behold the Holy Eucharist.
The Eucharist appears to be no more than a piece of bread. The appearance of the Eucharist is the same before and after the consecration. But nevertheless, the Eucharist is Christ our King.
To awaken to this realization, we need to be companions of Jesus daily. If we can go to daily Mass, and receive the Eucharist daily, that’s the best way. When available, we can participate in Eucharistic adoration. We do that here at Holy Family every first Friday of the month after the daily Mass. If we visit a Church at a different time, we can pray in front of the tabernacle, where the Eucharist is reposed. When we receive Communion, we can do so with reverence and gratitude. After receiving Communion, we can take time to commune with our King in gratitude and thanksgiving.
After a lifetime of communion—after the journey of a lifetime—by the grace of God, may we find that we too can recognize Jesus despite any appearance; so that when our last moments are upon us, and we receive the final viaticum, all of our anxieties, fears, and regret fade away, and we can address Jesus in the Eucharist with absolute conviction: “My brother, my captain, my King!”
Photo Credit: New Line Cinema