22 Nov 2015
Solemnity of Christ the King
A pretty common question people have is: “How does Christ relate to my life?” And it’s the task of preachers and teachers of the faith to help answer that question. Of course, it’s a legitimate question. I mean, the Lord came down from heaven certainly to impact our lives. And so, somehow or another, Christ is meant to be relevant to our lives; God is supposed to be impactful to us.
And so, on this Solemnity of Christ the King, some people might feel like saying: “I don’t need a King; I need someone to heal me and to be a friend to me.” Or they might want to say, “We don’t need a lofty, majestic otherworldy King; we need somebody who’s going to take care of all the terrorists in the world, and get rid of them.” Or maybe they’d want to say, “We’re not interested in praising an unseen King; instead, we should be taking care of people around us who are in need.”
A lot of people ask the question: “How does Christ relate to my life?” And the answer for many is, “Well . . . he doesn’t,” or “He could be more relevant than he is.” But our expectations of Christ aren’t incorrect: we want him to be close, to heal us, to make our relationships better; we want him to triumph over evil in the world; we want him to be with us in our work with the poor and needy.
Those are all good expectations—and, of course, they all come from the promises of Christ himself, who said he would be “with us until the end of the age.” He’s with us in daily life. But, at the same time, Christ also came to raise us up. And it’s when he tries to do just that, that he seems to become “irrelevant” to everyday life.
I notice that when I preach (wherever I’m preaching), that the congregation is more or less interested—depending on what I’m talking about. If the homily is about the nitty-gritty of life—say, abortion or marriage or politics—the people are more interested and attentive. But if I’m talking about some ideal or some vision God offers us, the people are . . . well, less engaged; they’re a little more restless—they want something they can bite into. And that right there—in that restlessness—is our human desire for Christ to be relevant to our everyday lives.
But, as I said, Christ came down from heaven to be with us . . . and to raise us up. Christ became relevant to us (by becoming one of us) so that we would love him and follow him into what is seemingly irrelevant; namely, the Kingdom. Christ the King is trying to care for us his subjects. He’s trying to enhance our expectations of him—and our expectations of what life is all about—so that we can live, and have life in abundance in this thing called “the Kingdom.”
That’s what Christ’s struggle has been since day one of his public ministry—to raise our eyes to have a bigger vision.
Now, as we know, he was arrested and hauled in front of Pontius Pilate. And that happened because—among other things—the Jews didn’t have any use for him. They didn’t have any use for his vision of the Kingdom. Here he’d been busy talking about loving one another, and doing his healings . . . and it was of no use whatsoever to the needs of the day. The Jews needed a political leader, a messiah who was going to overrun their enemies. Instead, they got Jesus. He was irrelevant to their needs . . . or so they thought. But he kept popping up . . . so they had to get rid of him.
But before Christ was crucified, he was mocked and laughed at. The best way to make sure the people take Jesus seriously was for the Jews to make a joke out of him. It was an effective way to make him irrelevant in the eyes of others. “Jesus the King of the Jews? No, he’s not a king, what a joke! Look at him hanging there on the Cross; he can’t even save himself, let alone anybody else. He’s nobody. Don’t waste your time!”
Of course, we still see this today. Whether it’s God, or Christ, or the Church, pop culture loves to poke fun at them all. You know, I don’t know how many times I’ve seen images of Pope Benedict doctored up so he looks like Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars. And it’s almost endless the numbers of times Jesus is portrayed as a clown or a fool. Pop culture doesn’t have much use for Christ or the Catholic faith. He’s quite irrelevant to a lot of people.
And so, what else would we expect but for the mockery and laughter to continue. The real harm comes, though, when we ourselves start to wonder: “Exactly how is Jesus relevant to my life?” The only way to see the relevance of Christ today is to listen to him with fresh ears, with a new spirit of faith, and with great imagination. These are all things the Jews lacked; they’re all things our modern society sees as silly and stupid.
But Christ hasn’t left us; he still tries to raise us up to see the very broad, expansive vision of “the Kingdom.” Even in the face of mockery, Jesus is the “faithful witness” to what is really good, true and beautiful. And so, we’re left with a choice: to let Jesus lead us into what is apparently irrelevant, namely, the Kingdom; or to settle for what we know is relevant to us, namely, everyday life.
Christ is with us in everyday life, for sure. But he’s trying so hard to help us open our minds, our imaginations, our eyes to engage “the Kingdom.” It’s a cosmic Kingdom; something that includes all of time and space. It’s a Kingdom where at its center is “the Ancient One,” the Trinity of perfect and divine Love who has no beginning or end, and yet, whose Only Son is the beginning and end—the “Alpha and the Omega”—of our life.
There, in the Kingdom, is the King, not robed in ordinary clothes, but robed in splendor, robed with strength, robed with majesty. And there are the countless numbers of angels, archangels, the angels we know as “Thrones and Dominions,” cherubim and seraphim, and all the Saints who gather around the Ancient One to offer perfect praise, perfect harmony of voices, perfect love to the One Who is Love Itself.
It’s a pretty amazing vision that Christ is trying to lift us up into. It’s certainly one that takes some imagination and wonder to see. But that’s where Jesus our King is trying to lead us—into what is the most relevant vision we can have—the vision of our fulfillment as human beings, a vision of the Kingdom.
The question still remains, though: “How does Christ relate to my life?” And the answer is: “It depends on what you want.” If you want a military leader, a political leader, a force that’s going to wipe out evil in one felled swoop, well . . . Jesus isn’t going to be very relevant. But if you want peace and happiness, a sense of belonging with others, purpose in life, and hope that life is always going to be better in the end—and ultimately complete in “the Kingdom,” well, then Jesus is very relevant.
It depends on what you want. If we want what he offers (and offers us the Kingdom), then Jesus is relevant to us as the King, as the one who can lift us up into the Kingdom now and forever. But if we don’t want it—if talk of the Kingdom is irrelevant—then we don’t really need Jesus, certainly not Jesus the King.
“How does Christ relate to my life?” It depends . . . what are you looking for . . . what do you want?