Christ the King Sunday – November 22, 2015 – The Illusive Kingdom of God
Building up the kingdom of God on earth is a very difficult task. In addition to the inequities and injustices that confront us in our own communities, unconventional warfare strategies on a global level have rendered prospects for world peace almost inconceivable.
Human history, of course, is full of conflict and war. From biblical times up to now the battle for power, wealth and natural resources as well as domination over innocent people, have been unwanted staples of life. Pope Pius XI established today’s feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, at a time of great global turmoil and tumultuous shifts in the governance of countries. The pope himself was a prisoner in the Vatican because the Kingdom of Italy invaded and dismantled the papal states.
Pius XI in part sought to subject secular leaders to the divine initiative and authority of God. Some commentators say he also wanted to free the church from civic domination, alleviate the anti-clericalism that was rampant in Europe and restore the right of the church to govern people in matters pertaining to salvation. That may have been a “medieval way of thinking.” What does the feast mean for us today?
In this morning’s gospel, attributed to John, we find Jesus being questioned by a government official about his alleged royal status. This was a claim that would have been considered a threat to the Roman Empire.
However, Jesus of Nazareth was not interested in calling himself a king anymore than he was intent on starting a new religion. He was a humble itinerant Jewish teacher. Like many other women and men in history Jesus prophetically offered an alternative way of living based on caring relationships and mutual love.
For Jesus, people were not objects in a political, geographical or even a religious kingdom. Rather, because human beings are created as the image of God, there can be no structured boundaries, xenophobic laws or religious prejudices that deny people access to the realm of God.
We must be cautious, however, not to boast that our brand of Christianity is better than the other faiths practiced on this planet. Our doctrines do not constitute the only lock and key combination to achieve wholesome, dignified relationships with others. What matters is that we respect people of other faiths and work with them to achieve peace.
Our belief system is not based on power or wealth nor on arrogance or acquiescence. Our scriptural base prompts uncompromising love for ourselves and for others who, although different in color and creed, race and region, are also members of God’s fragile family.
This fundamental option, to treat one another fairly, is what prompted members of our parish to lobby with other citizens for a fair wage last week. Our compassion for others also encourages us to take tags from our Giving Trees and to continue to support our food pantry and other ministries.
Also, donations to the Campaign for Human Development today will help create local and global initiatives to fund housing, education and the development of job opportunities.
Establishing powerful kingdoms, nation states or caliphates on earth that suppress and destroy human beings is immoral. To employ a rhetoric of fear that could deprive desperate and innocent people the opportunity to seek refuge is reprehensible.
In 1943 ten Norwegians risked their lives to thwart a Nazi nuclear bomb project. On the base of a statue honoring 96 year old Joachim Ronneberg it reads: “Peace and Freedom are not to be taken for granted.” In a recent interview Ronneberg worried that there is still a reluctance to understand “it is not a stable world and that peace is not guaranteed.”
By celebrating this feast of Christ the King of the Universe we are saying to ourselves and to the world there are alternative paths to freedom and peace. By maintaining our belief that God has entrusted us to care for one other and our planet we can continue to build up the kingdom of God here on earth.