This is a feast with a lot to give us.
It’s like the DVD of that line in the Apostles’ Creed: he ‘is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty’. And the next line is, ‘from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.’ We see the DVD of that, as it were, next Sunday, the 1st of Advent, which is focussed on the Second Coming of Christ. So the end and the beginning of the Church’s year come together rather effectively.
This is a feast with a lot to give us. It’s actually a great profession of faith: Jesus rules! It’s not an old feast. It was instituted less than 100 years ago and it has grown in stature and significance since then. It was born in response to the aggression of so many man-made kingdoms of our time. It’s the Christian answer to the ‘isms’ that have so dominated recent history and done such many-layered damage. National Socialism, Communism, unbridled Capitalism. Pope Benedict spoke of the ‘dictatorship of relativism.’ Currently we have, not an ‘ism’, but a Caliphate which wants to rule the world. So it goes on. The truth behind the perversions is that we can’t thrive without ideals. We’re made to give ourselves. We can’t live without some authority to follow. This is part of our human DNA. We’re primed to obey. It’s a function of love. But then the question becomes, who? To what and to whom should I give dominion in my life? Who’s my king?
Our 2nd reading was from the book of the Apocalypse. It’s the last book in the Bible. And this is the last feast of the year. The two go together. The Apocalypse was born at a time when the Roman Empire was insisting on the worship of its emperors. And the Christians said, ‘No. We’ll pay our taxes, we’ll obey your laws, but we won’t worship emperors.’ And so we heard: ‘Jesus Christ is…the First-born from the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth.’ He’s above all the isms. He’s more powerful than the media or the establishment or the mafia or the oligarchs or the multinationals or the terrorists, or, or… “Jesus rules!” That’s this feast in two words. “Christ is king!” That’s it in three words. And this is very good news indeed.
This, incidentally, connects to one concern about the government’s Named Person proposal. It treats us as first of all citizens of the State rather than members of a family. But the family comes first.
But the kingship of Christ is baffling. Pilate was baffled. ‘So you are a king then?’, says Pilate. ‘Yes and no,’ answers Jesus. In God’s sense, yes. In your sense, no. The NT says somewhere: ‘we do not yet see everything in subjection to him’ (Heb 2:9). Indeed, we don’t. There are all sorts of powers and ‘isms’ rampaging round the world. Christ is not one king, one potentate among the others, living in some White House in Bethlehem or Jerusalem, with his own aircraft carriers. Neither is he a kind of King Arthur who one day might rise up from his long-lost tomb to come and rescue us. He’s not a normal kind of presence, but he’s not a myth either. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, visible only with eyes of faith opened by the Holy Spirit. And his kingdom is present in mystery. It’s real, but it’s hidden. It’s hidden, but it’s real. It’s accessible but elusive. It’s elusive but accessible. It’s weak and it’s strong. It’s strong, but it’s weak. It’s very like the Church. Indeed, in a real sense, it is, here and now, the Church, the Body of Christ. It’s very like the Eucharist. In a sense, it is the Eucharist. Christ really, truly present, but hidden under such a weak and surprising form, a circle of bread. We can feel the power of Christ in the Eucharist: at Mass, in Holy Communion, in adoration. But not necessarily in a way that’s obvious or direct. It’s different, but it’s real. Perceptible and imperceptible all at once. ‘So you are a king, then?’ asked Pilate. Yes, ‘but mine is not a kingdom of this world’.
I said, this feast has a lot to give us. Three last words: freedom, truth and peace. By our faith, our baptismal faith, we put our names down, as it were, we enrol in the kingdom of Christ. By our way of life, by keeping his commandments, by being members of his Body the Church, we allow him to be our King. We offer him a throne. We offer him the empty throne of our hearts. And whatever our struggles and our unfinished business, something powerful comes to birth in us, starts to hold sway: freedom, truth and peace. Christ’s is the only Kingship that doesn’t humiliate. It frees. ‘He loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father.’ We’re freed of all other claims upon us, from all unreasonable, exaggerated, illegitimate claims. We’re freed to give ourselves in love to Christ, to the Father, to each other. And it’s the truth that sets us free. We can walk in the truth, in the truth of ourselves as made in the likeness of God, in all the truth that flows from God and gives everything else its true place, its true light. ‘And all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’ And so we’ll taste peace. ‘My peace I give you.’ And there’ll be one less war-zone in the world.