Sunday November 21st : Feast of Christ the King “Endings……and beginnings” – Sunday Reflection by Brian Maher OMI
Christ the King
When I was growing up getting into the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) was difficult enough, but the pathway was clear. The idea seemed to be that if you said your prayers and didn’t sin, then when you died you got into the Kingdom of Heaven. Our life on earth was presented as a kind of test to see if we were worthy of Heaven. When we died, God, on his Kingly Throne would judge us worthy or unworthy and welcome us to Heaven or send us to Hell. At the end of the World, all humankind would be gathered together so that God, as King of the Universe, could demonstrate to us his justice and mercy with a very public general judgement, followed by eternal reward or eternal punishment.
For a child it was not difficult to understand, and with teachers more than happy to demonstrate Hell to us by inviting us to hold our finger in the flame of a candle “for just two seconds” it certainly taught us to obey our parents and teachers, be nice to our little brothers and sisters, not steal or tell lies and go to Mass on Sundays. We trooped to confession every two weeks and confessed all of them, ‘just to be sure’, and we were reasonably happy we still had our passport stamped for Heaven!
It was only later, as I became an adult, and was encouraged to read the Gospels myself and come to know the life and words of Jesus, that I discovered what I was taught was not the full story. I learned that Jesus said at the very start of his ministry – when he was baptised in the Jordan by John – “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Near? It seemed very far away when I was a child. Then, in Luke’s Gospel I read, “…For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you.” Within me? That means that the Kingdom is already here and that certainly knocked by childhood understanding for six!
It was only much later that I reconciled what seemed to be a contradiction in the Gospels and realised that I was only seeing two extremes of what the Kingdom might be, and in between, as with all serious and complex questions, there are a whole host of options, nuances and steps we can take to get the complete picture.
In a very real way the Kingdom is near and within me, by virtue of Christ’s victory over death and the sending of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.
But it is also true to say that that Kingdom is not yet complete. In some sense, Jesus ushered it in, inaugurated it, witnessed to it in every word he said and every action he did, and then gave it to us at the ascension saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations…..and know that I am with you always, to the end of time.”
So instead of just saying my prayers and avoiding sin, the Risen Lord, Christ the King, sends me out to actively make the Kingdom visible and real……by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick. We will be judged, not by what sins we avoided, but what opportunities we took.
That is one way of understanding today’s Feast of Christ the King. There is another way too, maybe easier to understand, but no less rich and beautiful.
This Feast is about endings and beginnings. It is the last Sunday of the Church year. Another year has passed, with all of its joys and sorrows, ups and downs. And at the end of the Church Year, Christ who conquered death and rose again, sits with the Father and Spirit as King of life and death; King of all creation; truly, Christ the King.
We end the Church Year, with all of its worries and anxieties, not in fear but with boundless hope. Christ is Risen and now reigns as the true King.
That’s how we finish the year…..but next week we begin again the season of Advent, when that King once more becomes a tiny, helpless, homeless child, born in poverty but surrounded by love, and once again begins a journey with each one of us. If we can but open our hearts and truly hear what he says to us, he will lead us through the towns and villages he visited, once more healing and forgiving, feeding the hungry and curing the sick. He will bring us, once again in 2022, through the pain, suffering and terrible injustice of the Cross …. to Easter Sunday, when once more he will Rise from the dead, taking his place again with God, as Christ the King.
Endings and beginnings…..but the same Kingdom and the same Jesus, Risen from the dead, Christ the King.
Let’s pray that through Advent and into 2022 we may all witness to the joy, peace, gentleness and compassion of the Gospel, so that the prayer of Jesus himself, that “thy Kingdom come”, may be realised through our words and actions.
Brian is the director of Oblate Partners in Mission and is based at Denis Hurley House, Quex Road, Kilburn. If you have any comments, questions or thoughts on this scripture reflection, please feel welcome to email Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for reading and reflecting with us!
Yes, I am a king
‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’
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