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, the shepherd-king, who remains always the perfect example of how power is to be used for service.
The recent political campaigns and subsequent elections in the United States have revealed, quite clearly, the struggle for power. It’s the history of our country. It is the history of the world; a constant need for power and control over people and things - in politics, in business, in religion, in media and personal relationships.
The Scriptural readings for this feast always point to suffering and death, and what looks to be total human failure. But in reality, they describe what true power really is. Some use power to dominate and manipulate. Others use power to teach and to heal.
In our part of the world, the days are getting shorter; darkness seems to be gaining the upper hand. In a few weeks, when the days will be still shorter, we will celebrate Advent. It’s in our DNA that when the days are the darkest we look for light. We express our hope that God’s light will shine in our darkness. God will not leave us to trip and get lost, but will provide a light to show us the path to back to God.
But first there are things that need tending ...that need ending. So, this weekend the readings again remind us that the world is passing away; it must pass away. False securities and shallow guarantees will not sustain us in times of strife and testing. God alone must be our hope. God’s ways must be our ways, so that when our securities and misplaced confidences fail us we can turn our eyes to God’s saving light.
And so, we gather on this feast to contemplate once again the mystery of Jesus' Kingship. It is a Kingship like no other.
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 the Truth of 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
What shall our children learn from our society today? Will we teach them to love well or lie well? Will they love others because they have been loved well or will they simply master the art of grabbing whatever they can for themselves, because that's what they see?
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, God-with-us. 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 our final goal - to stand at the foot of the Cross with our King; and in so doing we share intimately in His kingship. But, to stand at the foot of the Cross is to feel the drops of His blood, to see Him ascending and to yearn for his return. To stand beneath the feet of Christ is to live in the paradox of the martyred king, the dying God. To stand beneath the Cross is to reign through serving. And in this lay our power, our freedom and liberty.