Our Lord Jesus Christ, King Of The Universe
There once was a deacon giving a homily and as he went on, he became more and more animated. At one point he made a sweeping gesture - and knocked his papers from the pulpit. As he scrambled to pick them up, he asked, "Now, where was I?" A voice from the congregation responded, "Right near the end!" Well, we are near the end - not of my homily, but of the liturgical year. On this final Sunday of the liturgical year we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. We acknowledge Jesus as King of the universe, King of the earth, and King of our lives.
The Image of us being ruled by a King is rather foreign to us today. Notions like honor, duty, loyalty, and obedience go against our current culture, whose highest value, it seems, is individualism. Our theme song seems to be, “I Did It My Way.” We celebrate choice because it is ours to celebrate. Doing the will of someone else rubs us the wrong way.
In our first Reading, in Daniel’s dream he imagines an eternal lord receiving dominion, glory and kingship. The Book of Revelation portrays an absolute ruler, the one who is “the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” This king is a liberator and lover. This lord who stands before the throne of God is not a lion. He is a lamb.
Christ is not your typical earthly king, to be sure. In today Gospel’s account, all of our expectations of kingliness are reversed. He is a caring King who is always near to us, a conquering King who never forces, a King who reigns from the cross, a King who dies so that we don’t have to, a King who comes to serve rather than to be served. He is a King, all right, one who rules with love, not force. He’s the strangest King you’ve ever met, and you meet Him every day: in the Eucharist, in the poor, in His Word, in your heart, in the events of your day, and in your very self. He does not muster armies or amass territories. In today’s Gospel, this King of the Universe submits himself to Pilate’s judgment.
If Christ is King, what is He King of? What is His kingdom all about? What is it? Where is it? And when is it? This phrase “The Kingdom of God” appears over 68 times in Scripture; yet these questions don’t have simple answers.
What is it? From Scripture we know that it is something to strive for. It is more difficult to enter if you are rich. It is easier to get into if you are childlike. Its good news was proclaimed by Jesus and his disciples. It belongs to the poor, the humble, and those persecuted for the sake of righteousness. It has humble beginnings and grows like seeds and yeast. It is not here or there but rather it is among us.
Jesus has some answers for us. He tells Pilate: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18: 36) And the truth that Jesus came to testify to was God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness, and God’s call to repentance.
What kind of kingdom is this? The preface to the Eucharistic Prayer for today’s Mass describes Jesus’ kingdom as: An eternal and universal kingdom. A kingdom of truth and life.
A kingdom of holiness and grace. A kingdom of justice, love and peace. It is a kingdom not fought for with traditional warfare. Rather, it testifies to truth. Jesus, the King, will not kill for the truth, He will die for it. Jesus is a suffering king. He will not demand ransom; He will be the ransom for us. He will win, not by spilling the blood of others but by offering his own.
All of us who have been baptized in the Catholic Church have been anointed Priest, Prophet, and King.
By our baptism, we are anointed priest, one who helps others worship and give thanks to God. We accept that role by our active participation in the Mass, and other communal liturgies. We accept that role in our families, for example, by leading our families in prayer.
By our baptism, we are anointed prophet, not one who foretells the future, but rather, one who hears the Word of God and then speaks what he hears. We accept that role when we courageously speak God's truth of respect for life at all stages in our culture of death, when we teach “The Truth” in a religious education class, or we encourage our children to examine the messages they are bombarded with on the internet, TV, in magazines, movies, and music.
Those two things, Priest and Prophet don’t sound bad at all. But king! That sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Kings get to do what they want. They are leaders – others are subject to them. But, that’s not the kingship we’re anointed to. We are anointed into the Kingship of Jesus Christ the King. Remember: The only crown Jesus ever wore was a crown of thorns. The only throne he ever sat on earth was the cross. The only scepter He ever held in His hand was a reed put there by the soldiers who mocked Him. The only royal robes He ever wore were the robes put on Him during His Passion by the Roman soldiers who struck Him and spat at Him.
In many ways we see that Jesus’ kingdom is totally at odds with any display of power in this world. You would expect kings to receive important people and dignitaries but Jesus received the lowly and rejected the Jewish rulers of His time. A king might expect to receive gifts but Jesus gave gifts, He restored health to those who were sick. Jesus was not the kingly type according to our understanding of king. Jesus does not teach that the kingdom will come in the manner of an army sweeping over the land. He instead compares it to the power of life contained in a seed or the power of yeast to transform a mass of dough.
One of our fascinations with royalty is the power, privilege, position, and the possessions which they appear to have, yet somehow these qualities seem to be in conflict with the values of a Christian life. But these are the very gifts which our friend and Our Lord Jesus longs to give us if we allow Him to be our king.
He gives us power; not the power to defeat our opponents or to control or manipulate the stock market, or control other people, but the power of the Holy Spirit.
He gives us privilege. Not for special invitations to royal receptions, but the privilege to be called God’s children and His brothers and sisters.
He gives us position. Not the position of chairman of the board or a life of ease, but the position that comes with the promise of a permanent place in his kingdom.
He grants us the gifts of possession. Not a pocket full of money or unlimited charge accounts, but rather, a relationship with Him through which we discover what truly is worth possessing.