Friday, November 20, 2015

Christ the King, All Three Years

I complain a lot about the modern lectionary and its various omissions (like two of the three Synoptic teachings on divorce), so in fairness when it does something well it should be commended. The Sunday readings operate on a three year cycle, and I was just noticing the breadth of images of Jesus the King given us for the Feast of Christ the King over the three year cycle.

Last year, In Year A, Jesus links his kingdom with the poor, and with those who care for them. During Pope Francis's visit to the U.S., on the same day he met with Congress, people who deal with budgets in the billions and who's decisions affect the whole world, and he met with the homeless and those who care for them. You decide which group matters more in Jesus's kingdom. Choose carefully, your life may depend on it.
Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
This year, Year B, Jesus teaches us how other-worldly his kingdom is. In confronting Pilate, Jesus teaches him and us that his kingdom is not of this world. Consequentially, those of us who want to be a part of Jesus's kingdom are not of this world.
Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?" Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say 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."
And finally, next year in Year C we will see how being a part of this kingdom, even being the king of this kingdom, does not exempt one from suffering. But again, to enter into this kingdom, you simply imitate the king and rely on his mercy.
The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
This kingdom that Jesus established is indeed, "not of this world," yet it is accessible from this world. Jesus's kingdom is the Catholic Church, which exists on earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven. The Church is the entry point into Jesus's kingdom. The poor have an easier time of it than the rest of us, but none of us are excluded if we but give up the things that tie us to this world and rely fully on Jesus Christ.

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