34th Sunday in OT / B / 2018 / Christ the King
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
Today is the final Sunday of our Church’s liturgical year, a Sunday that we call Christ the King. I’ve often wondered how best to understand this Sunday. Sometimes what is most important comes last . . . is that the case here? And if it is important, how can we—who are not used to the notion of "kingship"—not only understand it but make it practical in our lives.
For many years I must admit I didn’t take much interest in Christ the King Sunday. As Americans, we don’t have a king. We have a president. We live in a Republic, not a kingdom. We fought off "kingship" in the Revolutionary War.
But theologically there are very good reasons to hold on to the notion of Jesus as a King, and not a president. A president we can elect—he or she is either "in" or "out" according to our vote.
But a king? A king has absolute power, dominion over all—he is "dominus"—Lord.
Given that background, how do we understand Jesus Christ? If Jesus were just another historical figure or a moral teacher—like Socrates or Abraham Lincoln—we would admire him, but we wouldn’t give our lives over to him!
But if we profess Jesus as Lord, as King, everything changes. Everything is different. Then we must turn our lives over to him—he becomes the center and focus of who we are. If we don’t, we’re just pretending to be Christian, we are just play-acting. There are no half measures. As C. S. Lewis once famously said, if we just invite Jesus into the "drawing room," a room we never use, but not into the rest of the house where we live—then Jesus is not really Lord. Jesus is not "Christ the King."
So, let’s make this a little more concrete. If Jesus is lord and king of our lives, what does that look like?
How about family life? If Jesus is "king" in my family life, it means I treat all family members with dignity and respect. All family members are an "end" and not a "means." Kids don’t use their parents, parents don’t use their kids—in the sense of "reliving" their own lives through their children. Letting the kids (perhaps adult kids) be themselves; and kids respecting their parents for who they are.
What does it mean in my professional life, in my workplace, that Jesus is "king"? It means that if I work for a company that asks me to do immoral things, I quit. If I’m asked to take advantage of someone, I won’t. It means I treat coworkers with respect. I don’t gossip. It means that I let people know I’m a Catholic. And so on.
What does it mean in my personal life if Jesus is "king"? It means that Jesus is beside me always, in every private moment. If we imagine Jesus beside us, would we do privately the things that we do? Remember what Sister in grade school said, "God is watching!" It also means that we take care of our bodies, we don’t abuse them with food, alcohol, drugs, sex. We get exercise. And so on.
And one last point: what does it mean that Jesus is "king" in my community relations? A book came out recently called, "Them: Why We Hate Each Other, and How to Heal" by Ben Sasse, Republican senator from Nebraska. Sasse addresses the issue of "loneliness" in our society, how distant we are from each other, how people don’t engage with each other. If Jesus is "king" in my life, I engage in my community, I involve myself with neighbors, I try to heal our fractured society. I attend church, I become part of a community, the social fabric of our society, and I invite others to join me.
Christ the King. It sounds so esoteric and theoretical. So abstract. And yet it is very practical and makes a difference.
Is Christ "king" in my life? What answer do I give?