I got sucked into one of these TV shows that I had no intention of watching. Has that ever happened to you? This one is called “The Dog Whisperer”. Anyone seen that? You’ve seen it, OK. I couldn’t stop watching it. The dog whisperer is this guy; he’s in L.A., he takes care of celebrity dogs, and he trains them. It’s amazing because he would take something from the biggest Pitbull to the smallest puppy, and these dogs, when he first encountered them, were insane. This little dog, who the celebrity was holding in her lap, and when he got near it, this thing started screaming almost and barking, and the dog looked possessed by all means. Then there are also these big dogs that were just out of control. Have you ever seen a dog that’s walking the person? Are they dragging the person down the sidewalk? He had dogs like that as well.
One of his big things is that every dog needs to know who its master is because if they don’t know who its master is, the dog wants to be the master. If the dog is the master, and we’re not, we’re in trouble. What he’s saying is that the dog also wants to have a master because when it doesn’t, all of the behaviors it’s doing are just because they’re so anxious and they’re so fearful. They don’t know what to do in certain situations, so they just start barking, scraping, biting, and getting out of control. The first thing he does with every dog he encounters is active submission, which helps the dog know that the dog has a master. I’m not saying that this is what you should do with your dog, so you don’t want to do it this way. I’m not recommending anything. I’m just using this as an analogy. Or your kids, for that matter, you.
What he’ll do is come up first, and the dog will be barking and biting and jumping, and he’ll get up near them and he’ll let the dog just go crazy until they’re absolutely exhausted. When the dog is finally exhausted, he goes up to the dog, and if it yaps, he’ll back up a little bit. But at one point, he’ll go and just take the dog by the neck and, very gently, he doesn’t do it hard; he’ll take the dog and push him down to the ground. The dog will instinctively land on its back, and he’ll roll the dog onto its side and he makes the dog lay there. He just takes two fingers by the neck, and if the dog tries to get up, he just pushes a little bit and the dog lays there. If the dog tries to get up, he pushes a little bit and the dog lays there. He makes sure the dog lays there until he tells the dog to get up. It’s an act of submission by the dog.
We hear in the psalm today, “The Lord Is My Shepherd, There Is Nothing I Shall Want”. We hear this beautiful psalm, but there is this interesting phrase, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Did you ever notice that? “He MAKES me lie down in green pastures.” I think from time to time, God has to do that to us. He’s got to make us lie down in green pastures so that we know that he is the King, and we are not.
We also hear in the second reading this idea of the King. He said, “He will put every enemy under his foot.” I think of that with all of the tension going on in the world right now with Russia and Ukraine and the Holy Land, all of that. Every enemy will be placed under his foot. What that means is, he’s going to make every enemy submit to him at some point. Sometimes we’re the enemy of God. Sometimes we sin in our own lives. Sometimes we try to think that we’re the master and do what we want to do and not care what God wants. We may push against the Ten Commandments; we may push against the deadly sins, we may enter into a life that is not good for us. The Good Shepherd will make us lie down in green pastures. Sometimes life does that to us, right? Sometimes life pushes us down until we surrender. I think in Alcoholics Anonymous, they call it hitting rock bottom. When a person hits rock bottom, they finally give up and give themselves over to the higher power. That happens to each and every one of us. At some point we stop fighting with God, we stop struggling, we stop wanting to do things our own way. We finally just give in. We allow ourselves to be laid down beside the still waters.
As we celebrate this feast of Christ the King, we celebrate the reality that he is the King, and we are not. Once we realize that he is the King, life becomes much less anxious because we’re not worried so much about making things work doing things that we want to do or just handling all of life. When we surrender to him, we realize that he is God, and we are not. We don’t have to control everything, we don’t have to make everything happen, and we don’t have to be self-reliant or self-sufficient. We know that God will provide for us. We’re given this beautiful image that, at the end of time, he will destroy all things. Even death will be under his submission.
What I invite you to do at the end of this homily is just close your eyes for a moment and think about where in our lives are we resisting God. Where are we out of control that God actually needs to make us lie down? Where are we, untrained or rebelling against God? Where do we need to submit ourselves to God? We don’t like the word ‘submission’, like when the readings come, “Wives submit to your husbands, husbands submit to your wives.” Usually, the husbands and wives are elbowing each other at that point. On this Christ the King Sunday, we can submit to him. We can let him be our God. We don’t have to be out of control anymore. We don’t have to bark and scream for what we want. Just let him be our God. Close your eyes, and if there’s anything that you know you need to allow God to have power over, any part of you that needs to submit to his will, I invite you to do that right now at this moment.