Solemnity of Christ the King – C November 21st, 2010

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There are kings throughout history of fairy tale and legend, even kings of musical genre, like Elvis, the King of rock ‘n’ roll or B.B King, the king of blues, but our feast today is to celebrate the Cosmic King, Jesus the Christ.

In December 1925, Pope Pius XI wrote the encyclical Quas Primas to inaugurate, this feast day. It would seem the main reason he did so was to address the deeply troubled masses of Italy, many of whom supported the fascist movement led by Il Duce (dictator), Benito Mussolini, and King Victor Emmanuel III. It was likely hoped that by introducing and celebrating the image of Christ the King, there would awaken in the faithful the difference between legitimate and abusive authority and power and lead them to choose Christ’s way of peace above all others.

In this Sunday’s second reading from the letter to the Colossians we hear an invitation to give thanks for Christ whose power for love, redemption, forgiveness and peace “have first place in everything”. We hear the noble character of a just and legitimate power and authority: “Christ is the image of the invisible God, the first- born of creation; for in him all things g have been created through him and for him. Christ is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1).

The litany of praise for Christ’s primacy continues and then we hear, “For in Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through hi, God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” In this lays the paradox for those Christ’s way. Sharing in Christ’s reconciliation and peace with the world involves letting go of our own expectations and agendas and being transformed into Christ with a willingness to “shed blood” literally or figuratively, for the good of the world. The leader/King we celebrate wears a crown of thorns, a purple cloak of mockery, and his blood flows out for us including all of creation.

The gospel reading according to Luke reveals more clearly to us the contrast between true and false power. The leaders, soldiers and even one of the criminals hanging at his side scoff at and mock Jesus: “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” False power resorts to self-centered violence, degradation and terror to maintain a false peace. Jesus surrenders his own well being and peace to give peace and true justice to the world.

Whether or not we are able or willing to relate to the image or metaphor of “king” is less significant than understanding, choosing and celebrating the source of legitimate power and authority in our own lives – the power and authority that comes from a generous self-giving, non-violent, compassionate, forgiving, reconciling, redeeming way of life. The way of Jesus is beckoning us.