Jesus, a king?
The Solemnity of Christ the King is a bit jolting given how Jesus lived, owning nothing, having authority over no one, and finally yielding to the death mandate of Pontius Pilate, ruler of Judea.
In the Gospels, whenever we hear the words of Jesus, or we read about his actions, we don’t automatically give him the title king. Yet he was called King of the Jews, first by the magi who, upon arriving in Jerusalem, asked, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? (Matt 2:2).
The title so bothered King Herod that he had all boys two years and less killed. So this title posed a threat to Jesus from his birth.
It ultimately nailed Him to the cross when he faced Pontius Pilate during his Passion.
The Jews used the title to have him condemned, saying to Pilate, who found nothing about him to crucify him, “If you release him, you are not a friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” (Jn 19: 12).
Not wishing to crucify Jesus, Pilate faced the crowd, asking, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king except Cesar” (Jn 19: 15).
Jesus never denied that he was King of the Jews when Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He replied, “My kingship is not of this world…”
Pilate probed further, “‘So, then you are a king?’ Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this, I was born and, for this, I have come into the world. I have come to bear witness to the truth and everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” (Jn 18:33-37)
Can’t Relate To Kings
We’re quite removed from the experience of kings. Movies, novels and history lessons evoke strong images of kings as tyrants in rare cases, powerful, distant, and warring in most bent on protecting their authority and conquering other kingdoms.
Yet many of us today are just as preoccupied, as the Israelites were, by earthly rulers, even those we elect, fretting and complaining about everything they do and fail to do.
Today’s Solemnity helps us steer away from this preoccupation.
Fixing our gaze on Christ the King will help us carry the cross of rulers opposed to Truth, the cross that leads to death. But a glorious death, with Jesus our beloved King who conquered death, who will defeat it totally, his last enemy, when His Kingdom comes.
Of all the kings who sat upon the throne of Israel, the greatest was David. Jesus of Nazareth was of the line of King David.
At the Annunciation, Mary heard these beautiful words: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.”
What is this Kingdom?
We see it in Jesus. Every particle of the Gospel reveals the kingdom of Christ the King. Today’s Gospel speaks of when the Son of Man comes in his glory, “… and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne…”
This royal king will judge the nations according to love, according to how we treated him in the “distressing disguise’ as St Teresa of Calcutta often said about the poor.
For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, a stranger, and you welcomed me, naked, and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you?’ Then the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matt 25:31)
Mother Teresa called it living the Gospel “on five fingers”: you-did-it-to-me.
The distressing disguise is our neighbour, our co-worker who irritates just by walking into the room. Often it’s the one in our family, brother, sister, mother, father who lives in radical opposition to belief in Christ. It may be the one that begs with an empty Tim Hortons cup at the stoplight.
I’ve seen many, many people who have been caught by this wide net Jesus casts to gather countless into His kingdom. They’re probably not aware of it. You may not have been aware of when you were the one in whom someone has cared for Jesus.
I watch them helping a stranger. I hear them speaking an encouraging word. I see them doing all the small acts of love to Christ the King hidden to them. Then in my heart, I hear Jesus say to me, not with words, but strong and clear inside:
And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matt 25:40)
This is his kingdom on earth. When we open our hearts to this King, He will enter, to cast the fear of others to the sea, giving us a heart like his.
Humbly bowing to the eternal king alive in the Eucharist, it becomes possible to live it in ways beyond our imagination.
When, through prayer, we permit him to take authority over us, his kingdom comes to dwell in us, and our lives radiate the Truth to all he sends. This is his kingdom now.
When will The Parousia arrive?
He knows. Not for us to probe, only to seek.
For five days leading to the Solemnity of Christ the King the Church has provided readings from Revelation on that glorious time:
I looked again, and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless, and they cried out in a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honour and glory and blessing.” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour, glory and might, forever and ever.” The four living creatures answered, “Amen,” and the elders fell and worshiped. (Rev 5:11-14)
The decisive action of Christ the King “separating sheep from goats, the good from the bad, is not frightening if we have followed Him in our life having given him our sins for which he died so that we might live.
Consider St Dominic Savio’s thoughts:
Nothing seems tiresome or painful when you are working for a Master who pays well; who rewards even a cup of cold water given for love of him.
Think also about the “good thief” crucified next to Jesus who said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42).
Pope John Paul said this about him in his 1998 homily for the Solemnity: “On Calvary Jesus had a rather unusual companion in his passion, a thief. For this unhappy man, the way of the cross became, infallibly, the way to paradise (cf. Lk 23:43), the way to truth and life, the way to the kingdom.”
In the first reading of today’s Mass, God speaks through Ezekiel saying, “
I will search for my sheep and will seek them…I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.” (Ez 34: 11-12).
This is the action of our Father, the most loving of fathers who has sent his Son to be a shepherd and king, whom we can cling to our whole life and never be afraid.