Have you ever been at a lecture and at the end of the lecture the speaker says, ‘now to sum it all up’ and he tries to tie everything together and make some sense of what he said?
This is the last Sunday of our liturgical year and in a way the church is saying to us, ‘well to sum it all up the truth of the matter is this, Christ is King.’ Christ is King of kings, Lord of lords.’
This feast was instituted by Pope Pius 11th in 1925. It was at a time when many of the royal families of Europe were being replaced by other forms of government. It was a time of growing nationalism and secularism and the truths of our faith were being pushed out of public life. So Pope Pius brought us back to a basic truth that Christ is the King to whom we owe loyalty before all others.
Hearing today’s gospel, remembering Jesus nailed to the cross, wearing his mock crown of thorns, taunted with that last temptation ‘if you are the king of the Jews come down from the cross and we will believe – or the words of the thief, ‘save yourself and us’ Jesus remains faithful to his life’s mission – to bear witness to the love of the Father for all of us. Jesus preached his last sermon from his cross telling us that God so loved the world he sent his son to the world, not to condemn us but to bring us closer to our loving God.
As one author wrote,’ He is the king who serves the other. He is the king who dies for the other. He is the king who is ridiculed, scorned, and mocked. Most insufferable, most repugnant of all, is the fact that he is a powerless sovereign. Dying on his cross-throne, Jesus is thrice taunted for the fact that he does not save himself. “You a savior?” they jeer. “Then save yourself.” Soldiers with their sour wine chide, “Aren’t you a real king? Save yourself.” Even a criminal scolds: “I thought you were supposed to be a Messiah. Prove it.”
This is all so out of step with our notion of kingship. As St. Paul wrote – to the Greeks this was foolish, to the Jews this was a stumbling block. But to those who believe Christ the King is the power of God, the wisdom of God.
What has all this to do with us? We say we are the followers of Christ and as such we are called, each in our own way, in how we live and how we love and serve to bring about Christ’s kingdom in our day, in our homes, in our workplace, in our parish, in our community, in our world.
In the preface for this feast we hear that Christ wants each one of us to establish an eternal and universal kingdom – a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace. The reality of our lives is so far removed from such a kingdom. The reality of our lives is social injustice and the exploitation of the poor, job insecurities, strident political divisions. The reality of our lives is in knowing that we are helpless to stop the civil wars that blight the human family. Life is unfair to so many men, women and children around the world especially those driven from their homes by civil wars. The teaching of Christ, ‘love one another as I have loved you’ falls on too many deaf ears. At the same time Christ’s love is alive in people’s generous response to needs of our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. Christ’s love will be seen in people’s generous response to the food and toy drives for this coming Christmas. There is good in this world or ours, there is love and healing in this troubled world or ours. But we have a long way to go before we realize Christ the King’s kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace, justice love and peace. But we must never stop trying. Remember the song, ‘let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me – let there be truth and life, holiness and grace, justice love and peace – and let it begin with me in the daily living of my life.
May the Bread of Life we receive at this Eucharist strength each of us to let Christ’s kingdom begin in me and with me.