Monday, November 21, 2016

Christ Our King

Thursday, we celebrate Thanksgiving—a remarkable story of people who never gave up in their quest for freedom of worship and speech, and freedom from fear and want.  The day calls for gratitude to God that we are; and gratitude to our families, teachers, friends and colleagues; and gratitude to our nation for our freedoms and opportunities to realize our dreams.

Christ The King Statue, Poland
The Sunday preceding Thanksgiving, we celebrated the feast of Christ the King, to whom we owe our ultimate allegiance: Jesus the image of the invisible God, the crucified and risen Christ through whom we have a relationship with God.

Pope Pius XI in 1925, in the aftermath of WWI which swept away four empires, was convinced that new "dictators" were emerging who would rob people of their freedoms. He wanted to point people to the one true God. That's how we have today's feast of Christ the King.

 The word “king” evokes all kinds of images.  We may think of the pomp and circumstance of Elizabeth II.  Or of Shakespeare’s King Lear, old and foolish and mad.  Or the overly passionate biblical King David and Bathsheba; the not always so wise King Solomon and his building projects; extravagant King Louis XIV of France; or other kings of more recent times.  Whatever image comes to mind may influence subconsciously our thoughts about this feast.

What is “Christ the King” about?  In this feast, we reach the end of the liturgical year when, to quote the letter of Paul to the Christian community at Corinth, “every human being and all that is will be subjected to Jesus Christ, who will deliver the Kingdom of God over to his heavenly Father.” Ours is a Christo-centric universe. God became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth to share God's life, love and goodness with all creation.

The Book of Samuel takes us back to the anointing of David as king of the northern tribes of Israel. They acknowledge their kinship with the king.  He will be their watchful shepherd as well as their wise leader.

The letter of Paul to the Christian Community in Turkey highlights probably an early Christian hymn of thanksgiving to God and exaltation of Jesus.  Against some false ideas in the first century of our Christian era, the author proclaims that Christ alone is the ruler of the universe.

 In the Gospel of Luke, we remember Simeon’s prophesy in the infancy narrative that the child in his arms was destined to be the downfall and rise of many.  One can interpret this theme in the parables of the prodigal, and of two men at prayer in the Jerusalem Temple.  Lo and behold, again we meet a man who asks for forgiveness, another who doesn’t; one rises (“this day you will be with me in Paradise”), the other apparently meets his downfall.

We who profess our ultimate allegiance to Jesus Christ might ask ourselves:  How do we spend our time, our energy, our resources?  Jesus calls us to ongoing conversion, a “change of heart,” a turning away from a self-centered life and a turning toward an Other or God-centered life.

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