Sunday, Nov. 24, is the Solemnity of Christ the King (Year C, Cycle I).
2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalms 122:1-5; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43
What is the Kingdom of Christ? The answer is not obvious. When Jesus answers the question, he talks about yeast and fishing nets and pearls, all of which point to an answer but are not quite an answer.
The Fathers of the Church get more specific. What do the Fathers say the Kingdom is? Scott Hahn’s Bible Dictionary puts their answers into three main areas. The Kingdom is: Christ himself; Christ’s rule in the hearts of the faithful; and the Church. The readings touch all three bases.
In the second reading, St. Paul describes how Christ himself can be a "kingdom." The whole passage is a powerful explanation of Jesus Christ that could be used as a text for a month of morning meditations. In the middle, he says of Christ: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. … He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
Christ is himself the Kingdom. Because he is God, who cannot be contained by time and space, he has a cosmic significance. Because he is a man, he is humanity’s point of entry into eternity.
The Gospel reading shows the significance of God’s reach. It tells the story of Jesus pardoning one of the thieves being crucified alongside of him. "We have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes; but this man has done nothing criminal," one thief says to the other. Then he says to Christ, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."
Jesus welcomes him into paradise. Even from the cross, Christ is master of the situation, living up to the title Nov. 24’s feast gives him: Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
But the rule of Jesus doesn’t happen somewhere in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is far more localized: He rules in the hearts of the faithful — the good thief’s and each of ours.
He also rules through the Church. This understanding of the Kingdom is the most problematic because it is not focused just on Christ, but on his human instruments. We can embrace Christ’s kingship, and we can look for him in our hearts — but seeing his Kingdom in the human weakness of the Church is harder. That’s where the first reading comes in. It describes David’s anointing as king of Israel.
We know many things those who were present at the anointing did not know. We know that David’s rule would be brilliant — he would make Jerusalem the capital of Israel, start the process that builds the Temple and be called "son of God." But we also know that he will sin with Bathsheba, murder her husband, and have to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness again and again.
Likewise, God has taken a big risk in putting so much responsibility on the Church. It is a risk he has taken from the beginning of time. It has sometimes seemed like a disaster, but it has always worked out in the end.
Ultimately, because Jesus is the King of the Universe, he rules in our hearts and in the Church.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.