This Sunday, Nov. 23, we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe — or more simply, Christ the King. But Jesus did not appear on earth as we would imagine a king to appear.
Let’s look at the Gospel of John, where Jesus says to Pilate, “My kingship is not of this world . . .” (John 18:36a). Jesus seems to be saying that he reigns as king somewhere other than earth, and we know the name of his kingdom: heaven. Still, as a visiting king, it makes sense to think he would be treated with great dignity. But instead of a crown of jewels, he is given a crown of thorns; instead of wearing the finest robes, he is scourged and given one purple robe while being mocked by his persecutors; finally, instead of being seated in a beautiful, comfortable throne, he is hung upon the cross for all to see, and dies. Why would a king be treated so poorly? Part of the answer lies in the company he kept.
When Jesus first came to earth, it was absurd to spend time with those who were called “sinners” and the outcasts, namely tax collectors, beggars, the blind, paralytics, prostitutes, people possessed by evil spirits, etc. These people were known to perform immoral acts in the sight of God or were not worthy of one’s valuable time and, therefore, were not to be approached in a friendly manner. Yet, Jesus did exactly that: He came to announce a message of salvation for those very sinners since they could rely on nothing else but the grace and mercy of God. Those Jews who did not consider themselves sinners rejected Jesus’ teaching and killed him for claiming to be their king.
The good news is that we know Jesus is indeed the king and worthy of our attention and honor. He is a king who has conquered sin and death and calls us to love. Because of this, we must go out to meet him in the poor, the imprisoned, the hungry, the sick and all who most need our time and energy.
Yes, Jesus is in these least ones, as he says in the Gospel, and calls us to satisfy his needs by satisfying theirs.
In fact, Jesus tells us in this Gospel passage that we will be judged based on our care for these least brothers and sisters of his. Out of everything we could do, why is this the way we will be judged? When we are baptized, we are anointed and made part of the Body of Christ, and so begin to share in the very life and mission of Jesus Christ. Since Christ came to bring salvation to the poor and lowly, we must continue reaching out in love to those same people.
Our work must be the work of the king of our true home, which is heaven.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Greg Esty