Long Live the King of Love!

A Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Easter (Year C).
Acts 14:21-27 – Apocalypse 21:1-5 – John 13:31-35.

It is exactly 600 years since “Long live the king!” was first proclaimed at the moment of the succession to the throne of a new king following on from the death of the old king. The cry informs the public of the continuation of the monarchy. “The king is dead; long live the king” seamlessly announces the death of the previous king or queen and salutes the new head of state,

On February 6th this year, the United Kingdom celebrated the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen’s accession to the throne following the death of her much-loved father, King George VI. Queen Elizabeth II is blessed to be among the handful of earthly monarchs who have reigned for many years. Perhaps, like me, you have been following plans for the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations, as reported by the mainstream media? Those reports triggered my theme for today’s Reflection: “Long live the King of love!”

And who, exactly, is the King of love? It is Jesus Himself! When we state that “The King is dead. Long live the King!” specifically about Jesus the heavenly King, we are talking sense because He died and is risen from the dead. He is God, and He is eternal, and He reigns eternally. Jesus is the King of love, and furthermore He is our King.

Today’s readings prompt us to reflect upon Jesus’ reign in love, and upon the eternal Kingdom of love that He has established among us. Let me draw your attention to how the Gospel reading opens. The scene is set immediately before Jesus’ Passion and Death. He, the King of love, was to die as we do, then to harrow hell, to overcome death by rising from the dead, and to live and reign eternally. While at the Last Supper, in which the sacrament of love was instituted, Jesus waited until Judas had left the table before He gave the disciples the command to love. An essential element of being a follower of Jesus is the willingness on our part to love. It’s His command, it’s not optional, and to do it until we take our last breath is difficult to say the least. It was to these people – and, by extension, to us who have become citizens of the Kingdom of love because Christ is living in us as much as in them – that He gave the Kingly command to love one another as He loves us (Gospel v.34). This quality of love is a step up from loving our neighbour as we love ourselves (Mk 12:31), because “loving our neighbour as God loves us” entails endless sacrifice on our part for the benefit of others whom He loves. No matter whether they are lovely people or a bit odd or offhand or pompous gits or a total pain in the neck, our mission to them involves burning ourselves down like a candle until there is nothing left. Jesus never counted the cost, even though it led to suffering and death on the Cross. He shared in the joys and sorrows of people, He responded positively to their cries for help, and He healed them. He lived and died for them. And if we’re genuinely following His mandate to love, we’re signed up to give of ourselves totally to them for love of Him.

We citizens of the Kingdom have one means of ID, and we show it whenever we demonstrate love for God and His creation. That includes everyone we encounter on our path through life. Jesus declared that By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples (Gospel v.35). The duty of loving others as Christ loves us is challenging, but fulfilling that duty is our ID as citizens of heaven. In the words of Paul and Barnabas, we all have to experience many hardships before we enter the Kingdom of God (1R v.22). The gospel they preached was about the Kingdom of love. Their prayers were offered and their instructions were issued with a view to encouraging the people and the elders to live out the life of the Kingdom, and to go out and preach the message of salvation to the ends of the earth.

The question arises: how are you continuing this work of fostering the Kingdom of love on earth within your own community? In the joy of the risen Lord, every time you act with love, every time you respond to the poor and needy or offer someone a listening ear, you are proclaiming: “Long Live Jesus, the King of love!”

Just as St John saw a vision of a new heaven and a new earth (2R v.21) with the disappearance of the former, we are reminded that the new Mount Zion where God lives forever is in our midst and within us. What we have on our hands is the difficult task of assisting those who have not yet discovered God’s reign of love in their hearts to find it – to make their way to the eternal Kingdom where God will wipe away every tear, where there will be no death, no senseless killing, no war, no mourning or weeping, no sadness or grief, and no hate or bitterness. Let the love that emanates from our hearts bring St John’s vision to reality in our time.

We Christians have to do our bit to wipe away people’s tears, to put an end to the destruction of life no matter what stage it is at, and to let people know about the Kingdom of God of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). May Jesus the King, whose dominion lasts forever, be with us always (Mt 28:20) and work in every heart that seeks God’s peace. Long live the King of Love! Amen. God bless you.