34th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Christ the King
We reach today the end of the liturgical year. We have completed the worship route that took us through Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and all those Sundays in Ordinary Time. Today’s Solemnity of Christ the King sums up and climaxes the past year’s prayers, readings, rituals, and reflections. Today, in his grand finale appearance of the Church year, Jesus Christ is presented for our honor and adoration under the title of King. We crown him King!
Today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, we ritually reach the end of history. Today the liturgy ritualizes the high point of creation, when humankind and all that is, even death itself, will be subjected to Christ, When he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
In the course of this past year, our liturgical cycle B has proclaimed the Gospel according to St. Mark. But this evangelist tells us no kingly story like the other Gospel writers, either before, during, or after the crucifixion. He portrays Jesus as one who is betrayed by all his disciples and dies abandoned by every one, even God! St. John, on the contrary, portrays the kingly aspect of the Messiah. The Johannine Jesus is a king. He is in control of the conversation between Jesus and Pilate; he is in control of his destiny. He has an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away. His kingship shall not be destroyed. That’s why today’s Gospel is from St. John.
Both of these portrayals of Jesus testify to the truth and shed light on our lives as we celebrate this Solemnity of Christ the King. All of us have shared depressing moments of betrayal and abandonment as well as uplifting times when we have felt like kings and queens. What St. Mark’s Jesus proclaims is that every time we experience betrayal and abandonment we are participating in salvation. When we feel unsaved, that is exactly the moment that God is most active in our lives. St. John’s Jesus, on the other hand, gives us the other side of the human condition -the royal position, the triumph. For St. John, the cross is a throne. And many times also for us our crosses are thrones. Christ is king of all of life -betrayal and abandonment, death and suffering, new life and hope. To proclaim that Christ is King means life -lived to the fullest here and now- sometimes betrayed and abandoned, sometimes triumphant, but living, nevertheless, in the sure hope of someday passing over to eternal life, where Christ is King for ever and ever.
In Jesus the opposites coincide: Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the first-born from the dead and ruler of the kings of earth; that is, a peaceful witness to the truth and yet a triumphant King returned from death. This statement, which opens today’s 2nd reading, presents three basis truths about the nature of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the faithful witness; he tells of realities he has seen and we haven’t. He has witnessed to the Holy Trinity, proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven and told of a glorified life without end. The First Born of the Dead; in his victory over the grave, Jesus showed how life continues from this world to the next; he overpowered the desolate grave and promised the same for those who believe in him. By his resurrection, he became the inspired model for all of us born into time and eternity. The Ruler of Kings of the Earth; Jesus ruled before any king, and when all kings will have vanished Christ the King will continue to stand firm forever.
Christ the King is meant to rule our lives and have first place. But is Jesus the King in our lives? Must we confess to being ruled by worldly powers, such as anger, revenge, greed, lust, etc.? In a world with so many claimants to the throne of our hearts, we proclaim Jesus as Lord and King. We pledge our allegiance to him. We anchor our hopes and dreams in him. He is the Way to victory over death; the Truth, our credible witness; and the Life, both now and forever.