Solemnity of Christ the King
On this last Sunday in the Liturgical Year we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is a good time to reflect on this most unusual king and His kingdom.
The proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom dominated the preaching and teaching of Jesus. “To the other towns also I must proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Luke 4:44) He taught his disciples to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” (Matt. 6: 10) He told them to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all of these things will be given to you besides.” (Matt. 6: 33) He handed on this purpose to the apostles, “Jesus said to his apostles: ‘As you go make this proclamation: The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 10:7) What is this Kingdom, this Kingdom of God, this Kingdom of heaven? We hear and read this expression many times and seldom stop to think what it really means. The Kingdom of God is described for us in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. It is a kingdom of holiness, justice and peace. Man is the Lord and Steward of this creation. Made in the image of God, man has an intellect and free will and is at peace with God, with himself and with all of creation. But this creation is short-lived. Man is not satisfied he wants to be like God and so exercises this absolute independence and is banished from the Kingdom.
In the fullness of time God sends his only Son, Jesus Christ to restore and usher in anew the Kingdom of God, a kingdom which is not of this world. The kingdom begins in this world but finds it completion in the next world.
Since this Kingdom of God is not of this world Jesus describes it in worldly images, in parables. Since we know spiritual things indirectly through our knowledge of material things the parable goes from the known to the unknown, from the material to the spiritual. The parable is a story describing some ordinary occurrence. But it is a story that is told to convey to the hearer a higher, spiritual truth. In other words it is an “earthly story with a heavenly ending.” It is this heavenly ending which is the real meaning the teacher intends.
Some parables of the Kingdom: The sower and the seed (Matt.13:3-23) the mustard seed (Matt. 13:31-32) the growing seed (Mark 4:26-29) the wheat and the weeds (Matt. 13:24-30) the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:45-46) the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18:23-35) the workers in the vineyard(Matt. 20:1-16) the wedding feast (Matt. 22:2-14) the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21) the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-30) Jesus is the King of this Kingdom. But He is a most unusual King; he is a crucified King. And from his royal throne on the cross he extends his royal invitation to his subjects. “If anyone will come after me he must pick up his cross daily and follow me.” In Baptism we have accepted this invitation. There are no states in this Kingdom that are more perfect than any other. Everyone is called to reach the potential that he has been given.
It is a most unusual kingdom. The greatest in the Kingdom are the childlike. The weak conquer the strong, the foolish confound the wise and a camel gets through the eye of a needle, we add by subtracting and multiply by dividing because nothing is impossible with God.
In the Kingdom of God there is only one law, the law of love. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend of these two commandments.” (Matt 22: 37-40) Jesus identified the neighbor as the one in need and said that we love the neighbor by doing to him what we would wish him to do for us. Whatever we do for the neighbor he takes as having been done to himself.
In the Kingdom of God there is only one banquet, the Eucharist, which is a foretaste of the feast we will share in the next life. The King said that we are to do this in memory of him. This banquet is a memorial of the parousia. It reminds us that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. It reminds us that this life is not the ultimate value. Paul, “If our hope is only in this life we are the most miserable of all.” We are waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ. We do not hold on to this life too tightly. We take it as a gift. We enjoy it and cherish it while we have it and we let go gracefully and thankfully when the time come. The gift of life is great but the Giver of life is greater still and in Him is a life that never ends.
The proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom dominated the preaching and teaching of Jesus and also of his apostles. Now the proclamation of the Gospel has been passed on to us. And we proclaim the coming of the Kingdom not so much in words as in our lives. We proclaim it by our peace, love and joy. We express our gratitude for being called to be a citizen of this Kingdom by being happy, happy to be me. We proclaim the coming of the Kingdom by “earthy mysticism,” by living an ordinary earthly existence while “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”