I recently saw the live-action version of The Lion King. I want to talk about this whole idea of the kingdom and what happens to the kingdom when the king abdicates his throne – meaning he does not take care of the kingdom as he is supposed to.
The Lion King takes place on Pride Rock. Pride Rock is where the original King Mufasa holds his child, Simba, who is soon to be king. It is interesting that it is called Pride Rock because we do not usually associate pride as being a good thing.
In the film we see, too, that Pride Rock can also become a bad thing. When a bad king takes possession of Pride Rock, the kingdom becomes desolate.
So, just as we hear in the gospel, a good king is really not a king that becomes prideful. We heard in the first reading, “Child conduct your affairs with humility.”
So, a good king becomes great and finds favor with God the more he humbles himself. We also hear this in the gospel. A good king is ultimately one that will take the lower place. A good king only takes the place of the throne for service – not for pride or selfishness.
What happens when a king abdicates the throne? What happens when a king does not take on the responsibility he is supposed to? Scar finds a way to blame Mufasa’s death on Simba and make him think it is his fault.
Instead of taking responsibility, being honest, or even trying to find out what happened with everyone, Simba assumes the worst. He takes this great place of shame, and he decides to run from the kingdom and leaves his throne.
While he runs away, he discovers these two creatures that show him a wonderful life in this beautiful place. Their phrase is Hakuna Matata, which means no worries.
If you are like me, you are probably singing along with it right in the movie theater; but, during this time of him experiencing no worry, no responsibility and no care, something horrible is happening in his kingdom. We do not see until the end of the movie when Simba comes back that the kingdom that the kingdom has become a place of darkness. Scar has been ruling the kingdom with pride. He wants to take rather than receive.
We hear in the response today: You restored the land when it languished. I want to talk about land that is languished. The word languish in the dictionary actually means when something is completely decimated or destroyed.
It says, a person or other living thing that loses or lacks vitality or life. It grows weak and feeble or it suffers from being forced to remain in an unpleasant place or situation. In the Lion King, everybody there is suffering because the king, the true king, is not there taking care of them. It goes on to talk about some synonyms that can be: wasting away, rot, decay, wither, mold, be abandoned, neglected, forgotten, suffer.
This is what it means to languish. We see when Simba comes back and discovers that this kingdom that was once beautiful, when ruled by his father, has now been decimated and destroyed by Scar who is an evil king. We see that not only is the land dark, and grey, and lifeless, but so are the animals. The animals have become scrawny and hungry and withered, and there is a darkness to the whole environment.
The kingdom has become languished. Here is the good news. When Simba comes back and rightly takes his throne, his responsibility, and becomes a good king that serves the kingdom, everything transforms. There is life. There is beauty. There is wonder. There is goodness again. The king has returned.
I want us to think about the kingdom of God as also being within our own hearts. So, deep within you is this kingdom.
The same thing can happen to this kingdom within one of us. If we do not take care of our kingdom . . . if we do not take the time to pray or to go inward or to receive the sacraments, if we kind of abdicate our throne and leave it and go outside and maybe go into the pleasures of the world or into the land of Hakuna Matata – no worries. Or if we give up responsibility for ourselves or our spiritual life that can lead to languish.
That can lead to horrible things in our lives. It can lead to the breakdown of a marriage or the breakdown of a family. It can lead to an affair. It can lead to drinking or to drugs or carousing or to a life that we are not called to be.
Maybe you find your own heart in languish right now. Maybe your heart or your life has become unpleasant. It is a place that you might not even want to be. The good news is if you allow the king to take place in your heart right now. If you allowed him to become the one that sits upon the throne of your heart, all of that can change and it can become better once more.
Just as the Lion King’s whole kingdom was languished, maybe your heart is in languish right now. Maybe there has been too much pride or maybe you have taken too much. I love when C.S. Lewis talks about pride being not so much as thinking less of oneself but thinking more of others.
Let Jesus take his place once more on the throne of your heart, on that rock of your heart. When he does take his place there, you and he together will begin to build up and be coheirs of this kingdom of God within your own heart. It will transform from a place of languish into a place of love. Then you will discover that right here on earth you can experience the kingdom of God.
You can experience heaven in your own heart. Just as Simba came back and took ownership of his kingdom, let this be a time for you now to take ownership of your own heart. Allow yourself to receive the Eucharist deep in your heart so that you may have Jesus once more as a loving and faithful servant that wants to bring you nothing but goodness, nothing but life, nothing but his love.