Christ the King (B)
(Daniel 7:13-14; Apocalypse 1:5-8; John 18:33-37)
In our readings today we are given a magnificent portrait of Him Who is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Christ, Son of God become Son of Man:
As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven; when He reached the Ancient One and was presented before Him, the One like a Son of Man received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, His kingship shall not be destroyed.
Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. And all the peoples of the earth will lament Him. Yes. Amen.
And, in answer to Pilate’s question, Jesus pictured Himself as follows:
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.
Jesus is, therefore, most worthily our King, and today we gratefully celebrate His kingship and rule. He came, most humbly, to bear witness to -- that is to proclaim and manifest in word and deed, in His death as throughout His life – the ultimate truth about God and His plan of salvation for us:
Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. (John 17:2)
He came -- a King in fact and truth though not in appearance -- because His proclamation of the truth had to be, on the one hand, divinely authoritative and unambiguous, admitting neither frustration nor failure in the fulfilment of its purpose; and on the other hand, as Son of man, offering that compassion and understanding which can draw sinners to repentance and forgiveness, before then forging -- by the gift of His most Holy Spirit -- cords of love capable of leading all His faithful ones to follow in His footsteps along His way to the ultimate vision of the Goodness and Beauty of God, His Father:
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)
As King, therefore, He not only proclaimed the ultimate Truth, He also manifested that Truth, as Son of Man, in all its sublime reality, because He Personally was and is, the eternal Truth:
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
But did not St. John also tell us that, God is love? Indeed he did, and this is just how he put it:
We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)
That means that those who have known and believed the love that God has for us, that is, those who have believed in Christ’s proclamation of and witness to, the only true God, have God -- Who is love -- abiding in them.
Therefore, God is Truth in the Church’s proclamation and protection of the Gospel message, and He is Love in the hearts of those who receive and live by that Gospel of Good News and Hope; thus we can appreciate that truth is not to be merely heard and intellectually acknowledged, and likewise, that love is not suitably expressed by overly emotional outpourings. God’s Truth is motivated by and expresses His love; and His Love is informed and guided by His truth in order to fulfil God’s purpose as Isaiah and the Psalmist tell us:
My word that goes forth from My mouth shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed. (Psalm 85:10).
It was strange, however, to hear the author of the book of Revelation so emphatically assuring us that, when our Lord and Saviour will come in His glory:
Every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. And all the peoples of the earth will lament Him. Yes. Amen.
His coming will cause all the tribes of people on earth to mourn, every eye to lament? Obviously -- it would seem to us -- all those who killed Him might well mourn at His return in glory; but why will it be that all will lament, even those who loved Him?
This will be because of the Truth; since it is, indeed, Gospel truth that all, each and every one of us on earth have sinned, and of ourselves are sinners:
There is none righteous, no, not one; none seeks after God. All have turned aside; there is none who does good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10-12)
Those who receive the Truth proclaimed by the Lord’s coming, will see Him and lament the evil that was done Him; they will lament and mourn both out of love for Him, and out of shame and regret for their own complicity in such behaviour. Consequently, in their case, those words of Scripture will be fulfilled:
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory (soul) may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever. (Psalm 30:11-12)
Those, however, who did not receive, would not embrace, that Truth made manifest, will mourn simply and solely because of His return: they will have neither love for nor sympathy with Him; only continuing rejection of Him and solicitude for self.
The kingdom of God, Jesus once said, is among you. And so, today as everyday, the question -- the drama -- of truth and its reception is going on around us in society, within us as a community, and in the secret depths of our own, individual, hearts. How do we, can we, should we, respond to God’s truth revealed to and treasured in Mother Church?
There are those, who seem or are said to think that truth is above all to be known with our minds, hopefully, as extensively and as accurately as possible; and, at the other extreme, there are others who think that love is all that matters. Let us consider these two attitudes a little more closely.
Many Catholics are perfectly content with themselves when they go to Mass and receive the Sacraments on the appointed days, just as they have always done: they say they know the faith: they were taught it at school or received it in the instruction given them by a priest, say at conversion and baptism, or when they were preparing for marriage. Thereafter, they merely fulfil the obligations they originally accepted as part and parcel of the faith. There we have examples of the truth proclaimed being received with but a minimum of heart commitment: believers doing what they were ‘originally’ taught, or ‘have always’ believed but with a minimum of loving commitment. And at the head of such disciples can be found clerics of all levels who will ‘say’ Mass or administer the Sacraments in double-quick time; they will present Catholic doctrine and spirituality to God’s catholic people with words that are nothing more than bloodless transcripts of Jesus’ words of life or the experiences of saints revered throughout the Church: too often, that is, mere abstract truths or cold mental concepts, apparently standing upright and firm only because they are backed by ‘authority’.
On the other hand, those of the contrary inclination are only content when they can give themselves obsessively to personal devotions, enthusiastically to active social involvement of an emotive kind, or to personal and somewhat secretive piety and prayers: these have a full heart, indeed, but not infrequently, are dismissive of, or somewhat horrified by, the idea that they might have any true need for better appreciation or greater understanding of their faith. These Catholics rarely have any doubts about themselves, they do not experience any need to ask about, search for, a deeper understanding and appreciation of what they think they already know and most firmly believe. They are totally satisfied with their own warm heart, and fully approve of and uphold the sincerity of their own intentions, and cannot avoid proclaiming themselves along with their understanding of the Gospel of Jesus. And yet, Jesus, early on in His public ministry, had lovingly yet unhesitatingly declared of Samaritans encountered in His travels:
You worship what you do not know, we worship what we know. (John 4:21)
How many sects, originally enthusiastic disciples of Jesus, have separated themselves from Mother Church over subsequent centuries because of like ignorance of the will of God and the fullness of the maturity of Christ!
People of God, Jesus is come to bear witness to the truth for us, and He tells us:
Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.
For Jesus’ disciples, His truth is ever a living and loving issue whose beauty is to be unceasingly and increasingly admired, not just as a memory or an attitude from the past however firmly fixed, but as a continuing invitation to ever deeper and more personal love and trust. Worship in His name can never be either exact ritual or personal emotionalism carefully procured and stoked-up, because it is essentially a living and open-ended total commitment to Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, for the Father.
However, there is a danger today that threatens to bring humanistic emotionalism into our personal relationship with Jesus. Now Jesus takes us alone with Himself to the Father:
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘What concern is it of yours? You follow Me.’ (John 21: 20-22)
In Him alone, by His Spirit, we ultimately commit ourselves personally to the Father in worship; with Him, by His Spirit, we meet our neighbour in charity, for the glory of the Father.
So, People of God, on this feast of Christ the King of Truth let us open both our minds and our hearts to Him in the Gospel proclamation, that proclamation which continues to this very day to be made for us and offered to us in and through Mother Church. It is not just to be remembered as ammunition for argument; we have to increasingly appreciate and love it, by committing ourselves to live for it and in response to it. Only thus will we allow God’s purpose to be fulfilled in our lives.
Jesus assures us that with God, Truth and Love are one. Therefore, let the Roman Curia treasure the Gospel message they lovingly protect as God’s Truth; and let the preachers of Mother Church authentically understand the Truth they proclaim as God’s Love. And let us all recall those further words of Jesus to the effect that, what God has joined together none of us should ever separate.