Feast of Christ the King
This weekend, in great joy and thanksgiving, the Church closes its year. As it looks back through the days and months of 2012, it gives thanks for salvation achieved in Christ the Lord. He is king, and justice and peace only occur when Jesus truly is acknowledged as Lord.
The Book of Daniel supplies the first reading. When this book, was written, God’s people were experiencing many trials. The book includes a certain literary exaggeration among its techniques, impressing upon readers the depth of the troubles being faced by God’s people at this time but also dramatizing God’s redemption and protection. God subdues every evil force.
In this reading, a certain unnamed representative of God appears. He is identified by his title, “Son of Man.” He is not always eagerly received, however. Still, His forbearance clearly is a model to follow. He will prevail. (In the New Testament, Jesus was called the “Son of Man.”)
For its second reading, the feast’s liturgy looks to the Book of Revelation. Of all the New Testament books, none is as dramatic and indeed mysterious as Revelation. The reading is straightforward and bold, leaving no question as to its message. The message simply is that Jesus, the holiest and the perfect, rose from the dead, rules the world, and vivified with eternal life and with strength all who love God. Jesus has no equal. He has no substitute. His way is the only way. His example alone is worth imitating. He gives life. He is victorious.
St. John’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. It is a bittersweet reading for this great, joyous feast. In this scene, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the Holy Land, called “Palestina” at the time of Jesus, goes immediately to the heart of the charge against Jesus.
Is Jesus a king? Does he rival the mighty emperor of Rome? Jesus replies, but by referring to a reality very different from what Pilate has in mind. Pilate is interested in the political and social stability of the Roman Empire. Jesus is speaking of a kingdom much more profound, that of human hearts, an eternal kingdom.
Jesus affirms kingship. He is indeed the king, anointed by God to bring all people back to the Father in heaven.
He is the sole provider of everlasting life. He gives peace of heart and strength of purpose. He provides direction. He is Lord.
Even in this country, people have an image of kingship, although it may not be clear. It is not about sheer power, but rather it is about inspiring patriotism and high ideals, or at least that is what the modern European monarchies are about.
Jesus is our king. Perfect, holy, good and generous, the Lord alone gives everlasting life. No power can wrest this life away from those who earnestly love the Lord. His example alone is worth following.
Last June, Britain celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year on the throne. She grew into adulthood during the Second World War when her parents, the late King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, were examples of the highest national and human values. They inspired the people, and this inspiration uplifted British hearts.
In the war’s darkest days, rumors circulated that the king and queen, or certainly their daughters, would flee to the safety of Canada. Once, a man shouted at the present queen’s mother, “Are you going to Canada?”
Her mother turned, and in her legendary poise and quickness of thought, said, “My daughters will not go without me. I will not go without the king. And the king? The king? The king will never, ever leave you!” The Royal Family’s steadfastness bolstered the will of the people to endure anything.
Christ the king will never, ever leave us.
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