When things are bad, it’s tough to figure out what to do. You can find yourself in ugly situations, embarrassing situations, places you can’t stay. You want to run away, find somewhere new. There’s two words that can present you with a philosophy of life when you can’t face the present, when you’re ashamed to show your face. Hakuna Matta. No worries. Problem free philosophy.
In the Lion King,Simba has a nice, normal childhood: he just can’t wait to be King and use all that power. Then, tragedy strikes and he runs away from his troubles. He finds a couple of companions who take him in, make him at home, and introduce him to their problem free philosophy: Hakuna Matta. For a while, that’s good enough: Simba just hangs with Timon and Pumbaa and has fun. The diet leaves something to be desired, slimy yet satisfying, but it’s part of the price. No worries means you don’t try hard, you don’t take chances, you don’t face things that upset you. Then Simba has a visit from his friend Nala, then Rafiki the crazy monkey shows up and Simba finally gets in touch with who he is and what his place in the Circle of Life is. Simba is able to confront his pain, find a resolution to his past, right an injustice, and bring the Pridelands back into balance. He is able to find his power by using it for others.
Using power is what today’s Gospel is about on this Christ the King Sunday. Christ is on the Cross, he is powerless. He is crucified between two criminals, and one of them taunts him from the Cross. “You’re the son of God? Prove it. You’ve got the power, use it. Come down off the Cross, show everybody who you are, and while you’re at it, get me out of this mess as well.” The first criminal isn’t willing to change his attitude or his view on life: might makes right, he’s lost his power and if Jesus has the power to save him, then life is as it should be. The first thief lives in the world of Scar, the tyrant King.
The second criminal realizes that something different is going on here. He accepts where he is and why he’s there: he knows that he deserves what he’s gotten and says as much. He knows that Jesus has to give up his life, and he asks Jesus for very little: remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus gives him the best he can, today you will be with me in Paradise. Paradise isn’t about power, it’s about surrender, surrender to God and in that surrender we are healed of our weakness and our shame. It is in that surrender that we can truly be able to return to the balance in Creation.
We are different people living in this world. We are living in the world of might makes right, we are living in the Pridelands of Simba’s uncle Scar, we are tempted to think that power is what makes the difference and being able to use power is what life is all about. We can do the right deal, even if it means dealing with hyenas, starting a few stampedes, putting the blame others and we can get enough power to be on top. If we aren’t able to gain power, then we are tempted by Hukuna Matta: run away from realities we can’t cope with, box ourselves in, make ourselves comfortable, accept less than the best so we don’t have to worry and let the world roll along. But that’s not what we’re made for, that’s not our true nature. We are servants of the King, followers of Christ.
As followers of Christ, our call isn’t to run away from shame or ugly realities, it isn’t to listen to voices that accuse us of betrayal and try to shame us into flight or inactivity. We know who we are and we know we’re not perfect. As followers of Christ we are called to be servants of the King who gives up power rather than wields it. We’re not called to use power to benefit ourselves. We are called to proclaim the Good News that the way to Paradise is open. We are called to help bring healing to Creation through the Blood of the Cross, to bring the Circle of Life back into balance.
This meal is what connects us to our King; this meal is what connects us to our true selves. This meal is where we offer ourselves to our Savior, Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom. This meal is the beginning of the day of Paradise.