Today, the final Sunday in the Liturgical year we celebrate the greatness of Jesus Christ as King of the Universe and acknowledge the eschatological ramifications of His kingship. He is the absolute king of all creation; He created and He will judge. Today’s Gospel relates to us this ‘dreadful greatness’ of Christ: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.’ This understanding about power is something that mankind can easily grasp, can comprehend about a king, an absolute ruler. It fits with what humanity has experienced throughout history. No matter where a ruler lies on the continuum of leadership, from benevolent to tyrannical, there is always a coercive aspect. That Jesus Christ has such power, that He is such power, if viewed with the eyes of this human experience, should make us quake in our boots. But His is a power that confounds the human experience.
Today’s Gospel continues with Christ explaining His true power. His power is not one of coerciveness; it is one of intimacy, empathy, love. From His words today we see that His ability to pass judgment on each person is based on His experience with each person. He knows each person, His Holy Spirit dwells within each person. He experiences the action, and the effect of each person. ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’; and the opposite He tells each of us today. He suffers personally with each suffering person. He feels the pain of want and the pain of seeing people in want. He feels the loving action of selfless help and also distasteful selfish rejection.
He has come to our level, and even lower, to lead us and to lift us up. Christ, the King of Universe, rules from our level; He has gifted us with His intimacy and love. And though His attitude about power confuses the mindset of mankind it is not out of our reach to comprehend; indeed, buried deep within each of us is the urge to understand His kingship and desire it.
Even more to the point (especially at this outset of the New Evangelization), it is an attitude that each of us should harness. We should be attentive to this attitude of our king and use it to drive our own journey. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, in a homily this past September, talked about the attitude of Christ; where He places himself among us, and how we should desire the same; saying: ‘He was born in a stable…he died on the Cross…he tells us that the right place is the one close to him, the place according to his measure.’ And he continued: ‘We are on the right path if we try to be people who ‘come down’ to serve, who bear God’s free gift to the world.’
Brothers and sisters, the Feast of the Solemnity of the Christ the King is more than a day to celebrate our King. It is more than a day to give thanks for His gift of intimacy and love. It is a day of reflection on how we should live our lives as well. This day puts a new meaning, an eternal meaning, to an old saying: ‘As does our king – so do we.’ As subjects of Christ the King we take His attitude as our own, and we follow His lead in serving those around us – in helping those in want – in bringing His light to those in darkness. Today’s readings shouldn’t cause us to fear final judgment as much as it should lead us to Christ’s right-hand. As with all scripture we hear God helping us find the path to eternal happiness; and this path leads through those around us. There is no other path to heaven except through others – especially those in need.
And finally, His attitude gives us great freedom – this following the lead of our king. His gift of service frees us from the chains of expectations and desires so prevalent in this world today. When we follow the example of our king we no longer struggle for fleeting possessions and opinions but embrace the eternal peace and joy that service of love gives us. Our desire is be one with our king who emptied himself so he could truly know us. His throne is the Cross; His banner a bloody tunic; His orb is the world; and His greatest desire is each of us.
As does our King – so do we!