Sudoku and the art of being a king

In 1973, Robert Pirsig wrote a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It became famous for a while as an exploration of how to reach enlightenment by doing our daily tasks with the discipline of Zen. I would like to write a book called Christianity and the Art of Doing Sudoku! But I am being frivolous. Still there is a tiny truth hidden there.

biblelightrays636363-42Sudoku, for the uninitiated, involves putting the only possible number in each of the empty squares on a grid of 81. You are given 25 numbers, more or less, scattered around the grid as markers. The puzzles can take five minutes or a month, depending on how tough they are and how apt you are at solving them.

God is gentle with us. He gives us milk to begin with. That is all we can digest. Then we move on to solid food but we can baulk at it. The going gets tough and we turn aside to easier things. There is always that line that we fear to cross. Yet we know that if we cross it it will open a way to life.

TV camera crews at the Rio Olympics constantly played on the huge statue of Christ the King overlooking the harbour and the city. They did not comment on it. How could they? There would be so much to say. Suffice it to recall here that Fr Michael Pro, the moment before he was executed in Mexico ninety years ago, called out, “Long live Christ the King!”

This Sunday Catholics will be celebrating the feast of Christ the King as a final moment of the Church’s year. And, as with Sudoku, we are given a progress of readings from easy to hard. For a start we see David anointed king at Hebron. Nothing difficult there! We know what it is to crown a king or swear in a president. But then the gospel has Jesus proclaimed king by a Roman governor with a plaque nailed to his instrument of torture and death. And not only that, one of the criminals with him says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

That is harder to take: a “king” proclaimed by a pagan – half in mockery but perhaps with a tiny bit of prophecy – and earnestly implored by a bandit to ‘remember him.’ All the gospels make these moments of weakness, humiliation and death the turning point in the announcement of the kingdom of God. “From now on you will see…” But it is a hard message.

And then the letter to the Colossians goes wild about what “you will see.” “He has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom.” And then it goes on in baffling language, which make you gasp that people could write these things about Jesus of Nazareth only a few decades after his death. “He is the image of the unseen God… the first born …in him were created all things … before anything was created he existed … he holds all things in unity…” Phew! We’ve moved on a long way from Bethlehem.

We have been taken far beyond the simple ceremony at Hebron. But it was all contained there, as in a seed, all those years ago when the Jews struggled to discover who they were. We are still on that journey. But it is not an impossible puzzle. It is all gradually and wonderfully unfolding. And we have our part.

20 November 2016      Christ the King

2 Samuel 5:1-3                        Colossians 1:12-20      Luke 23:35-43

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