From the Kingdom of God to the Kingdom of Christ the King

[Reflection.  Solemnity of Christ the King, Kristong Hari.]

The great liturgical cycle which moves through advent waiting, the incarnation, birth and public ministry of the Lord, the Lenten repentance, the suffering death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord, and 34 weeks of witnessing the working of the Holy Spirit sent into our lives in Ordinary Time ends this week with the Solemnity of Christ the King.  The feast day summarizes the Father’s plan of our salvation.  Him today we praise: 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.  In love, he destined us for adoption to himself through Christ Jesus, in accordance with the favor of his will, for the praise and glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.

“In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the richness of his grace that he lavished upon us.  In all wisdom and in all insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on the earth” (Eph 1:3-10).

All things are summed up in Jesus Christ!   Through Christ, the Father blesses us with every spiritual blessing having chosen us … to be holy, to be without blemish, to be his adopted children for the praise and glory of his grace – his underserved and fully-gratuitous love – which he lavished upon us.  All this awesome truth of God’s favor is summed up today in the Solemnity of Christ the King.  Christ is King but in full and glorious manifestation of the reign of the Father.

Jesus’ Core Proclamation of the Kingdom of God

Today, we happily recall Jesus’ core proclamation of the Good News during his public ministry:   “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15).  This is the spiritual and earthly realm over which God reigns as King, the fulfillment in heaven and on earth of God’s sovereign will.  Jesus calls for repentance for those areas in life which oppose his Father’s reign, where you have said, “Not your will, my will be done!”; where your life has been obedience not to the law of God but to the law of your will, your conceit, your wisdom, your money, your power, force, brutality, violence, and war. 

When Jesus taught us to pray, he taught us to praise and glorify the Father with the words, “Your Kingdom come!  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!” (Mt. 6:7).  He taught us to pray to be more and more subject to his reign in the universe.

In driving out evil spirits from our lives he taught us that, “the kingdom of God has come upon you” (cf. Mt. 12:22-29).  He taught his disciples that in following his way, in loving God above all things, in loving our neighbor as ourselves, in leaving father, mother, brother and sister to follow him, in praying, in accepting opposition in our lives to follow him, the kingdom of God is at hand.  “The Kingdom of God cannot be observed,” he taught. “and no one will announce, ‘Look here it is” or “There it is.’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is upon you” (cf. Luke 17:20-21).

Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom of God brought him into opposition with the religious leaders of his time and to his stinging rebuke of their teaching and way of life.  Instead of helping people approach the Father and accept his reign, these religious leaders mislead the people and blocked their entrance into his Kingdom.  “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You lock the Kingdom of heaven before human beings.  You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter…” (cf. Mt. 23:13-35).  Jesus wept over Jerusalem because despite all his efforts to introduce them to the love and compassion of his Father, they rejected him” (Lk 20:41-44).  In Jerusalem however, in fulfillment of the will of the Father, he would fully manifest his Father’s Kingship is his absolute obedience to his will:

“Who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient on a Cross.

“Because of this God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus Christ, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:6-11).

The King on the Cross

In the gospels, Christ the King is not the expected political leader who would free Israel from the occupation of the Romans.  He is not the hero who would restore Israel to the kingship of David or of Solomon.  He is not a king arrayed in red velvet wearing a bejeweled crown carrying a scepter of power in one hand and an orb of divine majesty in the other.  In the Gospel for today, the King is the one crucified on the Cross hanging overpowered and derided beneath a sign, “This is the King of the Jews”:

“The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.’  Even the soldiers jeered at him.  As they approachd to offer him wine they called out, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.’  Above him there was an inscription that read, ‘This is the King of the Jews’”.

Later, the good thief, recognizing the majesty in this crucified King, prayed, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  To this the King replied, “Amen I say to you, this day you will be with me in Paradise” (cf. Luke 23:35-43). 

During his trial, Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews.”  Jesus’ answer was, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.  If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my Kingdom is not here.”  To this, Pilate replied, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth.”

The truth was the truth of his Father, whose Kingdom he proclaimed despite deadly opposition to his message.  The truth was his Father willing the redemption of the world through his Son’s obedient self-sacrifice on the Cross.  On this Cross, he was declared King and established as King as the incarnate manifestation of the true love of the King.  Because of his obedience, “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus Christ, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:6-11).

From the Father as King to Christ the KIng

Because of his obedience on the Cross, Jesus is the King who reconciles the world with his Father.  He will fully establish the Kingdom of God in taking those “blessed by his Father” and calling them to “inherit the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.”  In the last Judgment this King is still obedient to the will of his Father working out the reconciliation of the world through his Son.  The final establishment of the Father’s justice through the Last judgement is the action of Christ the King, “the image of the invisible God”; he declares that acts of charity done to or denied the least of his brothers and sisters are acts done to or denied him.  In so doing the kingly dignity of the most oppressed, downtrodden and discarded of humanity is established irreversibly by the King.

“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 led before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world.  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.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you?” And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of gthe least brothers [or sisters] of mine you did for me’ – admitting them to the fullness of the Kingdom of God (Cf. Mt. 25:31-46).

The Father transfers us into the Kingdom of His Son

The second reading today from the letter of Paul to the Colossians beautifully describes how the Father, the King, transfers us to the Kingdom of Christ the King.  The Kingdom of the invisible God who wills our reconciliation with him through our redemption is one with the Kingdom of Christ who is obedient to his Father’s will unto death on the Cross:

“Brothers and sisters: Let us give thanks to the Father who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.  He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”  It is the Father’s work through which we have been made fit to join eternally the holy ones in light.  He delivers us from the power of darkness.  He transfers us to the kingdom of his Son. 

His Son, the King, “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities of powers; all things were created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  He is the head of the body, the church.  He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead that in all things he himself might be preeminent.  For him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of the cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven” (Col. 1:12-20).

Christ the King in Our World

The establishment of the Solemnity of Christ the King by Pius XI in 1925 was a response to the then emerging secularism and ultra-nationalism in the world.  If that was its warrant, there is all the more reason to celebrate the Feast today, where aggressive secularization seeks to extirpate religion from the public sphere, and certain nations consider it their right to violate boundaries, kill and maim civilians in brutal advancement of national interest.  The Feast should re-establish in our lives mindfulness of the work of our Father, seeking to reconcile us with himself, with one another, and with creation, through the redemptive death and resurrection of his Son.  Through the Spirit, the Father calls us to walk with his Son in our world today, to give witness to his death and resurrection, and to participate in the establishment of his kingdom where what apparently rules is violence, war, deception, political misuse of religion, selfishness, greed, and mindless destruction of the gifts God gave us.  We celebrate Christ the King in grateful acknowledgment of the Father’s salvific will in our world that continues to cry out for salvation.  This celebration at the end of our liturgical year is not the end of our Christian life, only a transition into a deeper celebration of what we continue to hope for and expect, “For the Kingdom of God is at hand.” 

In repentance, love, fraternity and hope, happy Feast of Christ the King, Kristong Hari!

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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