Homily for the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King
25 October 2020
It is so easy to think of ourselves. Especially these days, when it feels as if there is so much to think about, so much to care about, so much to focus on.
It has always been true that we are inclined to focus on ourselves. To look ahead, thinking of our future—what kind of person we are becoming, what our world holds for us. We focus on ourselves, but we don’t really look into ourselves. We look at how we look, but we try hard to avoid who we truly are.
These days, our thinking about ourselves is intensified as we are able to see more and more the world we live in. The blessing of electronics everywhere and quick information shrinks our world. But it also tends to dramatize, in our minds and hearts, how much evil there really is. And how much we might contribute to it in small or large ways. And what we can do to make things better.
And so, we think about ourselves, and more than ever we think about our world. But thinking, dwelling, ruminating, and focusing on us and our world fills us not with hope, but with anxiety; not with optimism but with dread. That is how it has always been. Because, as we sink more and more into ourselves, we see more clearly that we are vulnerable, helpless, dependent—unable to make any real difference on a large scale, and that any difference we might make can be easily undone in a blink of an eye.
The feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King brings these things to mind, especially since it coincides with the nation’s and world’s focus on elections, with influencers declaiming that this election will be the most important.
And so back into ourselves and our world we go.
Now, it is pollyannish and another kind of folly simply to bury our heads in the sand and say that everything is so out of control that nothing matters. That kind of thinking is still about us—how we want to give up, or run away, or hide.
No doubt, that was exactly the feeling of St Peter, St James, St John, and certainly St Thomas and the others as they saw the scene unfold that you just heard in today’s Gospel. Thinking about themselves, they forsook our Lord and fled. Thinking about themselves, wrapped up in anxiety and spiritual lethargy, they locked themselves in the upper room.
What they didn’t see is what we also often forget to notice. They didn’t look up. And we often don’t look up either. And so, the disciples saw only some despotic looking leader running off his mouth, wringing his hands, making sure no one blamed him. What they didn’t see was Christ the King—standing with a crown on His head, wrapped in a royal robe, processing with quiet dignity to His throne, which is the gallows of the cross.
When we look up at that scene, we can become squeamish and feel unsafe. But when we look with greater clarity, when we open our eyes to see what is really happening, then perhaps we will begin to see the Gospel’s the scene for what it truly is—the grand enthronement of the King of all.
When we see that, and recall how the story goes—that everything that scares is overwhelmed by humility; that the greatest evil is conquered by an even greater sacrifice; that death is conquered by the resurrection of God—when we see that, then hope displaces fear; and deep-seated affection pushes down the desire to lash out, to share mean memes, and to meet ugly with ugliest.
Christ looks quite ugly, unbecoming, undignified, unkingly on the cross. But we can see this scene as the greatest act of love. And as unmatched beauty. And as hope, not to come, but already delivered.
When we see Christ our King enthroned on the wood of the cross, His arms spread wide to embrace us, His face wrapped in serene victory, His lips formed to give out His spirit once again to vitalize our life—when we see this King, then we should begin to see that nothing else matters except to be with Him, a citizen of His kingdom, embraced by His care. And we should begin to see that He’s both got us, and He’s got everything else that we can’t fix, that we can’t care enough about, and that we can’t control.
And that’s why millennia ago, our Father tried to talk His chosen out of making one flawed man the one they pinned their hopes to. They wanted what everyone else had, because they were looking at themselves and what they seemed to be missing. What they did not see, what they refused to see, what they dismissed, is what they already had: a King better than Saul, better than David, better than Solomon, better than the best president or system or policy. They had the King of All as their king—and we really don’t need anyone else.
Again, that’s not to say that we should not care or want better. But it is to say that we should continually—in our heart and mind, with all that we are and all that we have—we should continually look up. To the cross. To the King on His throne. To the One whom the sign rightly proclaims to be Christ our King.
But don’t gaze in wonder and in awe, like you’re looking at some museum piece. Instead, take into your heart and mind this Jesus that you see on the cross. Realize and trust that this scene shows not only His victory, but yours; not only His glory, but yours. For that’s why He does mounts to cross—to give you every benefit, everything, He has as King.
As you receive and taste the Hope that He is, remember, then, that the totality of our spiritual life consists of two elements: thinking of ourselves and looking to our Lord. “When we think of ourselves, we are perturbed and filled with a salutary sadness. Yet when we think of the Lord, we are revived to find consolation in the joy of the Holy Spirit. From the first we derive fear and humility, from the second hope and love.” (St Bernard of Clairvaux)
Especially in these next few days, let us think and meditate on, and let us fix our eyes on Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12.2) To whom belongs all glory, honor, and worship: now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.