Next Thursday, across this great land, families and friends will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a special day to be grateful to God for the blessings of our lives. Happy Thanksgiving!
Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, to whom we pledge our ultimate allegiance, Jesus who is the image of the invisible God, the crucified and risen Christ, through whom we have a relationship with God, the Good Shepherd who leads us to eternal life.
I remember reading the response of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. when he was asked the secret of his success. The judge responded, “I discovered early on I was not God.”
Imagine if people throughout history learned that. Emperors thought they could run a universe. Medieval kings and queens boasted their divine right to do what they wanted.
In the aftermath of World War I, Pope Pius XI was convinced that dictators were emerging who thought they were gods and would deny people's basic human rights. So, Pius XI wanted to point people to the one true God. That’s how we have today’s Feast of Jesus Christ King of the Universe.
The word “king” evokes various images. The pomp of monarchy. Or Shakespeare’s King Lear, old and foolish. Or the overly passionate King David and Bathsheba. Don't forget King Midas, whose golden touch couldn't buy daily bread. Midas lived 3,000 years ago. Wonder what he'd think of today's prices.
But what really is the Feast of Christ the King about?
In this feast, we recognize the end of the liturgical year when, to quote the letter of Paul to the Corinthians, “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 to share God’s life and love and goodness with all creation by the power of the Spirit. Yes, all creation is alive with the goodness of God.
The book of Samuel takes us to the anointing of David as king of the tribes of Israel at the sacred shrine of Hebron, where Abraham centuries before had built an altar to God. Here the people acknowledge their kinship with the king. He will be their watchful shepherd and wise leader. As we reflect upon David’s anointing, we might reflect upon our own anointing at baptism, consecrated to live a life worthy of our calling as adopted sons and daughters of God our Father.
The letter of Paul to the Christian community at Colossae in Turkey highlights an early Christian hymn of thanksgiving to God and exaltation of Jesus as the Christ, the messiah.
The first stanza describes Christ before his birth. He is the image of God, the model after which all things were fashioned. The second stanza describes Christ after his earthly life. He is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead, the head of the Church, the people of God, through whose dying/rising we’re in relationship with God. Christ, the God-man, completely divine and completely human, moves from heaven to earth and back to heaven.
In the Gospel, we reexperience the theme of “rise and downfall.” We remember how Simeon prophesized in Luke’s infancy narrative that the child in his arms was destined to be the downfall and rise of many. One also can see this theme in the parables of the prodigal son (repentant, vs unforgiving) and the two men at prayer (one haughty, the other humble).
Now we meet two robbers at Calvary: one who sees something transcendent in the bloody face of Jesus (“remember me when you come into your kingdom”); the other robber doesn’t see anything. One rises (“this day you will be with me in Paradise").
We as a community of faith profess our ultimate allegiance to Jesus Christ. We say that we prize this relationship with Jesus above all else. But how?
How do we spend our time, our energy, our resources? With Jesus in prayer and in service? Or are we simply absorbed in pastimes? I like the quote, “I shall pass through the world but once: any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now, let me not defer or neglect it.” Jesus calls us to a God-centered, other-centered life.
Dostoevsky wrote in The Brothers Karamazov that people of faith want to believe in someone or something that is ultimately true. We proclaim that Jesus is our truth. Do we really believe it in our attitudes and behavior? Do we set our priorities in light of our ultimate purpose? What really makes us tick? God and the things of God?
This Feast of Christ the King prompts each of us to ask, how can I rededicate myself more single-mindedly to Jesus, who is our way, our truth, and our life.
Yes, how can we better live that relationship with God and others so that in the mystery of our own dying, God will transform us, as he did the earthly Jesus, into a new indescribable spiritualized body where we shall be like God and see God as God really is. Amen.