The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Nov. 22, 2015)

Years ago, my mother had the opportunity to meet the new bishop of herDiocese. Afterward she told me, “I really liked him. He didn’t seem like abishop at all.” At the time, this struck me as funny. It made me wonderif bishops were like fish, which is only good if it doesn’t taste like fish.But, of course, what she really meant was that the new bishop wasapproachable. Rather than sheltering behind the dignity of his high office,he was warm and relatable. He knew that he didn’t have to stand on hisdignity in order to have dignity. We value this quality in all sorts ofimportant people. We admire warm and approachable presidents, princes,professors and professional athletes. We are delighted when the greatprove to be humble.

Our taste for humility in august personages has its origins in thefeast we celebrate today. Its official name is “The Solemnity of Our LordJesus Christ, King of the Universe.” Titles don’t come much grander than”King of the Universe,” yet it’s little more than a footnote on Christ’sresume. If the universe had never existed, he would still be the eternallybegotten Son of the Living God. As it is, our readings today reveal him asthe “ruler of the kings of the earth” whose reign will endure forever. He isthe Alpha and the Omegathe one who is and who was and who is tocome, the almighty.”

And yet, as the second chapter of the Letter to the Philippiansreminds us, he chose to empty himself, being born into human estate,taking the form of a servant. He chose to be born in a manger, and tomake himself vulnerable to us vulnerable to our love, but also to thesuffering resulting from our sinfulness accepting even death death ona cross. And after his Resurrection he continues to take our humannature, as part of himself, for all eternity. It’s no wonder that thefollowers of such a Savior value humility in the great.

The question, of course, is whether we will take Christ as our modeland embrace humility in our own lives. Do we dare to be humble? It willtake courage. The temptation, in a threatening world, is to take theopposite course. Our instinct is to struggle to build ourselves up. Ourambition is to make ourselves invulnerable to rejection, derision andsuffering of every kind. The tragic consequence is that we makeourselves invulnerable to love. The irony is that we can perfectly wellafford to be humble. You see, by virtue of our baptism, we have a loftytitle of our own. We are adopted sons and daughters of God. When Godsees us, God sees Christ. We need never be afraid. We can afford toaccept Christ’s invitation to empty ourselves of ourselves, and becomewhat God made us to be: reservoirs and conduits of the love that createsand sustains the universe. Come on. We’ve got this.

Fr. Charles Gordon, C.S.C.

Rev. Charles B. Gordon, C.S.C., is co-director of the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture at the University of Portland. He writes and records a regular blog called “Fractio Verbi.”

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