Solemnity of Christ the King - Come Blest of My Father

The feast of Christ the King marks the end of the Church year; next week we begin the Holy Season of Advent, when our minds and hearts are turned towards preparation for the coming of the Lord.

The Lord comes to us in many ways, not just during the seasons of the Church year. Jesus identifies his own presence with the poor and tells us that, ultimately, we will be judged on how we treat them. 

Christianity is not just a "personal" religion, addressed to private spirituality.  Rather, it calls on the entire Christian community, indeed upon all nations, to respond to the poor.  We look around the world and see enormous poverty and people desperately in need of clean drinking water; medicine for their aged and very young; food in famine and war stricken lands, fair wages and decent working conditions; help in combating sickness and disease; international collaboration to clean up the air and preserve natural resources.  What might Jesus say to the nations gathered before him this day?

It is Christ who, when he lived among us, experienced first hand the very needs of which he speaks.  He knows what it meant to be without;  he saw up close the ravages of illness and disease on people; he himself was arrested and imprisoned.  He urges us to respond to these needs in others, just as he did.  We are to have the mind and the heart of Christ. The judgment scene shows that judgment is not going to be based on some arcane theological point or some work that will take an enormous effort to achieve.  Norms for the judgment are simple—did we take care of the most pressing problems of the needy, did we address their : hunger, thirst, being a foreigner, lacking clothes, illness and imprisonment?

What gives us hope and vision in the middle of this broken world is our belief in the resurrection - our recognition of the presence of Christ in one another.

So it is fitting that the four weeks of Advent are immediately preceded with the wonderful celebration of Christ's Kingship. God becomes man; man becomes priest, prophet and king.  As great as the problems of this world may be, contrary to all appearances, Scripture reminds that us that this is not the last word. In the light of Christ we can live our lives, face the world and rise to glory with him.

All are called into God's kingdom. The Gospel reminds us that the kingdom is present whenever people act lovingly towards others - feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting prisoners. And into this kingdom will come people from the four corners of the earth. We might have too narrow a perspective of who is part of the kingdom, limiting membership to our own religious community or those who believe as we do. The parable that Jesus teaches today is not so limiting: people will be invited in who didn't even recognize Christ in the needy they served. They just helped and aided those whom they saw with eyes of compassion.

At the end of His life, there was no glory for Jesus, no resounding success - as we know it. His dream was not realized, his mission was not complete. Those in power had their way with Him. He cried over the city of Jerusalem; He was scourged, spat upon and mocked; and he was led away to die a criminal's death, abandoned by most of His friends. Feeling abandoned even by His Father, this man reached deep into Himself and refused to despair, refused to give up hope, refused to budge from His conviction that God is ultimately good, generous, gracious, and to be trusted absolutely.

Jesus is a king whose army has fled into hiding, whose crown is one of thorns, whose royal robe is a blanket hastily taken from a soldier's horse, whose throne is one made of the wood of the cross, and whose impact is made with the hammering of nails. Those He chose for leadership positions were dressed not in regal splendor, but in the tattered cloaks of fishermen, tax collectors and the marginalized of society.

Jesus is a king whose strength was one of salvation, not power. And salvation is about Jesus setting us free. It is an exodus experience. It is a pilgrimage - a movement from being imprisoned to being set free, from being bound to being released from bondage, from darkness into light, from fear to trust, from arrogance to insight and understanding.

This is the kingdom we inherit: Emmanuel - God with us; God above us; God under us; God around us; God within us. We are carriers of a new vision. We are dreamers of His dream that all may be one, loved and accepted as persons of immeasurable value. We are the bearers of life, nurturing it in all of its myriad manifestations. We are the reminders that truth, goodness and beauty are to be pursued and enjoyed. We are called to be servants of the Word, open and vulnerable to its transforming power - a community of disciples who live simply, love tenderly and act justly.

This is our inheritance: We are challenged to be people of Church - faithful to who we are; choosing to live the present with an awareness of the past and an openness to the future... giving thanks that God has first loved us, and shared His life with us that we might freely give ours for the life of the world.

And we are entrusted with the responsibility and privilege of carrying this new vision for all of humanity:
  • as collaborators not competitors
  • as stewards not destroyers
  • as life-givers not death-dealers through war, poverty or hunger
  • as co-creators not exploiters
  • and as mutual partners living in harmony with one another
The approaching season of Advent is not one that celebrates the anticipation of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem. It reminds us that this child has already been born; He lived, suffered and died for us, and He is with us still - Emmanuel. This is the King who leads us beyond ourselves as we encounter the mystery of a God beyond all imagining. This is the King who leads us into ourselves as we contemplate the wonder of who we are. This is the King who leads us towards others, as we accept the challenge of incarnating God's presence on earth - as courageously and as lovingly as He did.

This is the King who beckons: "Come, blessed of my Father..."