This reflection is being prepared two weeks before Ash Wednesday! I am running a good six weeks ahead of time (the result of being housebound and forbidden to drive after...
If one surveys the stable and peaceful democratic nations of the world it would appear that, on the whole, those countries governed through a constitutional monarchy seem to be the most stable and generally contented. I suspect this phenomenon contains a hidden but relevant message for us Christian folk who are the People of God. As this reflection is being composed, even the republic of the United States of America seems to be struggling with a somewhat dysfunctional format of government!
Notice that I have emphasised countries that are governed, NOT RULED – and that the said governments are CONSTITUTIONAL. The monarch, be it king or queen, is a focal point to whom citizens freely give and owe their allegiance. These same citizens are, in turn, given the mandate and authority to get on with the job of ruling themselves, within certain boundaries, for their own good and for the good of others. It is their job to maintain and develop the kingdom.
I find this analogy enormously helpful in understanding, accepting, and appreciating the kingship of Jesus Christ. The Lord is our focal point and to him we freely give and owe allegiance. We have a constitution laid out in the Ten Commandments and Beatitudes. In addition we have been given the mandate of developing His kingdom in such a way that it becomes more and more firmly established and everyone is able to benefit if prepared to live and act according to the aim and focus of the constitution.
Therefore, on this Solemnity of Christ the King we are able to “give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance … and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” [see TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING – COLOSSIANS 1: 12 – 20].
Of course it is always possible for those who choose, to ridicule the king or queen … “the rulers scoffed at Jesus … let him save himself if he is the Christ of God.” [see TODAY’S GOSPEL extract – LUKE 23: 35 – 43]. Here we should notice the use of the word rulers! These rulers were the leaders who wanted to RULE, not GOVERN. They were acting way outside and beyond their mandate and cared little for the common good. In addition, they craved and sought after a personal allegiance to which they had no claim, and encouraged a group of sycophantic courtiers who would, as it were, offer them incense. Pope Francis, in recent weeks, has repeatedly warned against Church leaders who have a courtier attitude. This fact challenges all, clerical and lay, who are called to roles of leadership in the Church.
There is a further point which emerges from our Gospel reading. There, Luke records the famous words “truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” We are then reminded of the phrase, the king’s (or queen’s) pardon. Pope Francis has also constantly emphasised the theme of our God’s mercy. As citizens of the Lord’s kingdom an essential element of our own personal mandate is to be not only witnesses to, but creators of, pardon, mercy and forgiveness. It should be noted that the thief in question did not specifically ask for forgiveness but merely asked Jesus to “remember me.”
How well do we reproduce our King’s Pardon
? Do we remember the PERSON who has injured us or do we remember only the hurt?
These questions are asked against the background of what we hear in our Colossians’ reading where Paul describes the Christ as “the image of the invisible God,” and that “in everything he might be pre-eminent.” If we are made in the image and likeness of God then our communication of his mercy must be a pre-eminent activity in our VISIBLE efforts to share in the government of the Lord’s kingdom here on earth.
We should never excuse ourselves from sharing the workload of the One to whom we have given our allegiance. Why? …. because “we are (his) bone and flesh,” and it “was (he) that led out and brought (us) in.”. [see TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING, 2 SAMUEL 5: 1 – 3]
In the days of the Nazi occupation of Denmark, on the day the Nazi edict that all Jews had to wear a Star of David armband, the Danish king went out horse-riding in the early morning with an armband displaying the Star. In a matter of hours every citizen of Copenhagen was wearing identical armbands! It was a case of follow my leader!
Jesus Christ is King! FOLLOW OUR LEADER! Make him VISIBLE AND MAKE IT PRE-EMINENT!