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Home : Faith/Spirituality : Columns
Christ: A King Hanging from a Cross

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013
Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43

For most of us, the meaning of “king” is rooted in the modern view of the British royal family and the fantasy of fairy tales and Disney movies. Romantic? Yes. Powerful? Not really. To truly catch the significance of this feast day and today’s Gospel, one needs to cast them in the context of Jesus’ time and the expectation that the Jews had of a messianic king.

Those who stood at the foot of Jesus had a definite idea of what it would mean if Jesus was indeed a king. Jesus would be the ruler of an empire--certainly more powerful than Caesar, and most certainly not a helpless victim of Caesar's power.

He would be powerful. He would be victorious. He would be the king of all. There would be royal robes and a crown.

Instead Jesus hangs before us wearing only our sins. His throne is a cross of wood. His rule is forever: yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is merciful and compassionate. He watches all and he rules all. He promised life and he gives life. He is a king beyond our imagining.

Again and again, throughout the Gospels, Jesus speaks of the coming of the kingdom in parables and compares it to a variety of experiences common to the people. Through the parables, we are invited to the feast of the kingdom and learn that we must give up everything to gain the kingdom. Through the parables we discover the fate of the unprepared and learn the rewards that come with using our talents. St. Paul tells us “the kingdom of God is…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). We recognize the kingdom in the presence of Jesus and discover it at the Eucharist. We hear Christ telling his apostles to proclaim the kingdom. All of this partially reveals the meaning of kingdom.

Unlike the kingdoms of this world, the one we announce belongs to the poor and the lowly. Our king is wherever the Church is…seeking out the hungry, the thirsty, those who are persecuted, and those in need. We find him ministering to abused and battered children, caring for those in shelters for the homeless, reaching out to the alienated, acting as advocate for the victims of injustice, preaching peace and equality. The voices of those who think these are activities unworthy of a king also say these should not be activities of the Church.

Christ the King does not fit into the traditional mold of royalty. Neither ought those who follow him expect to be protected and shielded from the cares of those less fortunate. At this Eucharist, we remember that Christianity is a call to be a “royal people” in the same sense that Jesus is king. Like him, we will pay the price of associating with those who seem to be unworthy of royal company. Like the thief who shared Jesus’ company on the cross, we will be with him for all eternity.

This is the kingdom established through Christ’s cross. This is the kingdom where sinners are invited to the table.

Related Links:
• Liturgical readings

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