The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 24, 2019 – Year C
Readings: 2 Sm 5:1-3 / Ps 122 / Col 1:12-20 / Lk 23:35-43
by Father Jay Biber, Guest Celebrant
What an unexpected joy for me, on this last Sunday of this Year of Grace. You notice we wear white, because it’s joyous. We look forward to God’s great mercy, that divine mercy that we look forward to at the end of everything. Christ gathers everything that the Father gave Him – everything! To return it to the Father.
Although Thanksgiving is a civil feast, it’s a very important feast for us. It has a real sacred character to it, perhaps more than Christmas even, unfortunately. Here’s what I want to do in my front lawn, now that I’ve got my own house. I want to put in the front lawn: “Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis.” (It’s a college town; somebody’s going to understand that.) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” That’s the only thing that Christmas is about; everything else is derivative.
The Word became flesh. That same Word we’ll hear in Colossians today, as we look forward to the great King of the universe in glory. That’s the same one. That’s all Christ. And the Christ who was on the cross. The Christ who stepped into the footsteps of King David, the shepherd king. Israel of all countries would have a king, but what kind of resume did he bring? He was a shepherd. But that’s what God wanted for Israel: shepherd kings, serving the flock, not lording it over and dominating.
It’s a valuable thing for us, if we can really begin to count time like Catholics. Because we need to be willing to set ourselves apart a little bit from the society, the way it’s trending. I think that’s fairly safe to say. Most of us are uncomfortable in doing that. We’d rather do anything that set ourselves apart from something, because that might create conflict. But we’re going to need to get more and more used to it. And the way we count time, which disregards all borders, no matter where you live, no matter what you’re a citizen of, when you’re a Catholic, you count time in a certain way.
By marking that time and being conscious of it, being present to it, in a sense we begin to shape ourselves a little bit differently. We’re not running through the day clueless. We’re not running through the day “out of it,” but present to it, present to the graces of the day.
The cycle is the same every year. We celebrated Christ the King last year, looked forward to His coming in glory. And a week from today, last year we backed up thousands of years to be with the people of Israel as they first began to hope for the Messiah.
The cycle is basically the same every year. The readings change some, but the cycle’s basically the same. But you aren’t, because things have happened in your life this past year. So you begin to look at things differently, you begin to be shaped. It doesn’t matter how old you are, because once that moment of redemption touches, it changes everything that happens before it. That’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how young you are. Once that great moment of redemption touches, you look at it and say, “It’s all good. I can be grateful for it all.”
So I have a suggestion for this week for you. A way perhaps to spend this, to mark time, to count time, in this way.
There are three images of kings that we receive in the scriptures today. Now when you close your eyes, what is the image that just appears of Christ the King? And as you ponder Him, what is your confidence in your great king? Do you have confidence that you have a great king? And are you devoted? Do you have devotion to the King?
Today there are three separate images, and they’re not at all alike. The first image comes from the Old Testament, the Book of Samuel, and it’s the story of the anointing of the shepherd, David.
And so David becomes the one chosen to be king of Israel, but he’s a shepherd. That’s what God wants. “And the Lord said, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander.’” You shall shepherd and be commander. “When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, King David made an agreement with them there before the Lord, and they anointed him king of Israel.”
That’s your image for today and Monday. Pray with the image of the King as your shepherd, of Christ as your shepherd. Spend today and tomorrow with my Lord, the King, the Shepherd. Imagine Him being a shepherd and contemplate that concept of king.
Secondly, the letter to the Colossians is a late New Testament letter. It’s probably written about fifty years after the death and resurrection and ascension and descent of the Holy Spirit. So often in your own lives, the real meaning of stuff is revealed as time goes along. You begin to see sometimes a meaning that you couldn’t find in it a generation earlier, two generations earlier. And I suspect that in the Christian reflection in those fifty years, sixty years, after the great events, they begin to understand things better. So we have Colossians, which is talking really about the great coming of Christ in glory, the great king over everything.
When you go into the shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, the first thing you see is Christ the King. I remember this mosaic, like an icon, of what they call Kristus Pantokrator: Christ, the ruler of all. He comes at the end. That’s the other image that we listened to in Colossians: the image of the invisible God. And so that looking at Christ you have, in a sense, a visual aid. You want to know what God’s like, you don’t have to live in mystery. Oh, there’s always a certain mystery to it, but not completely, because you have Christ to look at and be with and study.
The image of the invisible God: In Him were created all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible: everything. For Him were created all things. All things were created through Him and for Him. So that early Church is reflecting on Christ and saying, He’s everything. And so there’s your second image, for Tuesday and Wednesday. The second image of Christ –What will that image be when He comes back at the end of time?
Thursday, Thanksgiving, I give you off, but not without some homework. How about, you begin to prepare a beautiful prayer in your own words that you can share at the table? It’s not that impossible. You just say what you’re thinking out loud, and add in the word “Lord” a couple of times. Try it out! And kids, too, even if your brother and sister is gonna laugh at you. Prepare something so that you have a grateful heart.
When you’re preparing for the feast, and oh, there’s some for whom this is a wonderful year, for others maybe it’s been a struggle. It’s always that way. That’s ok. You can still be thankful in the preparation, in the purchase, and all that. That’s one of the great lessons of life: How can I be thankful in the presence of imperfection, including myself? How can I be thankful? And there’s a way.
The final two days are a uniquely Christian version of king. It’s what we heard in the gospel. It’s Christ on the cross. He’s the king on the cross. Now for many people that’s very counterintuitive. That doesn’t make any sense at all. He’s the king on the cross. There especially you may want to hold Mary’s hand at the foot of the cross, as on Friday and Saturday of this week, you spend time with this image of king: the crucified Christ, this great personification of love in the gift of His body and blood, once and for all on the cross. The greatest personification of love. Spend the last two days of this Year of Grace with your King, crucified.
And perhaps, after all this, you will be very, very ready, and very disposed to God’s grace, as the new year, a week from today, begins.