Monday, November 20, 2017
Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
The last Sunday of Ordinary Time of the liturgical year is approaching, the solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe. This year it falls on November 26.
More than likely, there are Christians of modern, democratic and republican persuasion, in the anti-monarchical sense, who feel uncomfortable with the title of “king” applied to the humble teacher of Nazareth.
A smattering of universal history can explain the allergy to monarchies. Most kings acted as arrogant rulers more interested in taking advantage of the people than serving them. However, we cannot forget that there were exceptions, to the extent that the Church has canonized a few monarchs. St. Louis King of France, St. Edward King of England, and St. Henry Emperor come to mind, among others.
Monarchies are not currently at their peak. The most tolerable are known as constitutional, characterized by the adage “the king reigns but does not govern.”
As the Church considers the signs of the times, some believers wonder if the time has come to honor Jesus Christ not as a king, but as president of the universe.
The truth is that the title of “king” is here to stay. Jesus Christ cannot stop being called king because he did not come to the world through presidential elections, but as a gift from the Triune God.
It is necessary, however, to purify the concept of “king” from the political, military and lavish connotations that usually surround those heads of state. Among the main symbols of royal ranking stand the majestic throne and the crown of gold and precious stones. Well, Jesus Christ only wanted to reign with a crown of thorns from the throne of the cross.
The Savior came into the world with the triple mission of high priest, prophet-teacher, and king-shepherd. If we consider that Jesus performed his royal duties as the Good Shepherd, the objections against the title of king begin to dilute.
The eternal Son “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). He came to the world as king. Some travelers from the East, by special divine inspiration, came to Jerusalem asking for a newborn king: “We have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Mt 2, 2).
History gives witness that there were men of humble origin who grew or rose to become monarchs. It is enough to remember emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Jesus, on the other hand, does not present himself as a poor carpenter who tried and outdid himself until he became king. There was never a time when Jesus was not king. He is king forever and ever. To avoid any suspicion about the nature of his kingship, on one occasion, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (Jn 6, 15). On the day of his martyrdom, he clearly stated, “Mine is not a kingdom of this world” (Jn 18:36). And he added that he reigns bearing “witness to the truth” (v. 37).
Jesus established a kingdom without borders and without exclusion of nationalities. He welcomes into his kingdom those who, through faith, accept the truth that he preaches to them with his word and example. He communicates the salvific truth, that is, the necessary truth so as not to err on the pilgrimage to eternal life. To the “truth,” the Johannine prologue adds a second fundamental gift, “grace”: “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17).
Jesus does not limit himself to teaching us, but he communicates his life to us, to “share the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). His kingdom, which began on earth, rests mainly on the solid pillars of the Word and the Sacraments. Those who follow Jesus as king do not become slaves or humiliated subjects, but companions or viceroys of his eternal kingdom. It is also true that, though Jesus did not want to be king during his mortal life, he is now fully worthy of the title because of that glorious condition, which allows him to reign in a divine manner over humanity and the cosmos.
The preface to the solemnity summarizes remarkably well the characteristic features of the kingdom of Jesus: “Eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.”