Jesus’ inclusive and cosmic kingship


Balbronn_Temple33.JPG

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King, the last feast day before Advent and the start of a new church year. The Gospel reading proclaims Christ as king but reminds us that this kingship is not one of political rule but rather a different kind of kingdom. The other readings contribute to enhancing the meaning of that kingship: one with a universal reign over all (“even those who pierced him”); He who rules the dead as well as the living; the Alpha and the Omega (Rv 1:5-8).

Although Messianic expectations at the time of Jesus’ birth varied, the idea that the Messiah (Christ, “anointed one”) would come to restore the kingdom of Israel was common. In Acts, even after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples are still asking about it. Yet Jesus’ kingship is not about the political restoration of an earthly kingdom, like that of David and Solomon, as today’s reading with a conversation between Pilate and Jesus makes clear (Jn 18:33-37). Although the Gospel authors struggle to find ways to understand and to articulate that rule means,  Jesus’ kingship turns out to be quite unconventional.

We cannot separate entirely the kingship of Christ in heaven from the manner in which Jesus lived as a human being. The cosmic aspects of Christ are intimately intertwined with the human aspects of Jesus.

Jesus’ kingship is inclusive, inclusive of the dead as well as the living, inclusive of all generations, inclusive of those who loved him and faithfully stood by the Cross and also those who pierced him. We can see what that inclusiveness of kingship looks like even from the Cross, when Jesus forgives those who harmed him, and loves them instead. He also welcomes the thieves on the crosses to be the first into the kingdom of heaven. The thieves were sinners, but loved sinners, not among Jesus’ followers (that is, not confessed Christians), but welcomed into heaven first.

Jesus’ king-ship is also related to his wide sense of kin-ship. Although he loves his family, he says that those who do the Father’s will are his “mother and brothers” (Mt 12:49). Those who care for the sick, hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, the stranger, are also those who did the same for Jesus (Mt 25: 31-46). Jesus is with and among the poor and marginalized. Thus Jesus’ kingship is paradoxically found dwelling in those whom nobody thinks of as kings, those who are considered lowly by the world’s standards.

Jesus’ kingship is one of servitude. As my parish priest reminded us at Mass yesterday, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples to show that to be a king one first must be able to serve. His kingship is not one of “lording it over” others but rather serving them and asking them to do the same as they move into leadership in the church.

Jesus’ kingship is also cosmic. Christ is Alpha and the Omega, that is, the beginning and the end, the first things and the last things, from creation to the end of days. The Christ runs through all of being. Christ is a mystery that does not remain wholly distant from us, but into which we are invited to enter through personal prayer and community with all creation. As Pope Francis writes in Laudato Si: “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God” (84).

All of these aspects of Christ’s kingship also help us better to understand how we are to be leaders who follow his model: we are to serve, to remember our kinship with one another, and to recognize our own connection to and participation in this bigger, cosmic Love.

Happy Feast of Christ the King!

 

*Image above is licensed for public use under Creative Commons. Original available on Wikimedia at:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Paintings_of_Christ_the_King#/media/File:Balbronn_Temple33.JPG

Painting is from Balbronn Church, Balbronn, France