A Reflection by Fr. Kingsley for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year C
(Week 34 in Ordinary Time).
M2Samuel 5:1-3 Colossians 1:12-20 Luke 23:35-43.
We are gathered today to celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ as the King of the whole universe. He is the sacrificial Lamb of God who has redeemed us by his blood, who is risen and ascended, and who is enthroned and active as the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14). It is Christ whom we all are called and chosen to follow faithfully.
Who is this ‘Jesus Christ the King’ and where does He reign?
In his humanity, the Christ is descended from the royal lineage of David (Matt. 1:1) who, according to the 1st Reading, before his installation and anointing as the king of Israel was known initially as the king at Hebron. Jesus the King was born in Bethlehem (Mt 2:1), and just like David his ancestor, his mission to save all mankind brought us to declare him not merely the king of Israel, not merely the king of the Jews, but the King of the entire universe.
In his divinity, Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of God, who from the beginning was with God and was God, by whom everything was made and who became man (John 1:1-14). Since he is God, he is the king of all the earth; he reigns over all the nations (Ps. 47:7,8) and he is Lord of all (Acts 10:36). The 2nd Reading reveals more about Jesus the king: “for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible, thrones, dominations, sovereignties, powers – all things were created through him and for him”. So, Jesus Christ the God-man is king in every sense.
What kind of king is Jesus?
The kingship of Jesus is entirely different from worldly kingship. When we think of an earthly king (or president), we imagine a king whose reign (or a president whose term in office) is characterized by the flaunting of power and wealth, authority and force. But Jesus’ kingdom is not similarly characterised.
Jesus is the king who comes to us without showing off his power and authority, but rather, using them to serve the weak and powerless. Jesus does not seek authority, as do kings of the world and politicians – like James and John who, perceiving Jesus’ kingdom solely as an earthly one, aspired to places of authority beside him (Mt. 20:20-27). Jesus is non-political and non-partisan. Jesus the King comes to us without exerting his Lordship over us, without controlling us, without compelling us to serve Him, but rather, he serves us so that we learn from him to serve others. In Mt. 23:11 he teaches us that the greatest among us will be those who serve. That’s what He did at the Last Supper, when he got down on his knees and undertook the most menial of services for his disciples: he washed their feet. He took upon himself the role of a servant. He is the servant king, who wants us to imitate him and to serve him in others (John 13:14). If Jesus our king is a servant, then his kingdom is comprised of those who choose to be servants of God, the kingdom to which you and I belong, so at odds with kingdoms of the world. Jesus tells us that those who belong to his kingdom should not place their trust in riches or wealth, but rather to live the life of simplicity. The hallmark of the lifestyle is to have our needs met, but not to seek after more than what we need.
Jesus is the king who comes to us, not showing off the trappings of wealth, but as a vulnerable child born in a manger and raised in a humble home. As the 2nd Person of the Trinity He had all things; but he didn’t cling to his equality with God, and he made himself nothing by taking human form (Philippians 2:6-7). He is not like the kings of this world who are identified with excessive wealth, comfort and even extortion of the poor. He is The Kenotic King who, on the contrary, poured himself out for us (Phil 2:7). He encourages us his followers, the citizens of his kingdom, to do the same (Matt 19:21) by selling our ‘possessions and giving the money to the poor’. The idea here of ‘selling our possessions’ is of kenosis (self-emptying/renunciation) like Jesus Christ our King.
Jesus is the gentle king who comes to conquer the world, not with the force of arms and ammunitions like the kings and rulers of nations, but with the instruments of love, justice and peace. To him, the use of force is an expression of weakness. Jesus the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6) rejects violence and teaches us his followers to do so too. His instruction is that “if someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also…” (Mt. 5:39; Luke 6:29). During the incident of his capture in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Peter cut off the ear of one of the guards, he told Peter to “put your sword back in its place…for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Mt. 26:52). All power and all authority belong to Jesus, but he uses gentleness to relate to us, and love rather than force to rule people’s hearts. As Christians and citizens of the kingdom of God, we are called to live by these policies in Christ’s kingdom. We must not be like kings of the world who make a show of their power, but like Christ who conquers the world with love, gentleness and peace.
What do we say to Jesus our King today?
I believe that the prayer of the repentant thief in the gospel should be on our lips: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Innocent as Jesus was, he was accused and sentenced to death, tortured, bruised, and crucified for us. He didn’t use his kingship to destroy his executioners, but rather he forgave them. We ask him today to forgive us all our sins and offences, our negligence of duty, our abuse and desecration of him in different ways, our inability to show love to our fellow human beings when it is needed of us, and so on. We also promise him that we shall do the same to others who hurt and offend us.
As people mocked Jesus by urging him to “save himself” and made fun of him as the “king of the Jews”, we truly proclaim from the depths of our hearts that He is indeed our king – the king of our lives, the king of our families, the king of the universe … the King of kings who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.