Solemnity of Christ the King (November 23rd, 2014)

Today the Church throughout the world testifies that Jesus Christ is the true king of the world, indeed, he is king of all creation.

What does this mean?

We don’t have a king ruling over our culture, and as such to call Christ the King might seem archaic and abstract rather than something real and relevant.

After all, the rulers of our culture are politicians, financiers and celebrities, and none of these can really serve as a means of understanding Christ the King (in fact, many of these rulers are less like Christ and more like the anti-Christ).

If the rulers of our culture aren’t the examples then what does the Church mean by calling Christ the King?

We need to understand this because we Christians believe that we are servants of Christ the King. Our lives belong to him and once called into relationship with him, we give our lives over to him, recognizing that he has an authority over us that no other power can have.

And further, the reality that we are all servants of Christ the King presses upon us with great weight in terms of what we believe (or should believe) about the Church.

Christ proclaims the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of the people.

God is the ruler of his creation Christ’s proclamation of the Kingdom of God is saying precisely this. And the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Christ is not simply an other- worldly reality that exists in a heaven far, far away. The Kingdom of God is that heavenly kingdom, but it is also here on earth.

The Church is an extension of Christ’s kingdom in this world. He makes his disciples stewards of this kingdom, but we are not the rulers of the Church- the Church belongs to Christ. It is not something that we govern for our own purposes, but instead we are stewards of the Church. Christ is the King of the Church, not us. He is the Master and we are his servants.

The Church flourishes when this relationship is understood and accepted. The Church falters when it this relationship is distorted and refused.

But what kind of king is Christ?

To answer this question the Church directs our attention, not to culture, but to the Scriptures. It is within the great testaments of the Bible, Old and New, which we can discern properly what kind of king the Lord Jesus is and what is kingdom is all about.

Our first reference point for understanding King Jesus comes from the Old Testament, from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was a priest of the religion of Israel, who witnessed the great catastrophe of Jerusalem’s destruction by the armies of Babylon in the year 587 BC.

Ezekiel interpreted this event theologically and insisted that that catastrophe had its origins in the refusal of the Israelites to accept the God of Israel as their true king.

Instead, they made deals with their own versions of our politicians, financiers and celebrities and sought to rule Israel themselves. They paid lip service to God’s authority over their lives, even building God a magnificent temple, a noble endeavor, but too often they used that temple as a means to imprison God, to hem in his authority, keeping God in that temple and out of their lives.

This refusal of God as the true king led to disaster and now that the bottom has completely fallen out, Ezekiel testifies to the Israelites that God will be coming to make himself the king. God has had it with all these royal pretenders and will use the catastrophe of 587 BC to drive these fakes and frauds out. God will be the king of Israel.

This is prophecy. Ezekiel is looking into the future and he sees God coming into the world as the king.

We Christians believe that this prophecy is fulfilled in the revelation of Christ.

Think about this Christians- you believe that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Christ the Lord is not just one of many great men of history, he is God- God who has come into this world to be the king. In Jesus Christ, the one true God reveals himself as the one, true king!

And he is a real king, with real power and how does he show that power?

For the answer to that question we turn to our second scripture, an excerpt from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

In this scripture, St. Paul makes a stunning claim- Jesus Christ has power over death.

How does he know this?

He has seen Christ risen from the dead.

In his resurrection from the dead, Christ displays a power that no worldly power has- the power to rise from the dead.

Now, this claim of St. Paul is essential to what the Church believes about the Lord Jesus. Jesus Christ is still alive. We Christians do not reverence the Lord Jesus as a symbol or honor his memory as one remembers the dead.

Instead, we believe we are even right now in relationship to Jesus Christ as a living, divine person. It is not history from long ago that our faith is all about, but a relationship with Jesus Christ right now. For us Christians there isn’t some Jesus of history located somewhere in the past and a Christ of faith that we celebrate in songs, symbols and stories.

That kind of division misses the point.

There isn’t a Jesus of history and a Christ of faith- there is just the Lord Jesus, a living, divine person, who lives now and forever. This Lord Jesus accepted a human nature and lived a real human life, he did this at a particular time and in a particular place. Jesus is real and he is God, and he doesn’t just live in the past, but he lives right now, and forever.

This is what Christians came to understand that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is all about. The resurrection reveals that Jesus Christ is alive, not as an idea or a feeling or as a symbol, but as a living, divine person.

And this living, divine person has power.

And King Jesus demonstrates this power, a divine power, a power greater than any power in this world, a power greater than that of the devil, a power greater than death itself in his resurrection from the dead! King Jesus has the power to bring life out of death and good out of evil. That’s what his resurrection reveals about his power as our king!

Why is this important?

Because death is so often wielded as a weapon and threat by the powers of the world and Christ reveals in the most vivid way possible, that he has a power that renders the threat of death ultimately empty. Death may indeed come, and the powers of the world may even inflict death upon us, but we serve a king more powerful than death, a king who can draw life out of death and good out of evil. That’s real power and it is the power of Christ revealed in his resurrection!

Now, we know the Lord Jesus is King, and now we know what kind of power he has, but what does he want us to do? Kings command and the Lord Jesus has commands for his servants. We are the servants of King Jesus and what does he want us to do?

For the answer to that question, we must consider carefully and seriously the words of King Jesus himself in his Gospel.

What does he tell us? “As often as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.”

King Jesus wants us to serve him, but so that we can do so, he places his presence among us- not where the ruling powers of the world would expect it to be. The Lord Jesus makes himself present in the poor and insists that in serving the poor, we serve him.

And so he commands us: Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Visit the imprisoned. Take care of the sick. Bury the dead.

King Jesus commands us: Teach the ignorant. Counsel the Doubtful.

Call sinners to conversion. Bear wrongs patiently. Forgive one another. Comfort the afflicted. Pray for the living and the dead.

This is what King Jesus wants us to do.

Are we doing what he commands?

Remember, he is the king, we are the servants. The Church is his kingdom, and we are the stewards of his kingdom- not the owners.

We might have lots of ideas about what the Church should be and do. We might want things from the Church. But what does King Jesus want? What does King Jesus command us to be and to do?

Our marching orders are direct and King Jesus couldn’t be more clear.

I’ll leave you with this image.

A friend of mine, the Dominican spiritual master, Father Paul Murray once was meeting with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the greatest and most powerful person in the Church in the last century.

The world knows her as Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa knew King Jesus and served him as he commanded.

Once, in a meeting with Father Paul, she took his hand and counted out on his fingers these words: “YOU DID IT TO ME”.

Take out your hand right now. “YOU DID IT TO ME.”

Father Paul told me he never looked at his hand the same way after that.

Neither should we.



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