Ez 34:11-12,15-17; 1Cor 15:20-26, 28; Matt 25:31-46
JESUS CHRIST IS GOD AND KING
Today is the 34th Sunday in ordinary time of church calendar, and the last Sunday of Year A. Next Sunday will be the First Sunday of Advent. Today, also, we celebrate the Solemnity of CHRIST THE UNIVERSAL KING. He is KING because he is GOD. We are celebrating Jesus who is God and King of all kings. Repeatedly in the gospels, Jesus refers to himself as God and King. In today’s gospel reading, he point to himself as “the Son of Man who comes in HIS GLORY, and all the angels with him; he sits upon his GLORIOUS THRONE, and all the nations assembled before him” (Cf. Matt 25:31-32). Furthermore, in today’s second reading, talking about Jesus Christ as God and King, St. Paul describes him as “handing over his Kingdom to his God and Father”. Paul proclaims further that the authority of Christ extends over “every sovereignty and every authority and power”. In fact, Jesus “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death”. (Cf. 1Cor 15:24-26).
1. IS JESUS KING OR NOT?
Yes, Jesus is King! As mentioned above, throughout his life and teaching, the argument as to whether Jesus is King came up repeatedly. Once, after he had fed a crowd of over 5000 people with only five loaves and two fish, the people wanted to “take him by force and make him King.” (John 6:15) Jesus would have none of it. So, he ran away. Then at his trial, as found in John’s gospel, Pilate asked Jesus if he was a King. Quite uncharacteristically, Jesus replied, “Yes, I am a King. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). On the one hand, he did not want to be a King. And here, he is declaring himself king! This apparent contradiction is resolved by what Jesus further said to Pilate, “My Kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36). If he is king, therefore, what kind of KING is Jesus?
2. JESUS IS A SERVANT-KING
When you think of kings and royalty, we imagine crowns and rich robes, attendants and regal surroundings. Not so with the king we are talking about today! Jesus is a king who turns up side the kingly expectations of the world around him. Our king is HUMBLE. He is a servant-king. At his birth, he entered the world among shepherds, rides into his glory on a donkey (not on a warrior’s horse); his throne is the cross, with thorns as his crown. His glory shines in suffering; his greatest might is seen in forgiveness. Even when he hangs on the cross (which is his throne), he is hang between two thieves. He is humiliated and crucified. He hangs on the cross with no one to turn to. All his followers and friends are leaving him. They are afraid that they might also be crucified like their Lord and master. This king does not meet their own idea of what a king is. They are expecting a Messiah who would liberate them from the domination of foreign powers and here comes Jesus being humiliated and degraded. The people and the soldiers throw mockery and insults at Jesus, the “king”, but characteristically, he responds with peace and a prayer for them: “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” What a king with a difference!
3. JESUS IS A UNIVERSAL KING!
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mtt 28:18). All power belongs to Jesus. Therefore, the kingdom of Jesus is made up of people who “come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God” (Lk 13:29). It is not the reserve of any particular people. As pointed out already, the authority of Christ extends over “every sovereignty and every authority and power” (1Cor 15:25). By this, he makes it clear that the Kingdom of Jesus excludes no single person, no single nations, or particular people.
It is an all-inclusive kingdom, gathering all people from all corners of the earth. His reign has no geographical limit. It transcends all space. It cuts across all nations, the earth itself, all planets, galaxies, and the entire universe and beyond. He is the Christ “at whose name every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that He is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11). In the ‘song of the Lamb’ found in the book of Revelation, we read in reference to Jesus: “Just and true are your ways, O king of all nations”. (Rev. 15:3) This means, therefore, that no King, no emperor or president has ever reigned like that. None can ever reign like Christ. None will ever reign like him!
4. HIS KINGDOM IS OUTSIDE THIS WORLD
Standing before Pilate, at his trial, Jesus asserts: “My Kingdom does not BELONG TO THIS WORLD” (John 18:36), that is not to be understood to mean that the Kingdom of Jesus is not IN THIS WORLD. Neither is it saying that the world is not part of his Kingdom. Rather, it means that THE KINGDOM OF JESUS IS NOT LIKE ANY KINGDOM IN THIS WORLD. For one thing, it is not a PHYSICAL OR MATERIAL KINGDOM. It is rather a SPIRITUAL KINGDOM. It is to be found in the hearts of men and women. In that sense, it is probably better to speak of the REIGN (RULE) of Jesus than of his KINGDOM. As king, Jesus reigns in the hearts of men and women.
5. HIS REIGN IS A SPIRITUAL “REIGN”
This means that his rule transcends all time and space, unlike the Kingdoms of this world. Every reign, can be marked by a date, and time. In this sense, we can tell when each reign began, and when it shall end (or when it ended). People living at the time of every reign can say with precision when the rule started and when it ended. The reign of Jesus is ETERNAL. Announcing the birth of Jesus, St. Luke tells us that “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end” (Lk 1:33). That is to say, his reign is TIMELESS. It exists outside time. It was there before time began. It will still be there when time will be no more. His kingdom is called “paradise”, and that is why he promised the good thief in Luke’s gospel: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43). His kingdom is the destiny of all his followers, when they all die. Yes, we will have eternal life in his heavenly kingdom!
6. THE CONDITION FOR BEING PART OF THE KINGDOM OF JESUS
Indeed, there is a condition for anyone to inherit a place in that heavenly kingdom. When we pray in the OUR FATHER “your kingdom come”, it is because we want to start living his kingdom here and now. In order to begin establishing that Kingdom here on earth, St. Matthew tells us: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me’” (Mtt 23:31-36). Indeed, we can help establish the reign of Christ here on earth by our acts of charity to the needy, that is: by feeding the hungry, giving water to thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick and those in prison. This is the calling of all Christians, to establish the kingdom of Christ on earth here and now, so that when our earthly pilgrimage is ended, we may inherit the eternal kingdom in its fullness.
7. WHO ARE THE SUBJECTS OF JESUS’ KINGDOM?
In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul tells us that God has “delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Col 1:13). By this, he is announcing the membership and the citizenship of all believers in the Kingdom of Jesus. The reign of Jesus is peculiar in the sense of its subjects. Those who belong to this kingdom are those who CHOOSE TO BELONG TO IT. They do not gain citizenship of the kingdom of Jesus by their birth. It is unlike the Kingdom or territory in which one happens to be born or where one is living. Being born in a place or territory, one has no option as to whether to belong or not to belong to that territory. For instance, if one is born a Cameroonian, one would never be able to change that fact of being a Cameroonian–born. But where the reign of Jesus is concerned, one has a choice. One can choose to belong to it or not. That is why Jesus tells Pilate, during his trial: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (Jn 18:37). Those who choose to belong to the Kingdom of Christ are those who heed his appeal: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mtt 3:2). It is to such persons that Jesus addresses these words of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mtt 5:3). To be “poor in spirit” is a choice. It is not a given.
8. HIS KINGDOM IS A KINGDOM OF TRUTH
One way of being a subject of the kingdom or the reign of Jesus is to belong TO THE TRUTH. In the gospel of John, Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). In Jn.10:10 Jesus says: “I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full”. Again, he says in Jn. 18:37; “I came into this world to bear witness to the truth, and all who are on the side of truth, listen to my voice”. Moreover, in Jn.8:31-32 Christ says, “If you are my disciples, you will learn the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Those who do not belong to the Lord hate the truth. That is why some politicians, economists, scammer, power mongers etc. build their power on lies. Their kingdom is the kingdom of this world. They say “yes” when they mean no. They declare “white” in the place of black. They pronounce “peace” when they mean war. In our world today, people seem to lie as they breathe, because they want posts/big appointments and curry favour with authority. Anyone who lies does not belong to this kingdom of Christ. We must be committed to the truth, uphold it and live it in our lives, whatever the cost; because it would cost us an awful lot of challenges, persecution, the cross. That is what Jesus’ own pursuit of the truth fetched him. It will cost us no less.
9. A CHALLENGE TO SELF-EXAMINATION
The solemnity of Christ the King is a moment for us to reaffirm our faith in Jesus Christ who is God and King. It calls for true humility on the part of his followers. The feast also challenges us, Christians, to examine our conduct towards the TRUTH, because our citizenship of the kingdom or reign of Jesus depends on that commitment.
My dear brothers and sisters, everything being equal, we would be processing round this town with Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. It is not his SYMBOL or his REPRESENTATIVE that we carry in procession. IT IS CHRIST HIMSELF. It is the same Christ who walked the streets of Nazareth, healed the sick, and cured the lame and the blind. It is this same Christ who is going to walk through our town today. He the same Christ over there in the Tabernacle. As you go on procession, I invite everyone to endeavor to look at Jesus in the face and put all your problems unto him. He is the one who said “Come to me all you who labour and are over-burdened and I will give you rest.” Many of us sitting here may have all kinds of problems. Therefore, I recommend that you do the following: A) Choose to belong to kingdom of Christ, B) Acknowledge him as your God and King, and C) Put your problems before Christ the King and he will help you.
However, let us not pretend in this exercise of processing with our King through the streets. If anyone knows that he/she has another “king”, other than Christ, let him/her not waste time making a public show. If anyone has some small bag round his/her waist or is involved in ocultic practices, or dabbling with the devil, let him/her not waste time, dancing with Jesus today. We advise that when the procession moves, let him/her take the side road and escape back to his/her earthly kingdom of lies and death, of injustice, hatred and war. In our adoration, today, we want to show the world, who we believe in. WE BELIEVE IN CHRIST, OUR GOD AND, THE KING OF KINGS AND THE LORD OF LORDS.
May Jesus, the King of kings, give us the grace to accept him in our lives, put him first in everything we do, so that when our earthly span is done, he may welcome us in his Kingdom, where he lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.