Sunday Scriptures — Solemnity of Christ the King, Year C, Nov. 20, 2016

On the 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, which is the last Sunday before Advent, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. While the inclusion of this observance in the Roman calendar is a fairly recent development, the idea of Christ as a king is found in the gospels. At one point the disciples ask Jesus,”Lord, will you now restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus tells Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” In today’s gospel the “good thief” being crucified with Jesus pleads, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The common expectation was that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David and would restore the independence of Israel and be its king.
The first reading — 2 Samuel 5:13 — is an account of David’s becoming King of Israel. He has three qualifications which Jesus also has: 1.) he is one of them; 2.) he has led them to victory; and 3.) God has chosen him to be king.
The responsorial psalm — Ps 122:1-5 — doesn’t speak directly of kingship, but it refers the the royal house of David and expresses joy in being on the way to Jerusalem, the royal capital.
The second reading — Colossians 1:12-20 — speaks of Christ’s kingdom and then tells of Christ’s primacy in all things and the peace-bringing effect of his crucifixion and death for all creation.
The gospel — Luke 23:35-43 — tells us that Jesus was accused of claiming to be King of the Jews. The inscription above his head proclaims the charge, and the soldiers refer to it tauntingly. It’s notably that for them, the title implies divinity, or at least the power to work miracles — an implication also of Messiahship as understood by the “rulers” at the beginning of the passage and later by the first criminal. The second criminal, the “good thief,” has faith that Jesus is a king who will rule despite his crucifixion. Jesus’ response, referring to Paradise as his and the thief’s destiny, recalls the words in the Gospel of John, where he tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world.
It is clear from all this the Jesus’ kingship, his Messiahship, is not political, despite the common expectation of his contemporaries. His kingship is not the direction of governments nor the making of laws for civil society. It is a rule over the conduct of his loyal believers. He is King through the obedience of Christians to his teachings. Their lives, of course, have an effect on society as a whole, making it more the way God intends it to be. Christians often tend to think that the laws of civil society themselves ought to reflect Christian values. When believers form a large part of the population, it often happens that that is the case. But we should not think that this should always be the case. The laws and culture of a nation may be more or less consistent with Jesus’ teachings. But Christ’s kingship does not require anything of civil law; it requires that he reign in our hearts. We need to exemplify the humility of our king, and avoid coercion.

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