‘King of Kings’

‘King of Kings’

Bishop Raica Closes Liturgical Year With Feast of Christ the King

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

On this final Sunday of the liturgical year, our focus tends toward the final goal of life – unity with Christ who is hailed as the King.

In a few days, we will gather for the annual event of Thanksgiving. But there is another moment of thanksgiving that we commemorate – that is, whenever we come to Mass. At this banquet / event, we hear the words from Sacred Scripture recounting the many and varied stories of faith to make us yearn and long once again for the courts of the Lord. It is like a retelling of the family story again, bit by bit, day after day, and Sunday after Sunday. And then we gather around the altar where we are fed with our Lord’s Body and Blood. After all, Jesus promised us He would remain with us until the end of time. We are a family like those gathering later this week where we also express our thanks – for life, for family, and for all that lifts us up. We also pray for and recall those in need – those who need our prayers – because this community that celebrates in thanksgiving is also a community that remembers. We come as beggars once again pleading, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Really, it is our responsibility to understand that religion is not about dividing us apart but about recognizing the uniqueness of a presence that, while clinging to it or binding ourselves to that ultimate reality, frees us to become what we are meant to be. For that reason, Jesus is the source and the goal. He’s the King born in Bethlehem and acknowledged by the Magi. He’s the King going to Calvary – whereby doesn’t deny that He is a king to Pilate but that His kingdom is not of this world.

That must have made Pilate’s head ache to try and sort that out. A king, but not of this world? In the end, He is the one before every knee shall bend as we adore His majesty.

For that reason, we focus our attention on the very majesty of Christ – as King. All throughout this year, we have focused our attention on Mark’s Gospel. It was the shortest of the Gospels and the earliest written Gospel. It began quite simply: “Here begins the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mk 1:1) Now, today, our reading veers a little bit as it concludes with a passage from John’s Gospel reflecting on the interrogation of Jesus by Pilate. Jesus tells Pilate that His “kingdom does not belong to this world.” And that some would recognize Him as King. “Then you are a king?” Pilate inquires. Jesus countered simply, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.”

When Jesus fed the crowds, they wanted to take Him away to make him King – to overthrow the Roman occupiers. But He backed away. His kingdom would be entirely different. So, the one who listens, the one who hears, the one who belongs, the one who follows will find the joy of right relationship where everyone has a place. It is a place where there is truth and life – a place of holiness and grace – a place of justice, love, and peace. It is an interior kingdom that drives an individual toward a happiness and fullness of life that is beyond anything this world can offer. Those who have embraced it we often call “saints.” They have a serenity in the midst of adversity and pain. Sickness and suffering are embraced with a noble purpose. Even death itself is not viewed as an end but a transition to an even greater life. That is the kingdom! It is something within that grows whenever truth, justice, and love crowd out sin and evil, letting God’s grace take root and flourish. It is a way that those who are intentionally committed and belong completely and totally to Christ infiltrate the world and transform it from within, imbuing all of life with Gospel values and Christ like love, not imposing it from above! It is a kingdom not founded and maintained by force or violence, but one in which the freedom of the individual is something greater and they follow it willingly. It is not of this world. But through Jesus, it comes into this world by those who say “yes” to Him (i.e., those who belong completely, totally and without reserve to the mission and the goal). All of life belongs to Him. To Him, we belong.

In its truest sense, it brings about a unity that is stronger than anything that can divide us. For sure, there is a lot today out there that seeks to divide us. I think to myself, “Where else would I go?” Only here is a place where I can be with the followers of Christ; where I can be not merely free from everything and do what I want, but where I can be free for the one and for whom I do what I ought (i.e., to be a steadfast and reliable companion for the journey).

Today, we are in the midst of unique challenges as we give praise to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords – or as we will sing in a few weeks “born is the King of Israel” who will bring “Joy to the world!” and we will “come and adore Him.” We will need to commit to something or someone who will define us.

Going back to the Gospel of Mark, I find it interesting that the one who recognized Jesus as the Son of God while He hung on the throne of the cross was not His closest disciples or others around Him, but a hapless outsider – a Roman soldier – centurion who acclaimed, “Truly this is the Son of God!” He stood there in awe at all he had witnessed and came to this conclusion.

As we embark on the process of the Synod throughout our entire Church, [let us take note], listening to what was said in that moment – perhaps just by a spontaneous reflection by the Roman centurion which someone heard, remembered and recorded for posterity. He gave us this beautiful line as a culminating exclamation point in St. Mark’s Gospel. This is the nature of the Synod – that someone we may not expect can share with us something extraordinarily true in reality. In this instance, it was the non-believer who concludes, “Truly this is the Son of God!” We must listen for the movement of the Spirit in our wider communities as well. Who knows what the Spirit will reveal during this time of listening?

Our life now, with all of its challenges, is to see that Christ is with us. He has not abandoned us. He walks with us, lifts us up, sees opportunities in the midst of adversity. As Peter told our Lord: “To whom shall we go? You have the words that give life.”

As we complete this year and prepare to begin our Advent time of expectant waiting for the coming of Christ at the end of time, in that moment in time 2,000 years ago, and even more so today as He comes to us in this liturgy accompanying us on our daily walk with Him, may we acknowledge His presence guiding us, so that we won’t miss Him passing by. We will hear His voice and hear the truth about ourselves as we acknowledge Jesus Christ as the faithful witness of God’s truth and love in our hearts. Then, as a family of faith, we live this relationship in our various communities cooperating with the Spirit so that His “kingdom comes” among us. May God bless you!