For the weekend of November 21 and 22, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King at Mass. It is the last week of the official Church year, which means next week a new Church year begins with the first Sunday of Advent. (Advent?! So soon? How can it be the Christmas season again? Wasn’t it just Christmas, like, three months ago?!! Man, time is flying by WAY too fast these days.)
The theme this week is that Jesus the Christ is indeed the King of kings and the Lord of lords. In the first reading, the prophet Daniel described a vision he had: “I saw one like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven….[he] received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.”
In the Responsorial Psalm this week, from Psalm 93, we proclaim, “The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.”
In the second reading, from Revelation, St. John wrote, “Jesus Christ is…ruler of the kings of the earth….he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him.”
Now that’s my idea of a king: power, majesty, glory, everyone bowing down to Him. So, after these three different sections of Scripture, we’re ready for the ultimate kingly passage, the reading from the gospel of John.
In this reading, our King of kings, our Lord of lords, is splendidly robed in…a simple, dusty tunic. He stands majestically with…chains on His wrists and a rope around His neck. His glory is displayed by the…blood trickling down His forehead and the bruises on His face. His power and dominion are evident by the fact that…all His followers abandoned Him.
To top it all off, our King of kings and Lord of lords, the ruler of the universe, who reigns over kings of the earth forever and ever, demonstrates His omnipotence by standing before a two-bit politician who sneers at Him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
How odd is this? We celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King by reading about the time when Jesus was weak and powerless, scorned and humiliated, mocked by a bunch of self-serving religious leaders and spineless politicians? That’s being a king? What gives?
The key to this puzzle is the statement Jesus made to Pontius Pilate in the middle of the gospel reading. He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
If you think this earthly life is the only realm of existence we will experience, well, as my mother used to say, “Sonny, you’ve got another think coming.” Our natural life here on earth—with all its selfishness, materialism, lust, and frantic quests for power and prestige—is really just a brief shadow of our true, eternal existence: life in the spiritual world.
In Jesus’ eternal spiritual kingdom, the dominate attitudes are humility, not ambition; sacrificial giving, not greed; love, not lust; and serene joy, not the nagging, unfulfilled emptiness that defines our current secular culture.
In Jesus’ kingdom, the almighty ruler Himself willingly lays down His life for His subjects. This is true kingship. This is the ruler being more concerned about the wellbeing of His subjects rather than His own wellbeing. This is the exact opposite of earthly rulers.
Jesus clearly tells us throughout the gospels how we can enter into the eternal joy of His kingdom. If we focus all our time and effort on worldly pursuits, we not only will endure nagging, unfulfilled emptiness right here and now, we also will forfeit our chance at peace and joy forever.
Don’t make that fatal mistake. Embrace the King of kings and Lord of lords and His counter-culture values. You’ll never regret it.