King of what?

“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.

Here we are at the end of our weeks considering Jesus’ teachings on the end time, the last things. Today, Jesus gives us a vision of what that day of days will look like.

Throughout these weeks, the Apostles in their writings, John’s letter, Paul’s letters, kept reminding us of who we are in Christ. John told us we are God’s children – we represent Him. Paul told us that we have power as imitators of Jesus and that we will be caught up with Jesus in the clouds; that we are in the light – not in darkness. We are reassured that we belong to Jesus. Belonging to Him is more than a superficial statement, it is an all-encompassing change in who we are and how we approach daily life.

In this vision of the future, a view into that day of days, we come to grips with the accountability God will demand of us. Jesus points to judgment based on our obligation to live out the commandment of love, seeing in the other the image of God. Did all-encompassing change take hold of me? Did I make Jesus happen in my life and in the world or keep Him stored away? Was I that saint of God in the world – in the smallest ways? Have I used the oil of grace given me, or toss it aside? Did I grow the kingdom one meal, one drink, one coat, one welcome, one visit at a time?

I pray to God I can answer yes and be forgiven those times I missed the chances I had to minister to the Lord in the other. I know I have tripped and fallen along the way, I have missed chances, sometimes purposefully. Forgive me those sins!

As we celebrate this Solemnity of Christ the King, Lord call us back into conformity with Your Lordship and Your Rule. Forgive us of the opportunities we have missed. When we come to that next encounter with Your image in the other, give us the grace to see in the other’s poor, hungry, naked, thirsty, lonely, and apart eyes Your Royal presence. Recall to us Your Kingship.

Some Churches have renamed today’s Solemnity to Christ the King of the Universe. I ask you to consider how limiting that is! If Jesus’s kingship is limited in any way, He is not King. Rather, let us commit to the fact that Christ is King of every universe, every dimension, things seen and unseen, of my life, heart, soul, spirit, and mind, of my home and family, of the action of my hands, and of how I see every person, the other I encounter.

In these last days Lord, recall to us the all-encompassing change You have called us to be in the world. Lord, when You come in Your glory to rule over and above all, find us having accomplished all You have called us to do and more so.

In it
to win it.

The rulers sneered at Jesus. Even the soldiers jeered at him. One of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus.

In two of the three yearly cycles of readings, the Gospel for Christ the King comes from Jesus’ Passion and from His suffering on the Holy Cross, as in today’s Gospel. In the other year, it is the Gospel of Jesus separating the sheep from the goats at the final judgment. That separation is based upon what we have done. None of these Gospels outrightly gives us a sense of the glories of Jesus’ Kingship or the magnificence of the Heavenly Kingdom.

These Gospels, and the readings around them may cause us to wonder what it means to be subjects of the King, our Lord and Savior, the very Kingship we celebrate today.

Much of our world is focused on victory, isn’t it? The old saying, ‘You have to be in it to win it,’ doesn’t focus on being part of a community or a team. Rather, it focuses us on winning above all.

Winning, whether on the sports field, at work, in social circles, while cooking, or online is what we understand we must do. Especially in the Western world and in our country in particular, winning is prized, everything else classifies us as losers. Even our choices have to be winning choices. Is our chosen team the big winner, the champion? Is our favorite on the Great British Bake-Off going to make it?  Did we overcome in the Facebook political argument? Is our political party on top?

As our Gospels for this day show, winning, being champions, overcoming in God’s Kingdom and for our King is very different than anything the world expects. Being under the Lordship and Sovereignty of Jesus is not about winning at all – the winning was taken care of once and for all on the cross of Jesus. Our call in Jesus’ Kingdom is simply to be in it. Winning, as St. Paul would put it, is about being nailed to the Cross of Christ so to share in His victory.

Being under the King means we have to be seen as losers by the world’s standards. It means we never fail to go out of our way to help, to give, to sacrifice our agenda for another. It means life in the brotherhood and sisterhood of community. It means fasting so another may eat. It means speaking God’s truth to power. Yes, we who are in Christ have won. The glories will come if for now we are real with zeal for the Kingdom.

Enter the
realm.

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.

All of our readings and Gospel today preach one essential lesson about our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ: He is King, Lord, and Ruler. He owns all dominion and glory. He is to be served by all, and will be lamented by those who missed the opportunity to do what we do today.

I have been in many church buildings in my life. Cathedrals, Basilicas, large imposing structures build through the hard work and sacrificial pennies of immigrant ancestors, small and humble wooden structures. No matter what kind or type, even in the most modern, blank wall, social realism inspired church buildings, or older buildings that have been wreck-o-vated, you can always find one point, one corner at least, that glorifies God and His Son Jesus. Those buildings while human built monuments, praise the only King, the only government that matters. They call us into His realm.

Those places, in their simplicity, or in their grandeur, call to us; they draw our eyes and hearts to Jesus and focus us on His realm, all the varied and wonderful aspects of Jesus as our King.

More than just the buildings, the gathering of the elect, that’s you and me, is what puts it over the top. We are here to praise, magnify, and petition. We kneel and adore. We offer and we trust. We sign and call out with joyful noise to our King. Our human action, through His grace, draws us closer into His Kingdom, his realm, and sets forth an eternal sign and action through which we meet Jesus.

Lord, how good it is for us to be Yours, to worship You, to be drawn into Your realm.

God’s eternal love, Jesus’ setting aside of heavenly glory to save us, is now owned by us. Jesus came not just to save, not just to teach, not just to open heaven to us, but all-in-all to leave us a gift. Put together, all those things are what He most intended, the things that allow us to change, to be different, to be His ministers and heirs to the Kingdom. As St. John saw, He brought us into a kingdom, and made us priests for his God and Father. Our call is to be His, accept His gift, and enter the realm of the King.

Remember
me.

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

When a person works an eight-hour day and receives a fair day’s pay for their time, that is a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for winning, that is a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for long service or high achievements and good performance, that is an award. But when a person is not capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award, yet receives such a gift anyway, it is a good picture of the way God’s kingdom is designed. His is a kingdom in which we receive the a full inheritance to which we were never entitled but has been won and gifted to us.

The generosity of Jesus’ kingdom is on full display in the encounter between the two robbers and Jesus. Each sentenced to death; one’s heart remains stone cold. The other’s heart is opened. The King of heaven and earth offering His life for the redemption of the world is both taunted and adored. In this sacred moment God reveals His offer to the whole world and how that offer is for all as well as for each of us individually.

The two criminals were equally near to Christ. Both of them saw and heard all that happened those hours that Jesus hung on the cross. One died in his sins, he died as he had lived, without repentance. The other repented and believed in Jesus. He saw the promise of His kingdom, called on Him for mercy, and went to Paradise.

It is interesting that Jesus responded directly to the thief that called out for mercy – Yes, I will remember you. You will be with Me in My kingdom this day. Jesus responds to us when we humble ourselves, when we recognize His rule over us. When we place Jesus on the throne, front and center of our lives, and give up our willfulness, we become co-heirs with the King. Notice that the criminal who repented placed Jesus on the throne; specifically mentioning ‘Your kingdom.’

It is even more telling that Jesus gave no response to the one who mocked and taunted Him. Some think that God is a punishing and vengeful power. Yet here we see God’s true nature. He does not curse, punish, or in any way does He respond to the one whose heart remains cold – who hates to the end. God gives Him every moment available to take the opportunity to repent, to place God front and center. Jesus’ offer of merciful opportunity is such a powerful gift

The Lord wants us all to recognize ourselves in this moment, to see the true nature of His kingship, to cry out too, “Jesus, remember me,” and to know He does. We receive a prize we have not won when Jesus is our King. We will be with Him in Paradise!

We do have a
King.

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. All the peoples of the earth will lament him. Yes. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, ” says the Lord God, “the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.”

We have a bit of a problem as Christians.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is before Pilate. Jesus stands His ground and tells Pilate about His kingdom. He tells Pilate the purpose of His coming – “to testify to the truth.

Our “bit of a problem” is that when we describe Jesus as our King we often times, both in words and visually, describe Him as a humble King. His head is bowed, He looks meek and frankly – weak.

This image can be compounded further because our Church has a democratic tradition in its management. We also live in a democratic society and take our liberties seriously. We tend to prefer our King to be meek and weak.

To help us fully appreciate the Kingship of Jesus – His formal and official Office as our King – the Holy Church gives us this Solemnity. We need to take this opportunity to fix our perspective, to adjust our vision to see Jesus as the One who has absolute authority to rule and reign over us. The Magi and Pilate called Him King. Jesus comes to Jerusalem as the gentle and humble King riding on a donkey – a symbol of a king arriving in peace. In the days to come, with the arrival of the fullness of His Kingdom, He will come astride a white horse. The King astride a horse is a symbol of a king arriving in power to judge and wage war.

The “Kingdom of God” is noted at least sixty-six times in the New Testament, most of the references are in the Gospels. Jesus proclaims: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come . . .

We should have no doubt, Jesus is our King and we owe Him total loyalty, obedience, worship, and adoration. While the time is here we need to greet Him as the King who came in peace to free us and accept His forgiveness and His Lordship. We need to receive Him in awe and reverence for LORD! We are not worthy. It is time for us to recognize that we need to give Him the Lordship and power over our lives – for “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!”

Reflection for the Solemnity of Christ the King

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My Lord and King
remember me

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, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

It is said that there are 3 kinds of people: Those who MAKE things happen; Those who WATCH what happens; and Those who WONDER what happened.

In today’s Gospel we read of these three sorts of people.

The Roman soldiers, the Chief Priests, the Pharisees, and the other leaders thought they had all the power. They could MAKE anyone die on the cross, and today it is Jesus along with two thieves. They considered themselves as the powerful movers and shakers. They were wrong.

Others stood by to WATCH. There was Mary, the other women who supported Jesus, and John. And, there were the thieves hanging there with Jesus. We could say that they were watching too – they had little choice.

One thief thought he could MAKE things happen. If he could mock and taunt Jesus enough, maybe there would be a grand miracle and he could go on his merry way freed from certain death. He too was wrong.

The other thief wasn’t going to stand by and just WATCH. He was not going to MAKE things happen either, at least not of his own accord. He reached into himself and found the exact kind of humility that REALLY MAKES things happen. He found the strength to place his trust in this Man, hanging next to him, badly beaten, bloody, humiliated, and dying. He saw through the blood and gore to the right and true. He saw that this Man was not just a man; rather He was God’s Son, the Messiah, who MAKES everything happen, Who will save him completely and forever.

That thief reached out in humility. He saw Jesus as the promised King whose power would free Him from death in sin to eternal life. “he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

People have stood by for centuries WONDERING what happened. Caught up in sin and hopelessness they have looked at this scene and have failed to trust or find humility before their King Who MAKES all things possible. They have failed to ask Jesus to remember them.

We renew our assurance that Jesus will MAKE things happen in our lives, things that bring us goodness, rest, peace, and freedom from sin. We cannot just WATCH, nor should we WONDER. We must be that 4th kind of person – the men, women, and children of FAITH who ask and are assured.

Reflection for the Solemnity of Christ the King

Do you know a good podiatrist?
My Achilles is bothering me.

“His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, His kingship shall not be destroyed.”

We may recall the myth of Achilles from our school days.

The gods gave Achilles’ mother a choice as to how her son’s life should be: short but glorious or long but obscure. Fearing for her son’s safety, Achilles’ mother chose long but obscure. His mother also bargained with the gods for additional protection from harm. They told her to immerse Achilles in the waters of the Styx River, which would immunize him from all harm. His mother did this, holding onto Achilles by the ankle. Of course, this part of the boy did not receive the protection of the gods, and proved to be Achilles downfall. Achilles died after being shot in the ankle by Paris’ arrow during the battle of Troy.

From this mythology we derive the term Achilles heel. It is the weakness, the failings we all have. We certainly have many positive and wonderful qualities, certain skills and talents, those things (and there are many) that make us special. We also know that we have that Achilles heel, the particular sin, shortcoming, or weakness that might well prove to be our downfall.

For podiatrists, the Achilles tendon is the tendon of in the back of the leg that attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone. Injuries to this tendon can require long healing time and rehabilitation.

We set aside this Sunday to recognize and celebrate the kingship of Christ. What does Achilles have to do with the kingship of Jesus?

It is in this: That Jesus as Lord and King of all things, and most particularly of our hearts and souls, has the power to overcome our Achilles heels.

Our Achilles heels lead to injury, in ourselves and in others. We might not even recognize our Achilles heels! We may think we are relatively ok.

The reality is we all lay unprotected, vulnerable, injured, in need to healing and rehabilitation. When we recognize this we might try to fix it ourselves, but that is not possible. Rather we need to throw ourselves on the mercy of our King, relying on Him. With Him we have the grace to overcome as well as His healing.

Our King, Jesus Christ, is the absolute guarantor of protection, of healing, renewal, and eternal life. Our lives will not be long and uneventful with Him. Making Him the Lord, worshiping, adoring, relying on, and serving Him, fixes every weakness in us, and gives us unending life in His Kingdom.