I know the Welsh don’t like it, but there is something deeply profound in that line from a A Man For All Seasons when St. Thomas More quotes Scripture at the betrayer Richard Rich saying “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul….but for Wales?”
The cross is a stumbling block to those who want to be kings of the world – or even just Wales. Jesus as King of the Jews poured every last drop of Himself out for all of us, having washed the feet of the apostles only a few hours earlier. Real kings sacrifice for others, they don’t sacrifice others for themselves.
Over Christmas we remember good King Wenceslas who ruled with kindness and took care of the poor. The Church has quite a few royal saints who worked hard for the poor and sacrificed for the people they served as King or Queen.
I think this is a good rule of thumb when looking for good religious leaders too. A king, prince, relgious leader who has privalege and doesn’t use it for others, isn’t much of a leader. We do the same in the Church in how we judge our popes. The ones who stood firm for Christ and followed Him closely are saints – and we are blessed to have a lot of saintly and canonised popes; but can also learn from the popes who did things badly. One of the things we learn is that no matter how bad a pope got the Holy Spirit did not allow them to change the teachings of Christ.
There is the story of a pope (I can’t remember which one, but I’m sure many of you know about this) who had written something that would contradict the Church and he was firmly set to promulgate it. On the night before he was to promulgate this document he died. God protects His Church.
O Emmanuel – God with us. This is from the prophecy Isaiah gave to Ahab who had tried to chicken out of hearing what God had to say. Isaiah said that Ahaz was going to hear what God had to say anyway and made the prophecy that a virgin shall conceive bear a son and he will be called wonderful, councilor prince of peace and God With Us.
As with many prophecies it has been considered that there was a dual fulfilmet of Isaiah’s words in that Ahaz’s young wife Abijah soon delivered a son whom they named Hezekiah meaning God is Strength.
Ahaz had been a pretty dreadful king and led Israel into the darkness. But Hezekiah was seen as a great kind. He cleaned out the awful pagan gods and brought Israel back under the wing of God. But the sins of the people left a mark and soon Hezekiah found himself facing Sennechorib who rules Assyria after the death of Sargon. Hezekiah had looked to Egypt for help, but none came.