The Shepherd King

The struggle for power has always been an issue throughout history. It has been so in the history of our country. It has been so in the history of our Church. It has been especially in the forefront over the last few weeks. Political rivalries in this country have exploded into sharp polarities, angry rhetoric and threats, and total lack of compromise. And in the Church, preparations for the Synod 2021-2024, while attempting to be a force for consensus and unity, has provoked division and, at times, angry challenges to Pope Francis' vision of the servant-Church.

thegoodthiefThe struggle for power is nothing new.  There has always been a constant need for power and control over people and things - in politics, in religion, in business, in media and in personal relationships.

The Scriptures for this feast, however, always point to suffering and death and what looks to be total human failure.  In truth, they describe what true power really is.  Some use power to dominate and manipulate. Others use power to teach and to heal.

Jesus is a king like no other. His rule is not the power of force but the force of Love. And it is important for us to remember that the cross does not belong to Him alone. It is the legacy and the inheritance that He has promised to all those who follow Him. He has come not to put an end to human suffering, but to show mankind how to suffer and to understand why we suffer.

The Scripture readings today try to capture for us the essence of Christ's role as King. We are always reminded that He is a descendant of David, the shepherd king. Authority in God's kingdom is exercised with the love and compassion of a shepherd has for his flock. The Book of Samuel reminds us that we will always be a part of His kingdom. "We are your bone and your flesh." His is a kingship that shall never be destroyed. We listen to Paul's profound statement: "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross."

Finally, we are confronted with the mockery of the inscription identifying the crucified Jesus as "king of the Jews." We hear the taunts of His enemies. We listen to the cruel challenge of the crucified thief, and the whispered promise of Jesus to the "good thief": "Today you will be with me in Paradise." It is faith that brought him salvation, and it is faith that will bring us ours.

Maybe that's why we end our church year with this feast. The feast of Christ the King precedes the Season of Advent and affirms what Advent is all about. Christ has come and is present in our world - the Word made Flesh, the Bread of Life. We prepare for the Season of Advent by remembering that our God chose to become a human being just like us. He is God-With-Us, Emmanuel. He takes on our pain, our sufferings, and our death. And because of this we are healed. We have life and have it to the full.

Today can be a feast of renewal for us. We acknowledge that in the realm of faith our vision is focused, now and always, on Jesus Christ, the shepherd-king, who remains always the perfect example of how power is really meant to be used.