Christ Is King, No Matter What
User's Guide to Sunday, Nov. 22
Sunday, Nov. 22, is the Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 93:1, 1-2, 5; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33-37
Today’s readings are like a transfiguration experience for the whole Church. At the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John climbed Mount Tabor with Our Lord and saw him appear dazzlingly white, while conversing with the great prophets of old.
Peter had already called him “the Son of the living God.” They had seen him do miracles: healing the sick, repairing the broken and feeding the multitudes. Now, they saw him for who he really is: utterly transcendent, wise and powerful — greater than the greatest prophet, truly “the Son of the living God.”
Next would come the Passion, in which Jesus would be beaten down in front of their eyes and killed on the cross. The Transfiguration experience was meant to inspire their faith through the bad times to come. It worked for at least one of them: John stayed at his side through it all.
This is the same experience we are meant to have with today’s Solemnity of Christ the King. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion,” says the first reading. It won’t seem like that in the Gospel, when Pilate asks about Jesus’ kingship before sentencing him to death. The first reading says “all peoples, nations and languages serve him”; but the Gospel will recall the time when the people loudly demanded his crucifixion.
Thus, today’s readings juxtapose the victory and apparent defeat of Jesus Christ the King. St. Paul describes how the two are related. He describes how Jesus “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” and “has made us into a kingdom.” When he comes in his glory, in a kind of second transfiguration that we all will get to see, “every eye will see him,” he says, “even those who pierced him.” Then, instead of calling for his death, “All the peoples of the earth will lament him.”
This revelation of Christ’s true glory is as important for us today as it was for the apostles on the eve of the crucifixion — because we are on the eve of a very dark period. In our culture, Christian morality is hated, and our defense of marriage, society’s fundamental unit, is called bigotry. We live in a society where there is selling of baby body parts. We live in a world that has deadened its conscience to a dangerous degree.
The Church invites us to remember Christ’s kingship through it all. “My kingdom does not belong to this world,” Jesus tells Pilate, who is about to condemn him. “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
St. John belonged to the truth and heard his voice. He heard Jesus tell the thief: “This day you will be with me in paradise,” and he heard him say, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Today, we celebrate Christ the King, “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Jesus Christ is the crown of creation, the King of the Universe: Christ is king, no matter what.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at
Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas,
where he lives with April,
his wife and in-house theologian and consultant,
and their children.