We bring our liturgical year to a close today with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It is a good feast for us to reflect on this most unusual king and his kingdom.
The proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom dominated the preaching and teaching of Jesus. “To the other towns also I must proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God because for this purpose I have been sent.” He taught his disciples to pray, “Your Kingdom come.” He told them to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all of these things will be given to you besides.” He handed on this mission to his apostles, “As you go make this proclamation: the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
What is this Kingdom of God, this Kingdom of Heaven? We hear and read this expression many times and seldom stop to think about what it really means. The Kingdom of God is described for us in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. It is a kingdom of holiness, justice and peace. Human beings are the lord and stewards of this creation. Made in the image and likeness of God, human beings have an intellect and freewill and are at peace with God, with themselves and with all of creation. But this creation is short lived. Human beings are not satisfied and want to be like God and so exercise their independence through disobedience and are banished from the Kingdom.
In the fullness of time God sends his only Son, Jesus Christ to restore and usher in anew the Kingdom of God, a kingdom which is not of this world. The kingdom begins in this world but finds its completion in the world to come.
Since this Kingdom of God is not of this world Jesus described it in worldly images, in parables. Since we know spiritual things indirectly through our knowledge of material things the parable goes from the known to the unknown, from the material to the spiritual. The parable is a story describing some ordinary occurrence. But it is a story that is told to convey to the hearer a higher, spiritual truth. In other words it is an “earthly story with a heavenly ending.” It is this heavenly ending which is the real meaning the teacher intends.
Some parables of the Kingdom are: the sower and the seed, the mustard seed, the wheat and the weeds, the pearl of great price, the unforgiving servant, the workers in the vineyard, the wedding feast, the rich fool and the prodigal son.
Jesus is the King of this Kingdom. But he is a most unusual king; he is a crucified king. And from his royal throne on the cross he extends his royal invitation to his subjects, “If anyone wishes to come after me he must take up his cross daily and follow me.” In Baptism we have accepted this invitation. There is no status in this kingdom, all are of equal rank.
It is a most unusual kingdom. The greatest in the kingdom are the childlike. The weak conquer the strong, the foolish confound the wise and a camel gets through the eye of a needle; we add by subtracting and multiply by dividing because nothing is impossible with God.
In the Kingdom of God there is only one law, the law of love. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and will all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two.” Jesus identified the neighbor as the one in need and said that we love our neighbor by doing to him/her what we wish be done for us. Whatever we do for the neighbor, Jesus takes as having been done to himself.
In the Kingdom of God there is only one banquet, the Eucharist, which is the foretaste of the feast we will share in the next life. The king said that we are to do this in memory of him. This banquet is the memorial of the Paschal Mystery: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. It reminds us that this life is not the ultimate value and that we are waiting in joyful hope for the coming of Jesus in glory.
We do not hold on to this life too tightly but receive it as a gift. We enjoy it, cherish it while we have it and we let go gracefully and thankfully when the time comes. The gift of life is great but the Giver of life is greater still and in him is a life that never ends.
The proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom dominated the preaching and teaching of Jesus and also of his apostles. Now the proclamation of the Gospel has been handed on to us and we proclaim the coming of the Kingdom not so much in words as with our lives. Our lives are to be the living proclamation of the Kingdom of God. We proclaim it by our peace, love and joy. We express our gratitude for being called to be a citizen of the Kingdom by being joyful witnesses of the Gospel. We proclaim the coming of the Kingdom by living an ordinary earthly existence while “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”
– Fr. Dennis, November 24, 2019, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe