The feast of Christ the King signals the end of the liturgical year, and our preparation for the season of Advent We acknowledge Jesus the Christ as our King, we look to His kingdom - already but not fully present - and we proclaim Him as Lord of the Universe. We acknowledge that in the realm of faith, our leader is, now and always, Jesus Christ, the shepherd-king, who remains always the perfect example of how power is to be used for service.
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, the recent Synod for the Amazon, 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.
The history of the world has always been a struggle for power: a constant need for power and control over people and things - in politics, in religion, in business, in media and 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 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 kingly impact is made with the hammering of nails. His rule is one, not of power and force, but of 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 - the inheritance - that He promised to each of us who follows Him. He has come, not to put an end to human suffering, but to show mankind how to suffer.
Yet, throughout it all, Jesus the suffering King is present. He listens, and answers prayers in a whispered voice that you might miss if you don't listen carefully. It takes us some time to realize that as long as we try to go it alone, we will always stumble along fruitlessly. It takes us some time to understand what He meant by saying that He was not an earthly King. The reality of suffering is not that Jesus is going to "fix everything" and make everything better - to quickly bring everything back to normal. His kingdom is present in this world, but there is also considerable suffering and pain among all of His children. And we believe in Him despite the pain, in spite of our powerlessness and helplessness in the face of suffering, amid our discouragement and self-pity.
The Scripture readings try to capture for us the essence of Christ's role as King of the Universe. 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. The Book of Samuel reminds us that we will always be a part of His kingdom: that "we are your bone and your flesh", and that his kingship 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 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.
It is this faith that assures us that He is Lord, that Christ is our King and that His power truly supercedes any earthly power. And 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.
So, as we are about to begin a journey of faith through a new Liturgical year, it is to this kind of a king that we pledge our allegiance. He invites us to become servants with him. He promises to share his power with us, but only so that we might use it to show sensitivity and compassion others. He promises the throne of the cross, the victory of the resurrection. And in that lies our freedom and liberty. He can establish the reign of God among us only to the extent that we let go of our innate desire for possessing people and things, and are filled with his spirit of hungering for truth and justice.
This is our final goal: to share fulfillment, holiness, victory and peace with Christ our King.