Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 27, 2000
Why do we still call Christ a king?
By SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
Isn't the idea of Christ as King sort of meaningless today?
Perhaps in some ways it is as kings are pretty remote from our world of democracies. And besides, kingship has had some pretty negative connotations in the remote as well as in the recent past.
But in many ways, probably not as we tend to still honour kings/queens as well as their representatives. Look at the role Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson played at the Remembrance Day service in Ottawa.
I was at the Winspear Centre on Remembrance Day for the Requiem composed and performed to honour and remember our war dead. Before it began, we all stood while Lt.-Gov. Lois Hole walked in and took her special seat and the national anthem was played.
However, what is important is that we look at Christ's example, in order to re-think our ideas of what a king or queen really is. There are many titles given to Jesus in the Gospels as well as in subsequent centuries. Jesus seems to prefer the title Son of Man.
There are signs of kingship at the beginning of Jesus' life: the coming of the Magi and the gifts they brought in the Gospel of Matthew. The Apocalypse shows Jesus as king coming in the clouds in glory.
Twice in the Gospels, Jesus is explicitly referred to as king. The first time, when Pilate asks if he is king Jesus responds, "You say that I am a king, for this I came into the world to testify to the truth."
Jesus shows us by word and example who God is and the value of every person. In the synagogue at Nazareth, he reads the text of Isaiah: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord's year of favour," making it sort of his inaugural speech. Then he added, "this text is being fulfilled today even as you listen" (Luke 4:18-19, 21).
So what kind of a king do we see in the Gospels and who are his subjects? Jesus is a king who reaches out to the poorest, those most rejected by society, those needing healing of body and soul.
Among them, there were 12 ignorant and confused men, sinners, a woman who asked only for crumbs from his table, the sick, the blind, the crippled, women and men healed by his touch. These were the ones who heard his voice in their heads and believed in him and his kingdom.
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." He could have added, "But it is lived and practised in this world. Live from day to day the kind of sharing that I have given you as an example and my kingdom will be complete."
Since the poor (read, unwanted, brain-damaged, elderly, handicapped, prostitutes, etc.) are still with us, what are we doing today? Our institutions of old, schools, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, etc., were founded with the express purpose of living out Jesus' example.
Now, that fewer Catholic institutions exist, it's up to all of us to become involved in these works of mercy, for it seems, the numbers of the needs are vastly greater than ever. After 2,000 years of Christianity, how are we taking care of the members of Jesus' kingdom, his preferred subjects?
The second time Jesus is referred to as king is when the title of "king of the Jews" is place over his head on the cross. But here we see the unusual accoutrements of kingship; thorns as his crown, a cross as his royal throne, nakedness as his royal robes and love as his authority.
Jesus dies as he has lived, exercising his rule of compassion as he did during his ministry. He reaches out to others: he places his mother in the care of the disciple; he promises a place in his kingdom to the thief crucified with him; he forgives his executioners.
I have to conclude that the title of king is still appropriately used for Jesus - if it is understood and lived in its true sense as Jesus lived and proclaimed it. This is the challenge the feast of Christ the King presents to each of us today.