Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is Jesus King?

We are now into the final week of the liturgical year with the season of Advent and Christmas fast approaching. As such, this past Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King – which is celebrated on the last Sunday of each liturgical year as a reminder to us that the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point and culmination of all of history. St. Paul puts it this way:

“God...raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.” (Col 1:20-21)
As we come then to the end our liturgical year, and prepare for the season of Advent, the readings for Solemnity of Christ the King were quite challenging. 

In the first reading (Dan 7:13-14), the prophet Daniel tells us that he beheld one like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days. It isn’t uncommon for this passage to be interpreted as referring to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, I am more inclined to think that it actually refers to the Lord’s Ascension into Heaven following His Passion and Resurrection.

Without going into detail, I think that the most compelling evidence of this is that the prophet’s vision describes the Son of Man (Jesus) coming with the clouds of heaven – not to earth, as He does in His Second Advent – but to God the Father (the Ancient of Days). Also, the vision makes reference to the Son of Man receiving His kingdom. This happened at the Lord’s Ascension where He sat down on the right hand of God the Father as King of Kings and Lord of Lords – where He received His kingdom by virtue of His Passion and Resurrection.  

What then is this kingdom which Jesus received? Well, our Lord reminded His Jewish contemporaries that, contrary to their expectations, it was not a physical kingdom in Jerusalem – rather, He told them that His kingdom was one in which He ruled the hearts of men (Lk 17:21). This, of course, ties in with the Gospel reading that we heard on Sunday (Jn 18:33-37), where Jesus tells Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world (v36). Instead, it is a kingdom of truth, in which “all who are on the side of truth” listen to Jesus’ voice (v37).

Pilate’s discussion with Jesus is actually quite instructive. Pilate asks Jesus “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus responds to Pilate in the form of a question – and really it is a question that He poses to every single one of us “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

As Catholics, we are members of the Body of Christ; but it is a membership which demands action. As members of the Body, we are each one of us called to have an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus, the Head. So Jesus’ question is really to all of us. Do we say that He is Christ the King simply because that is what we have been taught by Holy Mother Church? Or is it more than that – do we really believe it with all our hearts and souls? As important as it is to say that we believe that Jesus Christ is King, it would be hypocritical to say it without believing it. It is necessary for us not only to make confession with the mouth, but also to believe with the heart (Rom 10:10).

So, Jesus’ question redounds – do we REALLY and TRULY believe that He is King? To believe that He is King is to give Him our complete and utter allegiance; to believe that He is King is to acknowledge and live as if He is the very centre of our lives. Sure, we’re going to fall…many times…but this is where He has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that He can pick us up again and give us the grace to continue following Him with the resolve to avoid offending Him again.

Here’s a bit of a show-stopper for us Catholics…if we really believe He is King, it ought to show in our reverence to the Blessed Sacrament – because the Eucharist is NOTHING LESS than the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In short, through His words to Pilate, Jesus reminds us that to believe He is King is to be on the side of truth, and to listen to His voice (v37). Now this is where it gets REAL for us Catholics. Like Pilate, we might ask “What is truth?” Jesus tells us that He is the Truth (Jn 14:6); and that to listen to the Church is to listen to Him (Lk 10:16). This is because the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15).

The extent to which we are on the side of truth and listen to the voice of Jesus is the extent to which we listen to Holy Mother Church. Sadly, we live in an age where it is not “fashionable” to obey authority. Additionally, the Church’s teachings are regarded as old-fashioned and out of step with the times…even by many Catholics (e.g. the Church’s teaching against the use of contraception). Such disregard for the Church is ultimately to disobey Christ and to be in opposition to truth. As Catholics, we cannot be for Christ and against His Church at the same time. If we are for the Church, we are for Christ...if we are against the Church, we are against Christ.

As we prepare for the season of Advent, the Scriptures that were presented to us on the Solemnity of Christ the King are nothing less than a clarion call for repentance. We are about to embark on the journey to Bethlehem, where Jesus is adored as the King born in a manger. May this Advent season be for us a time of renewed obedience to Jesus and His Holy Catholic Church.

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