34th Sunday in OT / Feast of Christ the King / C / 2019
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
We celebrate today the Feast of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the Church’s liturgical year, the culmination of all the Sundays we have celebrated in this Cathedral.
Think of this Sunday as the end of a long procession, where the most important person is the last to appear: a bishop, or a pope, or a king or queen. It is the place of honor—and, in Christianity, it has an even more important meaning: the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. We have a different king—and the difference is at the heart of this feast.
As Americans, we may not warm to the idea of a king. After all, that is what our Revolutionary War was all about. But the title "king" for Christ does seem appropriate—better than "President Jesus" or "Prime Minister Jesus." The "kingship" of Christ speaks to his universal reign—his authority over all time and peoples and places.
And yet, this "kingship" must be properly understood, and our three readings today help us understand the unique qualities of Christ’s kingship—and the importance of this feast in our liturgical year.
The first reading is from the Second Book of Samuel, a book that tells the story of two kings—Saul and David—and how the kingship passed from Saul to David.
King Saul is in the north (Israel), and David is in the south (Hebron). The northern tribes come to David and want him as their king. When David is anointed king, he draws together the north and the south into a united kingdom. King David, then, is the unifier of Israel—a symbol of unity, one kingship over all.
This unity foreshadowed a greater unity that Israel longed for, spoken by the prophets: that one day, a great king, a Messiah, would unify not only the 12 tribes, but the entire world—that one day, all people would stream to Jerusalem, the "city of peace," as one
people united in peace. That Messiah is Jesus Christ, the new temple, who draws "all people to himself." Jesus is the sign and source of all unity—and that brings us to our second reading . . .
. . . from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians—a magnificent hymn of praise for all that God has done for us.
And what has God done for us? He has given us Jesus Christ, who "has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of light." In Jesus, the cosmic battle against evil is won. In Jesus, all of our dysfunction has been nailed to the cross. Our hatred, our violence, our sins—all destroyed through the power of love and forgiveness—which brings us to the Gospel . . .
. . . where we find our king—our servant king—on the cross. It is a startling image for a king! As we recall, there was nothing more shameful and painful than the Roman torture of crucifixion.
But our king is different, not like the kings of this world. Our king reigns from a cross, not a golden throne. Our king has come to serve, not to be served—a man of sorrows whose sacrifice has saved us.
When we hear the words, "Do this in memory of me," we know that we are being called to that same service, that same sacrifice, that same love as our servant-king.
Christ the King: the one who unites us, defends us, and loves us to the end.