Okay, we live in a world that doesn't have lords and ladies anymore. At least not viable ones. And the only kings we see on television are more fodder for celebrity gossip shows or UN reports on atrocities. But in the realm of fiction -- my particular realm-- kings still exist. Although a self-sacrificing king is pretty rare. Not that I'm picking but even if they sacrifice themselves, it's not to the death. And even if they die for someone, they usually do so for good people and not for the sins of evil folks who hate their guts. So let's begin:
A long time ago two princes were born on either side of the world. The northern prince lived in a great palace. He was dressed in silk and linen and had many servants to wait upon him while he dined on rich foods every day,
The prince of the south had no palace but lived among his people. He was born in a pig sty, became a refugee at his birth, and lived among the poor. He didn't eat the fancy foods the northern prince did. And no one bowed down daily to worship him. As was his habit, he dressed in common clothes and attended the births, deaths, and marriages of his friends. War had been waged against both these lands. An evil usurper bent on killing, stealing, and destroying.
The prince of the north lived in such pleasure and happiness that he didn't really realize that war had been waged against him or his people. But one day the northern prince stepped outside his palace. It was the first time he had done so, and he was very surprised at what he saw. He had not known how powerful the conqueror was. The people outside the palace didn’t eat as well as he did. Sometimes they didn’t eat at all. Their tattered clothing did not protect their bodies from snow and heat, their heads and feet were not covered with shoes and hats as his was.
The prince had always been kindhearted, but when he saw the suffering of his people he burst into tears. He had a nervous breakdown and got so upset he couldn't eat. Then he found enlightenment and realized that if he stopped worrying about the sorrows of his people and accepted their suffering...all would be well with his soul.
I swear, whenever I hear some Buddhist friend tell me about Buddha's enlightenment I have to resist rolling my eyes.
Give me a religion which teaches me to hope and not to merely stoicly endure. Praise for my Lord, born in a manger, poor, suffering, acquainted with grief who tells us that we CAN conquer evil.
I remember one day going to a festival/procession of our Lady of Guadaloupe at Graymoor monastery just up the road from me. The priest officiating was a teacher at Maryknoll, someone who had been to Latin America and whose aim was to bring more young men into the priesthood. I went up to him after the service and asked him to pray for a miraculous healing for my son. Instead, he lay his hand on my son's head and prayed for me to be given grace to accept my son's sufferings. What a crock! I said to him, "Sir, I didn't ask you to pray that God give me grace to accept suffering. I asked you to pray for my son's healing. Who am I to pray that I should accept the suffering of someone else? And who are you to ask me to do such a thing?"
He gave me an angry look but a few weeks later he wrote me a letter apologizing. Seems he had been a priest too long, healthy too long, without sickly family members he loved... he didn't know how to enter into the suffering of a child. All he knew was a platitude. I'm glad I brought him back to his Christian senses. Even if I was nasty about it. Praise ye the Lord.
That said, merry christmas. When you give and receive gifts today, remember a king who gave his life and died for you.
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