Probably the most common reflection for Catholic Christians on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King is the real nature of Jesus’ kingship. For citizens of the great US of A we are quick to rule out that Jesus is President. Indeed, Prime Minister, with apostles and disciples as Lords and members of Parliament—we think not. Or perhaps Jesus could be considered to be like surviving monarchies of the world with private jets and all. Not a chance. Certainly he is not a dictator—his invitation to “come and follow him” comes with complete freedom to choose.
So what kind of king was/is Jesus of Nazareth? To go back to Jesus’ own time we would best think of tribal societies with the king reigning over connected tribal peoples and their tribal leaders—certainly the 12 tribes of Israel. This would be closer to what some would think of as they gazed upon the sign posted over the head of the crucified one: Jesus Christ, King of the Jews.
On the other hand, there is the meaning given to Jesus’ kingship gleaned from the gospels and today’s readings. According to Daniel, he is “like a Son of man,” who has “received dominion, glory, and kingship—that cannot be taken away or destroyed.” The Book of Revelation describes Jesus as “the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth”, “he is “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” No wonder, then, Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (Given today’s world…well, enough said.)
As the Gospel places us with Jesus before Pilate, perhaps we might find our proper response to this Feast of Christ the King 2015 later on Calvary in the words and in the demeanor of The Good Thief, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”? This repentant and humbled criminal asks his partner, “Have you no fear of God?” The Good Thief in a moment of conversion and at the point of his own death realizes that he desperately needs the kind of king Jesus really is—a king who is a shepherd, savior, and a redeemer. It is not a great leap to conclude that the terrorized, traumatized, and war weary world we live in likewise needs the type of king that Jesus truly is.
It may be more of a challenge to conclude that each and every one of us needs a forgiving and reconciling king. The taunting of Jesus by “The Bad Thief” basically boils down to: “You’re supposedly The Christ, so fix this mess we are in!” Perhaps that is our own response more often than we would like to admit. Let us pray today, with a healthy fear of God, that we might find ourselves praising Our Lord and Savior Christ the King from the correct side of the cross.
Pledging my allegiance to Him and to you, Msgr. Richard