An invitation to live humbly for others

By Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem. | For The Compass | November 21, 2019

“Above him there was an inscription that read, ‘This is the King of the Jews’” (Luke 23:28). As we hear these words proclaimed on the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we understand them as tribute to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Risen Savior. However, the Romans originally inscribed these words above the broken and crucified body of Jesus of Nazareth with the intention to mock him, not to honor him. This inscription takes on greater significance when one considers the history of the kingship in Israel.

The final verse of the Book of Judges sets the scene, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own sight” (21:25). Throughout the Book of Judges, the People of Israel frequently turned away from God, seeking after false gods. Although they were warned by God and his messenger Samuel that a king would seek his own interests over the interests of the people, the people persisted, “We too must be like all the nations, with a king to rule over us, lead us in warfare, and fight our battles” (1 Sam 8:20). Reluctantly, God instructs Samuel to anoint Saul as king over the people. “They are rejecting me as their king…just as they have acted from the day I brought them up from Egypt to this very day, deserting me to serve other gods” (1 Sam 8:7-8). With the exception of King David, who did “that which was right in the eyes of the Lord,” (1 Kings 15:5), the vast majority of the kings of Israel, “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight” (2 Kings 15:9). After 400+ years, the worldly kingship of Israel ends permanently when conquered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Henceforth, the People of Israel — the Jews — are successively ruled by foreign kings from Persia, Greece and, finally, Rome.

As the King of the Jews hung dying upon the cross, taunted by the Roman inscription, mocked by the history of his people, additionally, he is derided by the criminal hanging next to him, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Lk 23:39). Yet unlike the worldly kings before him, Jesus came not to save himself, but us; not to seek his own will, but to do the will of the Father, to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

So, as we celebrate the Kingship of Jesus, we are invited to pattern our lives after this Humble King. We are called not to live for ourselves, instead living humbly for others; not to do what is right in our eyes or the eyes of those around us, rather to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord. And by living this way, when we take our final breath, we hope to hear the words of Jesus originally spoken to the good thief, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Fr. Brennan, vocation director at St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere, earned Master of Divinity and Theology degrees from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top