A few days ago we celebrated the feast of Christ the King. In the Church year this is always the marker of ending and the time to begin the preparation for the new Liturgical Year, Advent. This Feast, for me has always been surrounded by dark and light, good and bad, happy and sad. All emotions of extremes that stir me and make me do a lot of thinking. It’s the dark of the year with the predictor of hard weather and grey colors. It’s the joy of Christ’s victory over all, but the specter of death ever present. It’s the time of silence leading to the explosion of Alleluia and music that reaches back to our childhood and heals our bruised and battered soul.
More than emotions, though, the readings of this particular day challenge my faith with a dare to step into a deeper more dangerous place. The readings for Christ the King always present the quintessential pillars of what faith in Jesus/God the King is all about. In addition, they call us to what God really asks us, the faithful, to believe in and act on. It is the perfect summary for an ending and a beginning. There are three: The Shepherd, The King and The Kingdom.
The shepherd is always a curious image for me because at no time in the scripture is it mentioned that Jesus worked with sheep. He was a town dweller (Nazareth, Capernaum) and a tradesman. Most likely he never even spoke to shepherds. They worked “in the burbs”, lived and worked with their livestock. They were stinky, dirty and shunned when any non-shepherds came near them. In contemporary biblical society they were the lowest of the low. But, they would defend to the death their sheep, the sheep would come at the sound of their shepherd’s voice and no matter what, a shepherd would not rest until a lost sheep was located that would be scooped up in the shepherd’s arms or draped round his neck for the journey home. Any sheep was constantly protected whether they knew it or not. The people of the day would know all of that concerning how a shepherd does his job. Isn’t it curious that the first to recognize and announce that the Messiah was present in the world were shepherds?
The readings then switch to the image of a King. Everybody knows what a king does, right? He counts money and issues orders! Not exactly. In biblical times the King had a responsibility not unlike a shepherd. The “job” of the King was to protect and defend his people, fairly administer the law and ensure peace. The Christ the King readings are really “global” they tell us that Christ the King has been given the responsibilities for exercising his duty for the entire universe for all of time and that he has vanquished every enemy including the ultimate enemy, death.
Last, we are given a picture of the Kingdom. It is clear that the Kingdome is not something that we can lay back and prepare for. Rather it is around us, present all of the time and has everything to do with even the smallest habits of our behavior, perception and thinking; “When did we………?” The first two images are meant to take in all of mankind, the most helpless and the most powerful. All of us lie somewhere between the two. The last image is universal also, no one escapes the challenge of the responsibilities that God wants us to take up.
So, this Feast fills us with dread, hope and joy all at the same time. If you haven’t begun thinking Kingdom thoughts, begin now. If you haven’t recognized your role in time and eternity, take it up this minute. If you don’t get that your ideas of being the most miserable and unworthy are irrelevant and have no bearing on his determination to find you, change your opinion immediately. If you are thinking of death as defeat, rebuke the lie! We travel with the King here and now. Glory hallelujah! “The feast of Christ the King is therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated, but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight with crooked lines.” – Pope Benedict XVI
“The future starts today, not tomorrow.” – St. John Paul II
Copyright© 2017, Kathryn M. Cunningham