The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
With a contentious mid-term elections barely over, I am not sure about our appetite for the Feast of Christ the King. Often, we completely de-politicize the gospel. However, think about it. Jesus was brought before the political establishment of the time, by the religious establishment of the time, to be judged, condemned, and finally crucified. Jesus’ condemnation and death as much a political event as it was a religious event. On the other hand, perhaps the feast is a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the political contentions. The Feast of Christ the King tells us that the cross was hardly was the end of the story. The feast of Christ the Kings celebrates the reality that the cross became Jesus’ throne, that strength lies in humility, and that power lies in love.
Three practical implications from Jesus, the king.
1. “My Kingdom Is Not of This World.” When Pilate questioned Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus did not deny that he was. Rather, he said: "My kingdom does not belong to this world.” Jesus’ response is significant because as a nation under Roman occupation, nationalistic sentiments were very high during Jesus’ time. In fact, by bringing to Pileate and accusing him claiming to be king, the chief priests and elders were hoping that Pilate would condemn him for sedition. To Pilate’s relief and to the religious authority’s disappointment, Jesus rejected any nationalistic ambitions. His vision was universal. His kingdom defied geographical boundaries. His kingdom was based on a totally different set of values, mainly love, humility, service, and self-sacrifice. What does this mean for us? As people who live in this world and yet hoping to belong to Christ’s kingdom in the next, we have to be careful not to equate faith and nationalism. These days particularly, Christianity is being associated too closely with nationalistic and militaristic ambitions. The cross and the flag are being coalesced too easily. The Feast of Christ the King is an invitation to us to stay true to the vision Jesus had.
2. “Thy Kingdom Come!” Every time we gather for mass, we pray the words that Jesus taught us to pray. We say, “Thy kingdom come!” What do we mean by these words? How do we know that we are meaning the same thing that Jesus meant? During his life time and, especially in teaching his apostles, Jesus gave us a glimpse of the kingdom Jesus proposed. We know that Jesus’ kingdom is not earthly; that he does not plan on enlisting us in an armed rebellion, or that it includes violence and war. The kingdom he proposes is one, where to be the first you must be the last (Mk 9:35); a kingdom where the master is the servant of all (Mk 10:45); a kingdom where saving one’s life meant losing it and losing one’s life for the sake of the kingdom meant saving it (Mt 20:16); a kingdom where a revolution is in people loving their enemies, doing good to those who hate them, blessing those who curse them, and praying for those who mistreat them (Lk 6:27-28); a kingdom where everybody has their daily bread (Mt 6:11); a kingdom where the king eats and drinks with the sinners, the poor, and those on the peripheries (Mt 9:11); a kingdom where the king gives up his life for the life of the world (Jn 3 16); a kingdom where people do not judge each other but leave it to God (Mt 7:1); a kingdom where people do not serve God and mammon (Mt 6:24). Is this what we mean when we pray, “Thy kingdom come?” I hope that it is.
3. When We Do Not Seek the Kingdom of God. In Christian history, the church was often equated with the kingdom of God. Conceptually, it is a good thought. Indeed, the church must be a mirror of God’s kingdom. Later, the church became more humble, because she realized that she was both divine and human, holy and sinful, earthly and heaven. There church now is called ‘a symbol’ of God’s kingdom. These days, more and more we are made aware of a church’s sinfulness. We are being made more and more aware of the consequences of the church not working toward God’s kingdom. The child abuse at the hands of priests and the bishops lack of transparency has left us heart-broken. However, the priests and bishops are not the only people who make the church. This feast invites each one of us to look at our own lives as well. How sure are we that the kingdom we pray for at every mass is God’s kingdom? Can we be sure that our life bears witness to the values of the Universal King? Are we a humble people who aim to serve, to love unconditionally, to forgive generously, and to do good even if it leads us to the cross. Are we a people who can look beyond self—serving nationalism and work for the well-being of all of humanity. Do we have the same compassionate and merciful heart of Jesus – the King of kings?
To honor Christ the King is to honor the kingdom he died for. May we be faithful subjects of the His kingdom. Amen.
- Fr. Satish Joseph