Growing up, “The Lion King” was definitely one of my favorite Disney movies. As a kid, and as an adult, something about the animal kingdom, how the lives of different creatures intertwine defaulting into this complex hierarchy was always so fascinating. My interest in the movie skyrocketed with the recent release of the reproduction of the film that uses modern technology to simulate a live-action movie. What was previously an animated classic now presented itself in a way that looked like actual African scenery, drawing the viewer into the screen to feel and be a part of the cinematics.
The best scene in the movie, in my opinion, is always the first — the moment “The Circle of Life” starts to play, and all the animals of the kingdom gather before the precipice of Pride Rock to welcome their newest member — a royal member. Recently, some family members decided to watch the reproduction again, and I stuck around to see this first scene. This time, though, something hit me differently. When Simba, the “prince” of the kingdom, is anointed on his head by the kingdom’s spiritual leader, Rafiki, and then lifted high and presented to all the kingdom set to the backdrop of Elton John’s Disney classic, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with emotion realizing that this happens to each and every Christian.
Soon after we are born, we are presented to all the creatures of the kingdom and are welcomed into a royal lineage. The creatures are the members of the Body of Christ, the kingdom is God’s, and the royal lineage is our claim as heirs of that kingdom, as sons and daughters of the most high. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that through Baptism, we become members of the Body of Christ and are incorporated into the Church, but the Baptized also “share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission” (CCC 1268). We share in the royal mission. We, like Simba, become royalty.
How often do we feel anything but this? Too often. How often do we put ourselves down, or succumb to others putting us down? Too often. How often do we struggle to celebrate our successes because we are too focused on our failures? Too often. How often do we pull our shoulders back with confidence and walk forward on this journey called life with our crowned head held high, knowing that we are royal? Not often enough.
As a young man studying in hopes of one day hearing the words “You are a priest forever” said to me at my ordination, I am no stranger to moments when I feel like anything but royalty. Too often, I focus more on my perceived unworthiness to even have been called to this vocation. Too often, I focus on my perceived inadequacy in comparison to the other seminarians around me. I’m not holy enough. I’m not smart enough. I don’t ‘get it’ enough. But I’ve come to learn and to remind myself that these are just perceptions in my own mind, because as far as God is concerned, he called me just the way I am for a purpose that no one else can fulfill but me. He has destined me for a priestly, prophetic and royal mission.
God doesn’t break his promises. He told us that he would call us by a new name, make us into a crown of beauty and royalty in His hand (Is 62:2-3). This was fulfilled through Christ, whom we became fellow heirs of God with (Rom 8:16). Through our Baptism, we are entrusted with the inheritance. We are entrusted with living our lives as true heirs of the Kingdom. God willing, as a priest one day, I look forward to being able to personally play a role in adding more heirs to the Kingdom, as I baptize in the name of the Most Holy Trinity.
Living this kingship and living as royalty is not meant to be from a place of power or authority, but a role that is founded on love. Pope Francis, in one of his past General Audiences, pointed out that our call to proclaim Christ’s kingship and royalty, by sharing in it, is to be done “by our witness of faith and love, and our commitment to imitate him in loving service to our brothers and sisters.” Faith. Service. LOVE. There is no greater commandment than that of love.
But, this presupposes that we even know how to love. When we can learn to love ourselves as the royalty that we are, then we begin to love our neighbor as ourselves, as fellow-heirs, and this leads us to know how to truly love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Mt 22:37-39). Some days will be easy, and others will be tough. Even Simba had his rough days, especially when he disobeyed his father and journeyed out into the dark, forbidden elephant graveyard. It is the next scene that also always gives me good feelings. Mufasa takes Simba out into the fields, and amidst his forgiveness Mufasa directs his son’s attention into the night sky and tells him that all the kings of the past are looking down on him and protecting him. We too will have days where we will find ourselves moving towards the forbidden, darkened lands. It is during these days that it is most important for us to look ourselves in the mirror and remind ourselves to whom we belong: the King that will protect us from the overwhelming rivers and burning fires along this journey of life (Is 43:2).
So, on those tough days, remember to look in the mirror, look in the eyes of that person you see staring back at you and say to him or her: “Hey, I think you dropped something.” Pick up their crown, adjust it on their head, and push them back into the ‘Circle of Life.’