Jesus: King and Friend

 

            In the second half of the last century, Catholics took a deep look at their

faith and at the meaning of being Christian Catholics.  The Church was suffering

from those who emphasized the Divinity of Christ to such a degree that His

Presence was seen as too great for the ordinary person to tolerate. This was

really a heresy.  It removed the possibility for a person to have a personal

relationship with the Lord.  That is not in keeping with Scripture, where Jesus

calls his disciples and us his friends.

 

            When the Church looked at this during the second half of the last century,

it realized the importance of people recognizing their personal relationship with

the Lord.  We were told, rightly so, that Jesus is a loving caring friend.  And this is great.  We should have an active and open communication with the Lord.  We

should have and active and open prayer life.

 

            But this way of thinking can also be taken to an extreme.   Jesus is not just

our friend.  He is also our King.  There is a difference, you know,  a huge

difference.  Here’s one way of considering it: We allow a friend to ride shotgun.

We give our King the keys to our car.  We don’t just consult with Jesus, we follow Jesus.  We give him our lives and let Him direct us.

 

            When we hear the word "king" we often think of the splendor of Versailles

of Louis XIV of France, or the Russian court of Catherine the Great, or even the

modern British court of Elizabeth II.  The thought of these monarchs invokes

scenes of lavish banquets, with plates of gold and silver flasks.  We think of

absolute despotism.

 

            This is certainly not the type of king presented in today's readings.  In the

first reading Jesus is compared with David.  In fact Jesus was often called the

Son of David.  David was one of the people.  He was a shepherd who was given

the kingdom due to his ability to fight the enemies of his people. As King, Jesus

is one of the chosen people, picked out like David to shepherd and lead the people. 

He was the one who, like David, was  able to defeat the enemies of Israel, the forces

of evil. Like David, Jesus was anointed to serve the People of God. 

 

            In the second reading, from the Letter of Paul to the Colossians, Jesus'

kingship is presented in mystic terminology.   He is the image of the invisible God through whom all things, visible and invisible were created.  All are subject to him. 

He is the head of the Church.  All spiritual powers and temporal powers were

created through him and for him.  Most important he is the reconciler of everything

on heaven and on earth.  He is the redeemer, the One who sets the word back on

the course of giving glory to God.  He is the forgiver of sins. This reading ends by saying that Jesus has used his power to bring God's peace to the earth, through

the Blood of the Cross.

 

            Then we come to today’s Gospel, the scene is Calvary.  Those who saw the Gibson movie will forever be changed by the mere thought of Calvary.  The movie portrayed te sense of abandonment by his people.  Only Mary, John and Mary Magdalene are there.  Yet, it is on the cross that Jesus is proclaimed to be a King. 

And this was really not by the Romans who placed a sarcastic sign over his head, “This is the King of the Jews.”  On the cross, Jesus was proclaimed to be a King

by one of the criminals who was dying with him. “Jesus, remember me when you

come into your kingdom.”  Jesus demonstrated his real power when he turned to

the repentant criminal and said, "This day you will be with me in Paradise."

 

            He is our King.  His Kingdom is, as today’s Preface, the  prayer we say immediately before we sing the Holy Holy, tells us, is a Kingdom of truth and life,

a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace.

 

            We have give the keys of our lives to our King.  We have now been called to imitate him at his most regal moment: reigning on the Cross sacrificing himself for others, reconciling, forgiving.  We are called to realize with our lives the Kingdom

of truth and life, holiness, grace, justice, love and peace.

 

            We ask Christ today to help us to sacrifice as he sacrificed.  Sacrifice is noble. 

It is also no fun.  All of us literally run out of gas, giving to those who are continually demanding.  We all want to say, "Enough is enough, let the children take care of themselves, the older folks find their own solutions to problems arising from their limited abilities.  The married among us often want to say, “My spouse is demanding too much.”  But there was no limit to Christ's sacrifice and there is no limit to the

extent he wants us to follow him. 

 

            Perhaps the greatest sacrifice we are called to make is the sacrifice of

forgiving those who have hurt us.  Look at Jesus on the cross, forgiving those

who conspired against him to kill him, forgiving the soldiers who were brutalizing

him, forgiving his disciples who deserted him.  He saw our sins, your sins and mine, and embraced the cross to restore grace, not just to the world in general, but to you and me.  It is harder to say "You are forgiven" than it is to say, "I am sorry." But that

is the way of the King on the cross forgiving the criminal, the mockers and even his executioners.  It is also the way of the Kingdom.

 

            We are called to be members of a Kingdom of Truth.  Jesus told Pilate that

he came to give testimony to the truth.  Pilate sarcastically asked, "What is truth?"

So also do some people of our day who are faced with the realization that a life of materialism is empty and an illusion.  Some have become cynics saying that there

is no truth in the world.  To many, truth is relative.  Truth is whatever they decide

it is.  Sadly, the last presidential election was full of lies on both sides; yet, both candidates believed their lies.  We ended up going to the polls and, among our considerations,  was which candidate was lying the least.

 

            No, Jesus Christ said that there is truth.  He is the King of truth.  So what is

this Truth?  What is the basic truth of the world?  What is the fundamental truth

that Jesus proclaimed? The truth of Jesus Christ is that there is infinitely more to

our existence than the physical. The Truth of Jesus Christ is that his Kingdom is

worth infinitely more than all the riches of the world.  The truth of Jesus Christ is

that living for personal gratification is taking a dive into an empty pool.  Yes there

is truth.  And we stand for the truth and with Jesus.

 

            And if we do this and when we do this, if and when we stand for the truth of Christ, we are set apart from others.  And that is what holiness is, to be set apart

for God. Therefore his Kingdom is a Kingdom of Holiness.

 

            It is also the Kingdom of justice and love.  For truth demands that we protect

the rights of all.  We, the Church, can not and will not ignore the plight of the poor,

the sick, the mentally and physically challenged, those who are abused by the

system, the battered wife, the helpless baby--inside or outside the mother, the

scorned migrant, and all the lepers of the modern world. As followers of Jesus

Christ we are committed to his Kingdom of Justice and Love.

 

            The Church year is over.  Like the conclusion of a good book, the final

chapter sums up the essence of the book.  The Solemnity of Christ the King sums

up the Church year by proclaiming: Jesus is the central mystery of our faith. He

lived, he died, he rose, and he will come again.  He went about preaching about

the Kingdom of God and encouraging us to change our lives so we can become members of this Kingdom.  He told us to avoid the materialism of the world.  He

called us friends, and brothers and sisters.  He called us his own.  He told us to

keep his presence alive in the world by bringing his compassion to others.  He

allowed us to be called Christians.

 

            May we have the courage to be faithful members of our Friend’s Kingdom.