The Solemnity of Christ the King – November 21, 2010 – Citizens of Which Kingdom
1 Samuel 5:1-3, Psalm 122:1-5, Colossians 1:12-20, Luke 23:35-43
In his eighth novel, Ranger’s Apprentice: The Kings of Clonmel, John Flanagan tells the story of a corrupt religious leader who promises that a god named Altheiass will protect the Kingdom of Clonmel. The frightened gullible villagers trusted the high priest only to discover he himself was the enemy. The heroic Rangers in the novel set out to defeat the religious marauders with another god — the Sunrise Warrior.  The story suggests that when we seek protection from the dangers of the world, we tend to put our faith in warriors, money, gods and kings.
Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King. Historians tell us the feast probably was inaugurated  to counter ideologies such as secularism and nationalism. What does it counter today? Commemorated at the end of our liturgical year is it a timely reminder to look at the kingdoms we live in to see just how much of God is present?
There are many dominions vying for power and control in the world. The list is long; here are a few. The marketing enterprise that tempts us to pile up possessions. Transnational corporations that earn huge profits while paying workers substandard wages. (Check those labels) Military kingdoms that believe war is a good big business. Financial fiefdoms that deprive poor people of basics like food and housing. Religions that compete with one another promising palliatives for successful living.
We believe Christ is the head of an alternative kin-dom. This supreme being is a benign sovereign, who like King David in the first reading, is in solidarity with all creatures; treats us with mercy and justice; does not abandon us when we fall or fail. As the psalm suggests, this is a ruler who shepherds us while we walk with others to a new Jerusalem — that fabled land of eternal peace.
The life of Jesus Christ, the revelation of God, rejected the title of “king” and refused “enthronement.”  His mission and message said it all. Not only did Jesus challenge the corrupt empires of his age while embracing underclass and outcast people, he endured humiliation, suffering and death in doing so.
Some sources say the feast of Christ the King also gave new impetus to Catholic social teachings at a time when different nations were rebuilding after the first world war. Who will take the lead now to build up the kin-dom of God on earth? To whom do we turn? Soldiers? Politicians? Money? God?
There is evidence that things are not right in this country never mind the world. It is easy to blame elected officials. We are impatient. How hard is it for us to admit we are part of the problem? New York Times columnist Bob Herbert thinks we have no will when he writes, “America will never get its act together until we recognize how much trouble we are really in, and how much effort and shared sacrifice is needed to stop the decline.”  This seems to be good advice for any one of us who belongs to any organization or institution be it religious or secular — membership has no privileges.
Like the good thief in the gospel, we continue to proclaim Christ as the shepherd king, a companion who walks by our side, who laughs and cries with us along the way. By doing so we also recognize that all people have rights to every possibility life has to offer. We do not stand by gridlocked, watching while other kingdoms, promising to save us, deceive us and rob us of our pride, dignity and resources. Here at St. Vincent’s we try hard to give credence to our baptism by being pro-active, reaching out to everyone, especially those who are having a difficult time living. We declare “hospitality here is without borders.”
Next week we begin a new Advent season as our country slowly crawls out of a deep recession and joins other nations in worrying about the economy and security. It is a time of hope and great expectations — not only of a savior-king — but also of the citizens who live in the kin-dom, you and me.
1 Flanagan, John. Ranger’s Apprentice – Book 8 – The Kings of Clonmel (NY: Philomel) 2010. See also http://www.rangersapprentice.com
2 In the encyclical of Pius XI, Quas Primas (“In the first”) December 11, 1925
3 Pilch, John. The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle C (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1997) 167-169
4 Herbert, Bob. “Hiding From Reality” in The New York Times, November 20, 2010, A19