Solemnity of Christ the KingCycle B
Today we celebrate the great Solemnity of Christ, the King of the Universe. This is the last Sunday in our liturgical year, and it is fitting that at the end we take time to focus on the end of time and God’s great plan for us and for all of creation. Today we come full circle to take stock of the past year, get our priorities straight, and move on to the joyous expectation of the coming season of Advent.
And God’s plan is pretty simple: Jesus says that he is in charge and he wins. Bottom line.
To Christians, this feast is one of great hope. To us, the fact that Christ is king means that He is in control. Eventually, He triumphs over all the other kings of the world. The image of Christ as king helps us focus on the truly important. It gives us hope in the face of all the minor and major setbacks we face in our daily lives and in the world.
Pastor Rick Warren in his best-selling book, “The Purpose Driven Life” begins with chapter one – “It’s not about you”. And that’s how we should all view our lives. It’s not about us. It’s first and foremost about God. We didn’t create ourselves and we are really not in control of our lives. God did and God is. It is especially important that we remember this when we are faced with an ever-increasing secularity and outright atheism in our society. Just because someone chooses to ignore or deny God does not change the fact of God’s existence and power.
Jesus Christ is our king and we are his subjects. Our king does not lord it over us. Instead, He treats us with mercy, an unreasonable and overly-generous mercy. Like the story of the prince and the pauper, God not only does not impose His will on us, he actually got down in the dirt and became one of us. He calls us; He does not force us. He asks for our allegiance; He does not demand it.
And yet Jesus says that as our king he is also our judge. We are called to discern God’s will in our lives and then are called to live it out. We do that by how we treat other people. We will be judged on how we treat the least among us. Therefore, it’s not about us either. It’s about others. We will be judged on how well we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger. How we show our love for one another shows how much we love God, and vice versa.
Jesus Christ is king over all, not just Christians. As we heard Jesus say to Pilate in today’s gospel, His kingdom is not of this world. It transcends borders, religions, space and time. As we begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy next Sunday we should remember that our mercy and love must extend throughout the entire world, to every nation and people, no matter what religion – or no religion – they profess. That is sometimes difficult for us to reconcile in our hearts, especially if that mercy contradicts the king of our politics who is fighting for dominance in our minds.
Sometimes our lives seem more like the Game of Thrones. There are many kings in our lives, and they often war with one another for dominance over our lives. Who will we offer our allegiance to?
The king of money? How generous are you with your hard earned cash? What are you planning to do for those less fortunate than you this Christmas season? And will you do it because you want to bring the generosity of Jesus to their lives or just for a year-end tax deduction?
The king of power? What is the power structure in your marriage and family? Do you see your role as spouse or parent as being that of a servant or a tyrant? Or worse, as a hands-off manager not really engaged in each other’s lives?
The king of sensuality? Are physical pleasures and living the good life your main goal? Are you more focused on all the stuff you’ve accumulated than on the physical needs of others?
The king of politics? Have you become so rigid in your views that you cannot and will not tolerate those who think differently? Do you question their beliefs or their motives?
The king of self? Is it all about you? Can you even see it? Others can.
In the middle ages, the great age of kings, there was a power struggle being waged continuously. When I read history, it is usually with that macro view. The kings and kingdoms represented power. The great events of history are usually related through the perspective of the powerful. The common people were just buffeted by the events. They changed their allegiance to this king or that, depending on who was the winner or on who would cause them the least harm.
There were major kings and emperors and minor rulers as well. Usually it was the petty monarch that caused the most trouble for the people, because they were closer to them. Those other kings I just talked about are those petty kings. We switch our allegiance among them all the time because they are so close to us. The image of the King of the Universe can seem so far away at times. That king is in some other place and while He does exercise final dominion I have to deal with this king living in my heart right now. And it often seems like they are at war within me.
But the King of the Universe is not far away. He is not only within us He has become us. And we have become Him. When we were baptized we were anointed with the sacred chrism, the holiest of oils. Chrism represents the anointing of Jesus as king. The word Christ means literally “anointed”. When we were anointed the priest or deacon said “As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so may you live always as a member of His body, sharing everlasting life”. Unlike the peasants of old, we are not simply buffeted by the whims of the king. We all share in His life. We are His body. We share in the kingdom.
The Jews anointed their kings with oil to symbolize that they were set aside by God with a special task. They were called to be wise and holy and strong and faithful to God. When the king acted so the nation flourished. When he acted contrary to God’s will the nation suffered and was even destroyed. Jesus is wise and holy and strong and faithful to the Father’s will. Therefore, when we also are wise and holy and strong and faithful we are Jesus to the world. Our anointing has set us aside for a special mission. We are the envoys of the great King. We are the ones he has sent out into the world to renew the face of the earth. We are called to bring the good news to the poor and lamentation to the powerful.
The kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom throughout Judea, and he commissioned his disciples to continue to proclaim the kingdom throughout the entire world.
I know this sounds like an impossible task. How can we change the world when we are so small and weak and insignificant? And we can’t. God can. And it has to start in each one of our hearts, first realizing that it isn’t about us, but ultimately it is all about us. The mystery is that it is when we are weak that we are most powerful, because it is then that we are forced to rely totally on our all-powerful King. I take solace in the thought that if it’s not all about me then it’s not all on me, either.
Because remember: Bottom line - Jesus wins.