Friday, November 22, 2013

A Humble and Merciful King

 This Sunday we Catholics, along with several other Christian denominations, will celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.  This is a relatively new liturgical celebration given that it was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in an era of increasing nationalism and secularism. (Sound familiar?)  The message that the pope wanted to deliver was one of saying that there is a Power beyond that of the secular rulers, one to whom they are accountable, that their power was not the ultimate power. This message was vitally important in a world that was witnessing the rise of both communism and fascism, both of them totalitarian extremes that saw no need for God.

   In our own times, with slight nuances of meaning the same message is both timely and important. Our own society is becoming increasingly secularized, though the threat is nowhere near as great as it was in Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nonetheless in both the political realm and in our culture there is a powerful tendency on the part of many to want to push religion to the side.  I would suggest, however, that there is another dimension of this wonderful feast that is important for today.  That dimension is made clear when we ask, "What kind of King is Jesus Christ?"

    Christ's Kingship is nothing like that of any earthly king, nor is it like that of any earthly leader.  His is a kingship of humility and service, a kingship expressed in His own words, "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many." (Mt. 20:28) These words were spoken after reprimanding his own apostles for quibbling over who would be the first in His Kingdom.

    At a time where we see the abuse of power not only in politics, but in the Church herself, in business with things like the Madoff scandal and in society with stories of bullying being told everyday, be it in schools or sports locker rooms, the Kingship of Christ teaches us that true authority and power is exercised not be controlling others and putting them down, but by lifting them up and bringing the best out of them.

   I believe that Pope Francis is modelling this kind of leadership and authority.  I also believe that there are many in politics, in business, in sports as well as in families who exercise this kind of leadership.  This kind of authority, like Christ our King, is willing to die for those that they lead. They have that willingness because they they are motivated by love of God and love of those that they serve.

   Happy Feast of Christ the King!

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