34th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Feast of Christ the King
by Fr. Jack McArdle
GOSPEL: John 18: 33-37
Jesus leaves neither Pilate nor us in any doubt that he is a king, that is why he came, but his kingdom is not the sort of kingdom that could be understood by someone with a worldly mind-set.
Princess Diana was much loved and admired in her own country and throughout the world. Her tragic and untimely death sent waves of shock throughout the world. She had a very troubled life in many ways, especially when her free spirit came into conflict with the strict formalities of life among the Royal family. She broke ranks on many issues. One of the most famous of those was when she was interviewed on television, and when she spoke openly about her life, her problems, her loves, and her hopes. Her marriage was over, but she was asked if, perhaps, she might still become Queen of England, even if she and her husband were no longer living as husband and wife. Her answer was treated with various levels of surprise, disdain, and bemusement. She said that her ambition was not to be Queen of England, but to be queen in the hearts of the British people. It was only after her tragic death that it was acknowledged that she was, indeed, enthroned as queen within the hearts of many thousands.
We have come to the end of the Church year. We celebrated Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. The Readings throughout the year have been all-embrasive. No matter what way your year went; no matter how many times, and in how many ways you may have failed, we conclude our year with the celebration of Jesus as Universal King of the world. That is one thing that has not changed, and that never will. It is like a foreshadowing of the end of time. At that time, the kingdom of the world, and the kingdom of Satan will come to an end, and Jesus and his Kingdom will stand alone, with eternal victory. "And his Kingdom will have no end" were the words spoken about him even before he was born.
Yes, Jesus did come to be King. His idea of Kingdom was very much the opposite of what the world thought. With them, kingdom meant power, destruction of enemies, and conquering new lands. It would be just impossible for someone with a worldly mind-set to understand the sort of Kingdom that Jesus had in mind. They ended up crowning him with crowns, and treating him as a fool, because that's exactly what he looked like to them. Jesus said that his Kingdom belonged to little children, that the greatest in his Kingdom were those who served, and that all power in his Kingdom would be the power of the Spirit. This is where the essential difference was, i.e., the source of the Power "The Kingdom, and Power, and the Glory are yours forever and ever."
The person of truth is a person who is free. Such a person is not bound by the webs if lies and intrigue. They enjoy the freedom of the children of the Kingdom. "The glory of God is man/woman fully alive" write Irenaeus, many years before. They are free from the tyrannies of Satan, and from trying to conform to the pressures of the world, with its false gods of wealth, power, and influence. "If the Spirit sets you free, you will be free indeed."
The Kingdom of God is so much more than just a nice concept. It is a reality, and it is now. By entering into that Kingdom, everything else will be added to me. It is like an embassy in a foreign land, in which I can find refuge. Just as the embassy is in this country, but it belongs to some other country, so the Kingdom of Jesus is in this world, but it does not belong to this world. It does not have the values of this world. Wealth, power, influence are not important. The weak are strong, and the powerless have power. Every person has equal citizenship and equal rights, and even the most disabled are here with as much right as the greatest genius that ever lived.
In the one simple prayer that Jesus taught us, he told us to ask the Father "Thy Kingdom come". It is the subject of our prayer, but it must always be the subject of our actions. The Kingdom of God is built up by thousands of little acts, much of which are hidden, and go unknown. Every one of us can involved every day of our lives in building up the Kingdom. It is not actually anything we say or do that builds the Kingdom. It is the Spirit within what we say and do. "Lord, may your Spirit within me touch the hearts of those I meet today, either through the words I say, the prayers I pray, the life I live, or the very person that I am".
Only those who love the truth will recognise and understand what Jesus is saying. If I don't want to hear the truth, then, like Pilate, I'll turn and walk away. Original sin was based on a lie. The Kingdom, therefore is built on truth. Only those who walk in the truth can live in the Kingdom. Jesus said the he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no other way of getting to the Father. The Kingdom now, is what we call heaven, later on.
There were a few occasions in the gospel when the people wanted to carry Jesus shoulder-high and make him their king. When Herod heard about the baby that was born who would be king one day, he felt very threatened indeed. They always seemed to get it wrong. As if Jesus could be a threat to anyone. The people wanted to make him king, but that meant driving out their Roman enemies, and regaining the freedom of the kingdom of Israel. While the people do not take him and make him king, those same people have to accept him as king, and allow him be king. I speak here of being King as he chooses. He can set up his Kingdom within me. I can use the rules of the Kingdom as guide-lines for my life: JESUS IS LORD ; EVERYONE IS OF EQUAL STANDING WITHIN THAT KINGDOM; AND THE TOTAL POWER FOR KINDOM-LIVING COMES FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT.
As you think of the soldiers falling on their knees, in mockery, before him, why don't you fall on your knees today before him? He asks you : "Who do you say that I am?" Lord, you are my King, you are my Lord, and you are my God. I give you my heart that you may establish your Kingdom there. May my heart come from being the manger to being your throne. Keep me, Lord, in your ways, and guide my feet along the paths of truth…………
It is difficult to live in this world, and not belong to it. It is difficult not to be contaminated by the evil and materialism that surrounds me. "We have not here a lasting city, but we wait for one that is to come….". We are just passing through this world, and our destination is elsewhere. The Kingdom of God now will become heaven later on. There is nothing I will get when I die that I am not offered now. I have the Father, the Mother, the Spirit, the peace, joy, life in abundance, etc. I have to learn to live in the Kingdom now. This even includes learning a new language. Riches, wealth, success, etc, etc., are not as the world defines them. I have to develop the eyes, the mind, and the heart of the Christian, so that I can see things differently. Jesus tells us that our names are registered as citizens of heaven. In other words, we have a passport, a visa, and a green card for heaven. We are already citizens of the Kingdom. Let us live and rejoice in the victory now…. Let the party begin……!
The king was a king, and a proper king indeed. The fool was a fool, and an equally proper fool. One day the king handed the fool a stick, with the words "Take this stick, and mind it with great care. If, however, you meet someone who is a greater fool than yourself, give the stick to that person."
The years passed. The king grew old, and was on his death-bed. He summoned his family, his courtesans, his army chiefs, and his faithful fool. He told them he was about to embark on a long journey, from which he would not return. He would be setting out on that journey shortly, and he wanted to take leave of them. There was great consternation and weeping. In the midst of it all, the fool approached the king, and asked "Majesty, on all previous journeys on which you set out, either within this country, or to another country, you always made detailed preparations for the journey. You sent soldiers and couriers ahead to prepare the way for your coming, and to ensure that everything was in readiness. Pray, then, tell me, what preparation have you made for this, the longest and most important journey of your whole life?" "Alas", said the king, "I have made no preparations for this journey. I kept putting off doing anything, and now it is too late. I just don't have time." "In that case, Majesty, take this stick, because, at last I have found a fool much greater than myself!"
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