Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cling to the Throne

Readings for Sunday, November 24/ Christ the King Sunday:
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Psalm 122:1-5
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!
Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!

This ancient hymn of the Church recalls the kingship of Christ Jesus. Though the hymn is from centuries back, it was only in 1929 that Pope Pius XI instituted this universal solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. He did so in response to the upheaval taking place in governments around the world in the early twentieth century. Nearly world-wide at that time there were examples of national leaders coming to power and making their will and desires the law of the land. They did what they wanted, often desiring a sort of earthly paradise, and because it was not desired by the people they governed, it was most often done with fear and force. The feast of Christ the king shows forth the truth that despite whatever power rulers have in this life, there is but one true ruler over all creation and He comes to rule in a way unlike any the world had seen either before or since. Rather than seeking His own will He came among us to accomplish the Father’s will. Instead of the earthly paradise, He pointed the eyes of all toward the paradise that awaits the righteous. And the power He exercised was seen not in fear and force but love and service. This otherworldly king comes and proclaims His riches not in fine clothing and palaces. Paradoxically, He proclaims His kingship from the most absurd throne the world has ever known: the cross. The sign over His head, the Gospel tells us, said simply ‘The King of the Jews.’ Even now on nearly every crucifix I have seen the proclamation still remains in that little sign: I.N.R.I., Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.
The Gospel story recounts to us the reaction of the crowds who gazed upon this King on His throne. The rulers there mocked Him saying, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” The soldiers spoke similarly: “If you are king of the Jews, save yourself.” And that foolish criminal on the cross beside Him even mocked Him as he questions Him, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.”
Each of these people had their expectations of the King and what He should do. They all thought in their heads, ‘if He is indeed a King He clearly doesn’t know how to rule very well!’ And sometimes we can think the same. ‘Save yourself and us!’ they cry. But with those words they say so much else in their hearts: ‘Lord, take away the pain of this life! Take away the illness and disease! Take away sorrow and death! Take away suffering, injustices, and the difficulty of fighting sin! Make things better! Make us happy now!’
To those cries Jesus did what He knew He must: He remained fixed to the cross with the nails and by love for the Father’s will and for the people He was redeeming. With that action Jesus shows us that we are not in control. God is. We don’t make the rules. God does. We cannot see the big picture. God can.

If we wish to be true followers of Christ, true Christians, the place we must find ourselves always is at the foot of the cross. Life is hard. We do experience suffering and pain. We do experience death and loneliness. We do experience illness, disease, injustice and the pain of sin. That is why we call this life the ‘vale of tears’. We all want to be perfectly happy and content in this life, but that is exactly why Jesus doesn’t give us everything we want in this life: because this life is not heaven. It’s not meant to be perfect. BUT, there is a place that awaits the faithful that is perfect, that is free from all pain and sorrow and discord. And to get there we need only remain with our King. In the Gospel passage we heard so many mockeries spoken but remember that silently there at the foot of the cross were the Blessed Mother, the Beloved Disciple John, and others quietly present with the Lord. What they were seeing and experiencing was painful beyond understanding, and yet they gazed upon Him trying to make sense of the mystery. That is our place: alongside the Blessed Mother, John and the others clinging to the cross of Christ knowing that just as Jesus died and was raised up to glory three days later, we too, if we stay with Jesus through the sufferings we endure in this life, will partake in the heavenly banquet. If we are faithful to Him in this life, He will be faithful to us in the next. So let us draw near to our King. By His grace and example let us take courage that whatever happens in this life, we have a King who is greater than anything we must face. He has won for us the victory. So we pray – maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! Come, King of the Universe! Come, live, reign in our hearts.