Sunday Sermon for November 22, 2015, the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year B
Readings: Dn 7:13-14; Rev 1:5-8; Jn 18:33b-37
In the first reading today the Prophet Daniel describes a vision he had in which he saw one like a son of man being presented before the throne of God and receiving from God dominion, glory, and kingship. This is not just a kingship over a nation or a people. Daniel says that all peoples, languages and nations serve him. But this kingship is not limited to just “the people” because in the second reading St. John tells us that Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth.
This places Him in His proper position as the highest member of all creation. What is most amazing about this for us is that because of His Hypostatic Union (the substantial union of the divine and human natures in the Person of Jesus) He is infinitely higher than anyone else in the created order. Our Lady, for instance, has the highest position in Heaven below God. Even though she is in the highest place, she is still infinitely below God.
When we speak of Jesus we must always speak of His Person. For instance, when we look at the birth of our Lord, His death, or His resurrection, we have to say that it was the Person Who was born, died, or rose. He was able to do these things because He took our human nature to Himself, but it was not the nature that was born, died, or rose; rather, it was the Person. This truth is not limited to what happened on earth; even in Heaven we have to speak of the Person in the sense that it is the Person of Jesus Who ascended into Heaven and it is the Person Who is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Why am I going on and on about this? Because it means that our humanity, which by nature is infinitely below the divinity, is now brought into a place where, in the Person of Jesus, it is infinitely above the rest of creation. The humanity by itself is the same as ours, but it is the Person, not just the divine nature, Who is infinitely above everyone else. So, in Jesus, human nature has been elevated to a level infinitely beyond what it is naturally. So, by rights He is the King of all Creation because He is the highest.
However, this is not the aspect of His Kingship that we celebrate today. Instead, we have to look back at the Cross to find where our Lord exercised His Kingly office. Pilate, in the Gospel reading today, ascertains from Jesus that He is a King, but that His Kingdom is not of this world. Perhaps in mockery, or perhaps believing but not understanding, Pilate writes “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” on the inscription that was placed above our Lord’s head on the Cross.
Because He was as King, the soldiers mocked Him with the crown of thorns and the purple robe. But it was when He was stripped of the purple (which was a sign of wealth and power in those days) that we see His real Kingship being expressed. The crown of thorns, which was intended to be an insult, was actually a fitting expression of our Lord’s royalty, not because there is something lacking in His Kingship, but because His Kingship is expressed through His service and His suffering.
St. John, in the second reading, reminds us that He has made us, freed from our sins, into a kingdom and priests for God His Father. His Priesthood and His kingship where both exercised upon the Cross. The King, in this case, is not the one who is served, but the one who serves. One might object that Daniel says that all peoples, nations, and languages serve Him. This is certainly true, but that is because people from every nation and language will exercise their share in His Kingly office by loving Him and serving Him.
So, as King, He serves us, and as participants in His Royal office, we serve Him. This is not a forced kind of servitude; rather, it is a freely chosen service of love. Because St. John connects the kingship and the priesthood as it applies to us, we can understand that it through our sacrifices and intercession (mediation) that these two offices are exercised together in us.
Because the Kingship of Jesus is one of love and service, it will not be forced on anyone. While it is true that He has dominion over all, those who do not want Him as their King will not enter His Kingdom. This means we have to choose to receive His love and His service to us and, in response, to act as kings and priests by loving and serving Him in return.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.