Christ is King NOW! by Mgr. Paul Watson

Christ is King NOW!  by Mgr. Paul Watson

So where exactly is Jesus King today?
After 42 years of celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King, there something very different about the significance of Christ’s Kingship this year! I had always understood and appreciated this feast as the end of the Church’s year and an anticipation of the final goal and destiny of God’s plan and purpose – and yet at the same time, a celebration of the fact that we already share in that final end. The Kingship of Christ is a reality that will be fully revealed when the Lord comes again and all will be subject to his reign. While we always celebrate the feast in hope, usually my preaching addressed the question of the way that Jesus’ reign is a reality today. And it is on this that I find my understanding radically, even shockingly, changed and challenged this year.
As I’ve experienced it, the great difficulty is that the reign of Christ is hardly manifested in the world around us. As a result, I have concentrated on the kingship of Christ in my own life and the lives of those present at the liturgy with me. Of course, even that is not always, or often, particularly visible. In fact, I have taught that the reign of Jesus in our own lives depends upon our own personal decision to both acknowledge Jesus’ Lordship and consciously ask Jesus into our lives, and in addition, to take up his position on the throne of our lives. I have been aware that it is possible for Jesus to have a place in my life, without his being enthrone and King and Lord. There are many things that are in my life, even close to the centre of my life. But it is important to ask and determine, what it is that is really on the throne. If it is not Jesus, then it is possible that our lives are governed by certain wants or even addictions – it could be the drive for success, for wealth, or pleasure; there could, however, be more noble drives – the health, safety and nurturing of our family, or the well-being of our community and society; we might see our life as dedicated to serving the poor or those in need and indeed, those for whom one is responsible as a leader or pastor, or, closer to home, to the one who is our life partner. These latter, of course, may well be manifestations of Jesus being king in our lives. Certainly, they are manifestations of his kingdom being established.
I have come to see that underlying all of these noble and less noble governing drives or drivers of my life, it may be that there sits on the throne of my life – myself. Self may be manifested in ways that could be seen as generous and sacrificial, or conversely, very evidently selfish and self-centred. Nevertheless, in either case, it is still myself sitting on the throne of my life.
The feast of Christ the King has, for a long time, challenged and called for the decision to surrender the throne and ask Jesus to take that place. It is the way that I have understood Jesus’ call in the Gospel to deny self and take up his cross, and follow him. It is the way I have come to understand the difference between building our house on rock and building our house on sand, which is distinguished by doing the will of the Father. The will of the Father is that Jesus should be Head and King in my/our life. As King in our lives, Jesus leads us to seek and do the Father’s will each day exactly as he himself had done throughout his earthly life!
But this year – for a variety of reasons – there is something different. It has become clear to me that the very centre of the accomplishment of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension is the objective fact that Jesus is established as the King of all creation, and indeed, of all humanity. This is, as I say, an objective fact. It is a truth, whether or not I acknowledge it, or make to decision to cooperate and ask Jesus to be King of my life. In fact, that decision is ultimately, only an opening of my eyes – we sometimes hear people say that we have to “get real”. Reality – the reality of the Gospel – is that Jesus, through his life on earth, has become King!
This weekend, coming in the third week of November, places the feast within the month in which we are praying for the Holy Souls. Our minds are somewhat focused on our deceased loved ones and our hope and prayer that they will achieve the destination of heaven. It is difficult not to conceive of heaven as somewhere other than this earth. It is in heaven, so we understand, that Jesus is fully King. It is heaven where the Father’s will is being done. Do we not pray that the Father’s will would also be done on earth as it is in heaven. When we place these thoughts alongside the description of the interrogation of Jesus by Pilate before his crucifixion, in which Jesus says that his “kingdom is not of this world”, it is easy to assume that the kingship of Jesus is only, for the moment, only a reality on earth in the lives of those who have personally enthroned him.
However, this is not the testimony of the Gospels. The New Testament makes it clear that through his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, Jesus is established as King on the earth, and indeed over all of creation. He is King now over all of humanity – King of England, of America, Russia, Africa – everyone of the 5 continents! This is true even though it is not fully manifest.
The Gospel reading reminds us that a notice was placed on the cross saying that Jesus is King of the Jews. While this was posted by the Romans as an indication of Jesus’ crime, John mentions this because of the irony – Jesus is in fact “King of the Jews”. Furthermore, as if to emphasise the point, we also read that, in the very moments of Jesus’ dying, the two main claimants to kingship and rule sneer at Jesus. First, the Jewish authorities, then, representing the Roman Emperor, the soldiers challenge Jesus to “save himself”. But saving himself would not reveal Jesus as King, because his Kingship was established precisely by his sacrificial death, through which he carried in himself all of the sin of the human race. His kingdom does not come about through force and tyrannical power, but precisely through self-sacrificing love. At the same time, Jesus’ rule will bring judgement upon all who did exercise force and tyrannical power – and that is true also of the powers of today. That this judgement has not yet occurred for today’s tyrannies does not change the fact that Jesus is king of the whole earth.
When we understand that this is really the heart of the Gospel message – that Jesus is now King of all the earth – we will also realise that this began to become a visible reality through the simple announcement of the fact by the first disciples of Jesus. Whether in Jerusalem, through the Apostles, or in Rome, through Paul, the message was the same – Jesus is now King; the Jewish authorities are not the real shepherds (one biblical meaning of the word “king”); the Temple is not the true place of God’s presence and rule, Jesus is; Caesar is not the true king, nor is he the divine son of God (as he claimed), Jesus is. The remarkable truth is that, although this simple announcement led to the persecution and death of the disciples of Jesus, it also led to the overthrow of the Roman Empire, and brought an end to the Temple also. In fact also, through succeeding kings and rulers, many of the countries of the world have taken to heart more of the characteristics of a kingdom in which Jesus rules – greater justice, care for the poor and oppressed, and somewhat greater equality among people, even though we recognise the constant struggle in which power, greed and selfishness seeks to reassert itself in every country.
We are left with a fundamental conclusion – that it remains a responsibility for us, as for the disciples in the beginning, to announce to the world that Jesus is its king! One example could be – in the course of our frequent conversations about the state of the world today, whether is about Brexit or about the American presidency, or about China or Russia, or about Syria – do we ever think to proclaim that Jesus is truly king over all of these countries and situations. This proclamation will have similar consequences to those that occurred in the early Church. Jesus’ kingship will become more manifest!