In thinking about this week’s celebration, which we call the feast of Christ the King, a line from the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John keeps ringing in my mind. The multitude had just experienced the feast of loaves and fish in the desert. They were impressed with Jesus and his power and were wondering if he were the prophet to come. Then comes the line, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
While the feast was established in 1925, by Pius XI, because respect for the authority of Christ and of the church was at a low ebb, it could be argued that the church’s alignment with political power and wealth down the centuries had in fact led to the demise of its significance for the majority of people.
Although there are references to Jesus as king in the Gospels, we find them towards the end, as he rides on the colt of a donkey into Jerusalem, and during his trial. Neither of these portray much of power and authority as we know it. In the Gospel of Luke we find his mission statement. He has been sent in the power of the Spirit to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind. While he preached and made real the reign of God, his rules were simple: Love.
What is presented in today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew suggests the actions necessary for entering into the reign or kingdom of God. Simply put, it is meeting the needs of people, especially those who, in the political and economic structures of our societies, are deemed the least. We may know them as the homeless, the hungry, the diseased, the refugee, the trafficked, the citizen who never had the equal chance. Today’s gospel makes it clear: they are the Christ.
It is easy to pass up the Christ with a myriad of excuses, especially if we are rushing to a worship service or some important ministry, as were those who left the man on the road to Jericho. There may be a focus today on lifting Jesus up as king of kings and lord of lords. However, we might caution ourselves with the line from John. “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
Do we dare ever ask ourselves – what if we have fallen into the same trap, and Jesus has withdrawn, leaving us with the empty shells of insignificance? This may be the moment to go to the mountain to look for him and start afresh.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP