Sunday Sermon for November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year C
Readings: 2 Sam 5:1-3; Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43
Most people, when they think about our Lord Jesus Christ, as King of the Universe, have an image of our Lord enthroned in glory at the right hand of the Father. However, the Gospels present a very different view. We can recall from St. John’s Gospel that Pilate pointed to Jesus, covered in wounds and blood and crowned with thorns, and boldly (and correctly) stated: “Ecce Rex Vester,” “Behold your King.” In each of the Gospels we are told of the titulus or the plaque that was placed above the head of our Lord with the charge for which He was being put to death written upon it. In the Gospel for today, from St. Luke, we are told that it stated “This is the king of the Jews.”
One could certainly make the case from an earthly, and even from a political, perspective, that Jesus is the King because He is the Creator of the world, because He is omnipotent, because He is above all else that exists, because we are all dependent upon His benevolence, etc. While all of the points mentioned are true, what is not true is that these are the reasons why He is the King.
The Kingship of Christ cannot be compared to the Kings of the earth. Earthly kingship tends toward power and lording that power over others. The focus of earthly kingship is on the one who is seated upon the throne. Everyone else can serve that one. It is just the opposite with our Lord. His Kingship is one of service. He is King because He gave His life for His people.
In the first reading we hear the people relating that David was the one who led the people out and brought them back when Saul was the king in Israel. Recall that Saul became the king in Israel because the people had rejected God as their King. Even when the Lord, through Samuel, had listed the way an earthly king would lord over them and take from them, the people did not care. They just wanted to be like everyone else and have an earthly king. What is necessary to note in this context, is that it was not Saul who led the people out and brought them back, but it was David who did this while Saul was the king.
The necessity of understanding this point is that it highlights the difference between an earthly kingship and the Kingship of Christ. With our Lord, He came to us, He took our nature to Himself, He lived a human life, He suffered for us and He died for us. The importance of the charge above His head is that it demonstrates that He is the One Who will lead us out and bring us back. While there are earthly leaders in the Church, they are all following the Lord. None of them is given power to lord over others. Even the shepherds are still members of the flock.
We see these points about our Lord’s leadership in the second reading where St. Paul reminds us that it is Jesus Who delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of light. Through Him we have redemption and the forgiveness of our sins. But St. Paul goes on to tell us why these things are true: it is because He is the firstborn of all creation, not because He is the Creator. He speaks of our Lord and the Creator, but then brings us right back to the created nature of Jesus when he refers to Jesus as the firstborn of the dead.
As God and as Creator He was not able to die. It is only because He took our nature to Himself that He was able to suffer and die. So, as St. Paul says, even though in Him the fullness was pleased to dwell, He has brought peace and reconciled everything to Himself through the Blood of His Cross. There is no denial of the fact that Jesus is God, but the focus keeps being brought back to what He did for us in and through His humanity. This is what makes Him our King.
Since His Kingship is exercised through service, which is love, then it stands to reason that we who are served by Him have need to respond. To serve is to love. Love is a two way street: to give and to receive. Jesus gives and we receive; now we respond in love by giving to Him. He serves us and we serve Him, both out of love. He leads us out and brings us back. His Kingship is universal, but it is exercised individually through love. He is our King, not by force, but by love. Praise Him!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.