Last week we were miles away from the centre of Bangkok and chanced upon a bakery famed for its croissant. Curious, we went in. There was a waiting room full of people, seated much like in a hospital waiting to see the doctor. Only that it was more crowded. The ‘doctor’ should be available in an hour. We turned to the takeaway queue. It was serving number 19 and ours was 164. We left.
Time is life. What would have motivated me to spend an hour of my life in a queue for a croissant? This is not to detract from anyone who will. One day I might too. Rather I went away curious about how our behaviours have changed as we progressed in time. There is the factor of affluence and then also the allure of social media. Our behaviours have altered with our mobile devices. Innocent as it is fun, it would be nice to upload a photo of being at a trending place.
Today we celebrate Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical year before we welcome the new year with Advent. “You will call him Emmanuel”. God with us. Soon our thoughts and schedules will be filled with Christmassy things. And we will welcome the new calendar year with a hangover. So, it may be good to choose this week to look back at our spiritual life and make our resolutions going forward. A good place to reflect on is perhaps how has social media (and wealth, if you have) altered “my behaviour”? Have I left my spiritual life somewhere as a backdrop and who and what is my King?
The internet and social media have really opened the world up. There is an amazing wealth of information. Google maps and apps have made places once remote, now accessible and known. Increasingly life is about experiences, queuing an hour for a croissant or eating a local egg breakfast in a remote Thai village. But if we are not conscious, these progressive developments can also make our world a lot smaller.
When I was a kid, I bought a weekly football magazine to follow my team. That was all I had to follow my team. As I suffered this poverty of information, I read every word in that magazine and as a result I had a wide knowledge of football. My world was big. Today I have the luxury of clicking on my specific club. That one click eliminates everything else, paradoxically making my world much smaller than it should be. In our hands we have this dangerous tool of becoming too engrossed only with our ‘self’. In today’s world, it is easy to be, “Christ decrease, I increase”.
Today’s first reading is good fodder for our reflection. Christ the King is there too in our internet world. He is the good shepherd always looking out for us, wanting to lead us back onto the right path, after we are being scattered by our pre-occupation of self. The reading tells us that God initiates, and He is always present in our midst, an always changing presence in our changing world. Emmanuel, God is with us.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”” (Today’s Gospel)
Every time this passage comes along, I go back to a previous sharing of when the ministry I belonged to was running a special Sunday canteen service. The special that day was selling every item for a dollar. I was privileged to experience an elderly couple come up to me to thank us saying that they would not have been able to enjoy such items if we did not sell them for one. Basking in a sea of happy faces, perhaps self-engrossed milking the gratitude, I missed the significance of that encounter. Only that night as I lay in bed, this passage came to me. Yes King, I saw you in the canteen.
Emmanuel, you are in our midst. We must keep focus and not be distracted. Not to be blinded by the kingship of self. Then we will see and know our true King.
Solemnity of Christ the King