Hapsburg

For precisely seven hundred years, from 1216 to 1916, the Hapsburg Empire dominated the political world. At its peak it governed nearly all of Europe, much of the Mideast, Florida and the South West in America, a large part of Mexico and all of Central America. Its aristocracy included such notables as Katheryn of Aragon, Marie Antoinette and the Arch Duke Ferdinand. Its administrative decisions lent much to the stories of Martin Luther, Michael Cervantes and William Tell. In short, the Hapsburgs were among the most powerful people ever to walk the earth.

Despite this high standing the Hapsburg were well aware of the transit power of worldly titles. In a funeral procession typical for Hapsburg Emperors, Franz Joseph was laid to rest. The procession, led by the court High Chamberlin and knights in armor, marched to the gates of the burial priory to find the doors shut against them. The High Chamberlin knocked on the door. The abbot, who waited behind it with all his monks, asked, “Who seeks entry?” The High Chamberlin replied, “His majesty Franz Joseph I, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Duke of Tuscany and Illyria, King of Jerusalem, Duke of Lorraine, Grand Prince of Transylvania, Count of Hapsburg and Tyrol.”

To this the monk replied, “We do not know him. Who seeks entry?”

This time the High Chamberlin replied, “A poor sinner Franz Joseph, who begs God’s mercy.” At this point the monk commanded, “Enter” and the doors opened.

In Luke 7, John the Baptist, asked Jesus for assurance, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Think of the ways Jesus might have responded: “Tell him I am the son of God”; “say I am the Messiah”; or “I am the one known as redeemer to the prophets”. All were available replies for him. Instead he said simplify, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

More than one hundred years after the fall of the Hapsburgs, and more than two thousand years after the death of Jesus, we still seek titles: C.E.O., mega church pastor, bestselling author, wealthy entrepreneur. I wonder if we are seeking the right final resume. Perhaps we would be better served by an obituary that read, “A poor sinner, who begs God’s mercy, who helped the infirmed, and brought good news to the poor.”