Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday in the 11th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Return of the King

Readings: 2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20; Psalms 132:11, 12, 13-14, 17-18; Matthew 6:19-23

There’s good news for Singaporean fans of JRR Tolkien. The first installment of the film version of his epic novel The Lord of the Rings will be screened on Channel 5 tomorrow evening. As most of us know, there are three parts to the classic story: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Twin Towers and The Return of the King. Although the story is a fantasy, it has attracted such a great following because it speaks to something deep within the human heart. Such that someone has even said that the English-speaking world can be divided in those who have read The Lord of the Rings and those who have not.

Coincidentally, the rather long and confusing story presented to us in the first reading today also involves the return or, to be more precise, the revelation of a king. Here too, the story can be divided into three parts. What we find in the first part is a usurpation of power. Upon the death of King Jehoiada, Athaliah, the King’s mother seizes the throne and murders all who could challenge her. All except Jehoash (or Joash), the king’s son and rightful heir, who is saved and protected by his aunt. Between this Usurpation and the final Revelation (and Coronation) or Jehoash, there is a middle part of the story that lasts for six years. These are the years of Hidden Struggle, a time when loyalists such as Jehoiada the priest had to prudently protect the young ruler-in-exile, while carefully cultivating support for him among those with political and military power. While this story is probably much more rooted in history that The Lord of the Rings, we can’t say for sure to what extent things actually happened the way they are written. Even so, we might wonder what relevance the story might possibly have for us.

The gospel points us in a useful direction. Here Jesus draws a distinction between heaven and earth. And one key difference between these two realms is, of course, who seems to be in charge. In heaven, God is the undisputed ruler. But things are not so clear on earth. Although we Christians believe that Jesus has already been crowned Lord of all creation, isn’t it true that things often look very different here on earth? Doesn’t it often seem as though such things as money and military might, pleasure and sex have all but usurped God’s rightful place on the throne of this earth? Isn’t this why we continue to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming as King? Don't we find ourselves living in an in-between state that requires us to engage in a hidden struggle such as Jehoiada did? We find ourselves in a situation that requires us to commit to and work for those heavenly values that alone endure to eternity. Values that we have been hearing Jesus preach about in his Sermon on the Mount. And, as Jesus again reminds us today, in order to do this, we need to have the healthy eyes, so as to recognize the presence of our one true leader, our only rightful king, Jesus the crucified and risen Christ.

How does the Lord wish to purify our vision today?

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