Nov 20, 2010

Sunday - A Kingdom of Justice, Love, and Peace

2 Sam 5: 1-3
Col 1: 12 – 20
Lk 23: 35-43

Well the wires are all a-buzz with the exciting news from England. The formal engagement and next year wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton has been announced. How could anyone forget the fairy tale setting of the wedding of Prince William’s Mother, Princess Diana and her then husband Prince Charles of England. Although that marriage ended tragically, with all the same hype, hopes, dreams, the world, or at least those who really care, is preparing itself for this 2011 royal showpiece. A splendid distraction.

Although this royal family has little power and influence over the course of world events, this is how we measure authority – through the privileged and the powerful.

This weekend’s Solemn and very royal feast of Christ our King presents a particular challenge to us. Christ is not a King celebrated with the same view as we hear that of the British monarchy. On the level of scripture, Jesus seems to reject any connection with a royal title.

As he began his public ministry, in the desert for forty days, he was tempted by the devil. At one of those three temptations, he is shown, “All the kingdoms of the world . . .” and is promised by the devil, “I shall give you all this power and their glory . . .” (Lk 4:6). Jesus turned away from that lucrative offer and pushed aside the opportunity to have earthly “power and glory.”

In other parts of the New Testament he is identified as being born in the line of King David (Lk 2: 4) but Jesus himself never displays his lineage. After the raising of Lazarus, the crowds gathered to proclaim him, “. . . the king of Israel . . .” (Jn 12: 13-15) but Jesus himself never claims such yet silently allows the frenzy of the crowd to continue. So what kind of royalty is this? As the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation . . .” as the reading from Colossians reminds us today, the rule of Christ is beyond boundaries.

Today’s Gospel describes the throne upon which this King sits – a Cross. From that “throne” Jesus was mocked by the rulers and the soldiers. Yet, from that position he extends his divine power of forgiveness to whom we have come to identify as the “good thief” who acknowledged his own guilt and turned at the last hour for mercy: “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom." 'He replied to him,' "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Lk 23: 42-43)

Christ as King does not seek wealth, power, riches, or a specific geographical territory but a morality and code of life modeled on the Commandments of God with the power of forgiveness, mercy, and love that is a forever divine promise. So the kingship of Christ is one of humility and service. He invites us to do the same as he reigns over the hearts and souls of all those who will come to live in his “kingdom.” This king leads by example and not by oppression, tyranny or riches. Although history has shown some good kings and queens over the centuries, they are all limited to what is of this life alone.

Christ doesn’t live in a palace but in bread and wine, in the sacraments of penance and the anointing of the sick, in the reading of the sacred Scriptures, in the poor and the disadvantaged, and in his Church and the hearts of believers. And from there he invites us to follow in his way.

So, this ruler is Lord and Savior and reaches outside the constraints of time and space. The Gospel presents two contrasting powers – that of Rome, an earthly kingdom which condemned Jesus to death; and that of heaven which in the end, overcame all earthly kingdoms through the rising of Jesus from the dead and the promise of hope in eternal life –a kingdom not of this world alone.

As members who profess faith in the divine King that we also identify as Savior, Good Shepherd, Son of God, Lord of life, we are invited to continue the same power that Jesus modeled for us. In the celebration of our Eucharist, we find this King as Bread of Life who is present as we receive him.

Fourth century Doctor of the Church, St. Cyril of Jerusalem once wrote: "When you approach communion, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost."

The Preface for this Solemnity's Mass says it all with these words:

“. . . an eternal and universal kingdom:
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice love and peace . . .”