Christ the King
We live in a world deeply divided by power struggles. Some are played out in the bloodbaths of war. Others are screened on TV, wars of words, of hatred, of divisiveness, waged under the guise of wanting to hold a position for the benefit of all. We have been sickened by the political diatribes of the past months, played out on the world stage, which in its own way has sanctioned the worst aspects of reality TV.
What a contrast we find in today’s gospel – two men on crosses in conversation about a kingdom, a reign, a way, one asking to be part of it, and the other promising a part. How did this man, whom Luke described as a criminal, come to know what Jesus had to offer? Perhaps, he had been one of the large numbers who followed and heard the message. Perhaps, he had seen for himself how Jesus always put his message into action, that his message had genuine authority behind it. One thing he seemed to know for sure was that there was a place for him in what Jesus had to offer.
As Luke describes this reign of God throughout the Gospel we get insights as to what kind of way of being it is. It is a God centered and divine permeated reality that is universal and open to all. There is a particular welcome for those who are poor, those who are pushed to the margins of the mainstream. Those labeled as sinners can find a place there. It is good news. It requires commitment and single-minded perseverance to ensure that its ideals become reality in the service of all God’s people. It is like no political entity that we have ever known.
It is a demanding way. It means putting aside the power struggles and the divisiveness. It is about working together and not against each other. It is the acceptance of the truth of the equality of us all as God’s creation. It is about respect, reverence, gratitude.
It is the harder way, because we must forego the self. Who can accept it? It is easier to dress Jesus up as a king, an unapproachable one, surrounded and protected by officials. It is easier to see him as one who takes pity on the poor and the lonely, rather than one who is one with the poor and the lowly.
How we forget the Gospel scene where the people wanted to make him a king, and Jesus withdrew to the mountain by himself! (John 6:15) We might ask if Jesus has withdrawn to the mountain. It would seem so in the political field, even among those who call themselves followers. And it would seem a strong possibility in the ecclesiastical field. Wherever exclusion is guarded by rules, the reign of God hardly exists. Wherever the robes and the incense, the music and the preaching take precedence over the love of the sister and the brother in their need, then alas Jesus most likely has withdrawn to the mountain.
Yet the reign of God is not lost. It exists in the most extraordinary of places, in the broken life, in the ghetto, in wherever two or three form a community of service and love, there reigns God, and there is Jesus, not with a crown, but with the basin and the towel.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP