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He shall reign forever

November 22, 2015

Melkite-Christ-the-King
A reflection on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year B. The readings are Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm: 93; Revelation 1:5-8 and John 18:33b-37.

On a July Sunday morning, 13 years ago I was at Downsview Park in Toronto waiting for Pope John Paul II to arrive for the final Mass of WYD 2002. The WYD Choir was singing selections from Handel’s Messiah, “and He shall reign forever and ever…” and it was raining like it’s never rained in Toronto. I remember thinking, “he is raining forever and ever!” I was thinking of that day as I was preparing for today’s Feast of Christ the King, because even though I’ve heard that song dozens of times, I’ve never made the connection that the reason why He reigns is because He’s a king! We celebrate this feast – the Solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe every year and still I have a real hard time picturing Jesus as king – that’s not an image that works for me. I suspect it’s because I have not had many great models of kings in my life. I mean, what do you think of when you think of kings? Game of Thrones? I remember learning about King Henry XVIII. Not the best examples of kingly behaviour. These are men who are more concerned about their own pleasures and desires and for their need to hold on to their power than their duty to serve the people.

Today we have three readings and three qualities of the Kingdom of Jesus that are very different than those kingdoms of earth.

First the book of Daniel. We’ve all heard of Daniel because even if you’ve never read the Bible, you certainly had a children’s bible with the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. It’s the same guy. You should read the whole story. Tonight open your bible and read the Book of Daniel. There’s more to the story than the lion’s den. Daniel is writing during a time of great persecution of the Jewish people. The story is set during the time of the Babylonian exile, but probably written much later during the time of the Greek empire. One night Daniel has a vision; he sees four beasts, each representing evil empires – one is like a lion, the other like a bear, the third like a leopard, and the last one is so horrible he can’t even describe it. Last, however, he sees one who is not a beast, one “like the Son of man” and of course, we Christians interpret that to be Jesus. He is the true King. And his dominion is an everlasting dominion, that shall not be taken away and shall never be destroyed. His kingdom is eternal.

All the other earthly kingdoms and empires are only for a time. The Babylonians only lasted for a while, and the Greek empire only lasted for a while – the Roman empire is no more. When the Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XIV in 1925, Bolshevism was on the rise in Russia and Fascism was in full swing in Italy; Nazism was gaining popularity in Germany. None of those exist today. We can say the same for all the dictators and totalitarian regimes that have come and gone in the last century, And even the “kingdoms” that we deal with today – they won’t last. Islamic State won’t last. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ will last forever. Indeed, He will reign forever and ever.

Second – the Book of Revelation. It’s very similar to the Book of Daniel in its style. It’s also a book that was written during a time of great persecution, this time of Christians under the Roman emperor Nero. And, like the Book of Daniel, the Book of Revelation is written to give hope to the people. This is another book that you should all read. Don’t be afraid. Go home, get a study guide and a bible with lots of footnotes and read the Book of Revelation. Revelation also shows that Jesus’ Kingdom is eternal, “to him be glory and power forever and ever…” but it adds something else: “every eye will see him; all the peoples of the earth will lament him.” Even sinners. Well, that’s everyone, so if every eye will see him, then that includes sinners. Jesus’ Kingdom is universal. It’s for everyone. It’s not just for Jews, or for Christians. It’s not just for Catholics or for the Pope and priests and nuns. It’s for everyone. It is universal. That’s why later on in Revelation we will read that there is a multitude so great that could not be counted (Rev 7:9). Why? Because it includes everyone.

So the Kingdom of Jesus is eternal and it is universal. Then we have the Gospel of John. This is a Gospel that we read every Good Friday. Again, when I hear it on Good Friday, I’m not thinking of Jesus as King. I’m thinking of his sacrifice on the Cross. I’m thinking of the Passover Lamb. But this is when Jesus actually admits to being a king.

I really like Pilate. I don’t think he’s being arrogant or dismissive of Jesus. I think he’s actually searching. He asks Jesus if he is a king. Jesus responds with a question, “Are you saying this ‘cause you want to know or you’ve heard others say it?” Pilate then genuinely says, “Hey, I’m on your side. I want to help you. It’s your people who want to kill you.” Jesus then says that his kingdom is not of this earth. Pilate concludes then, “So you are a king.” But Jesus clarifies, almost as if to say, “yeah, but not the kind of king that you need to worry about because my kingdom is not of this earth. It’s different. I came to testify to the Truth.” And then – we don’t hear it today, but the conversation ends with Pilate asking, “What is truth.” I think he’s thought about it and has concluded that perhaps there is no truth – or at least no universal Truth. Jesus Kingdom is about Truth. He came to testify to the Truth. And what does Truth do? It sets us free. The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not about enslaving people and dominating them. The Kingdom of Jesus sets us free.

But more importantly, when Jesus says that his Kingdom is not of this earth, he doesn’t mean that it’s up in outer space or in heaven somewhere. It means that it’s very different than all the earthly kingdoms. It’s not about power; it’s not about wealth; it’s not about domination; it’s not about pleasure. It’s about justice and Truth. And it’s not far away. It’s near us. Jesus tells his disciples that the Kingdom of God in in their midst (Luke 17:21). He is in their midst. He is in our midst. Jesus is a King who is our friend. “I no longer call you servants, but I call you friends”, he tells the disciples (John 15:15). The Kingdom of Jesus is a close to you as your husband or wife – the Kingdom of Jesus is eternal; it’s universal and it is accessible.

But belonging to that Kingdom doesn’t mean that we just go home and feel good about the fact that Jesus is King and all we do is worship Jesus the King (we should do that, BTW, but…). It means that we do what he asks us. The last thing he says to his apostles before the ascension is reminding them that he is king, “all authority has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18) and he gives that authority to his apostles and to the Church. He gives us that authority, so we can go and help him build his kingdom. How? Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Belonging to Jesus’ eternal, universal and accessible Kingdom means that we have to go and help him build his Kingdom. We do this in a special way now during Advent as we prepare to receive him at Christmas – but also as we prepare to receive him when He comes in Glory – and as we prepare to receive Him daily, in the Word proclaimed, when we gather in his name and most especially in the Sacraments and in the Eucharist.

Today when you receive him in the Eucharist, pray that He will reign in your mind and your will; in your body and in your spirit; that he will reign in your desires and in your dreams. That he will reign in your families, in your work, in our country and in our world. Let us pray that his Kingdom come – not just when we say the Our Father – but always and that he reigns in our hearts eternally, universally and in an intimate way.

That way we will truly be able to go out and sing that “he shall reign forever and ever!”

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From → English, Reflections

One Comment
  1. Lie Sukardi permalink

    Thank you for sharing the homily. It is such a comfort to be able to read and reflect the homily in our own time as supposed to hear it at the pew, which I found it hard with so much distractions.

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