November 24, 2013 - Christ the King, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
The bible is filled with stories of shepherds and kings. There are evil kings and good kings, there are good shepherds and those who don’t care for the flock.
Sometimes the image of shepherd and king come together in the same person.
In our first reading we are told that David, the shepherd boy was anointed king over the people of Israel. He is both shepherd and king.
And in the gospel we read the inscription on the cross, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. Jesus is also our good shepherd.
Saint Paul, the second reading says that Jesus, our shepherd and king, delivers us from the power of darkness and transfers us to the kingdom of light.
In him we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins.
The sign on the cross is correct, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
And indeed Jesus is not just king of the Jews, today we remember that he is the king of the whole created universe.
But his manner of ruling does not conform to our preconceived notions of what a king is.
As king, Jesus had no army, only disciples.
He didn’t sit on a throne, he rode on a donkey’s back.
He didn’t wear a crown of gold, he only had a crown of thorns.
He didn’t take life, he gave it.
He didn’t exclude people, he welcomed sinners and prostitutes and foreigners and thieves.
He didn’t force, he only invited, “Come, follow me.”
He is a different kind of king who gently but relentlessly calls us to surrender to a different and often unpopular way of life.
He calls us to move beyond the popular “what’s in it for me” attitude of our popular culture…
To choose honestly and fidelity rather than cunning and deceit.
To choose forgiveness rather than hatred and revenge.
To choose brokenness and humility rather than power and wealth.
To serve rather than being served.
In our world filled with violence, war, the constant threat of terrorism, corrupt leaders, overwhelming debt and greed, the grossness of society, the absence of morals, can we choose another way?
We can. We can live in the sacramental life of the church receiving the Eucharist frequently and with great reverence. We can do a better job reaching out to the poor and the marginalized.
We can welcome the outcast and lift up others rather than tear them down. We can quietly give witness to Jesus at work or at school.
We can spend a few moments each day in quiet reflection inviting the Lord into our hearts and into our lives.
There is ultimately one ruler of all: Jesus Christ, the king of the universe, our shepherd and our king.
Through his death on the cross he brings us into his kingdom.
By allowing himself to be mocked and tortured to death, Jesus overturns all earthly power.
As he was dying on the cross, he forgave those who were killing him and he healed the sins of the criminal who pleaded with him.
We sometimes refer to the criminal on the cross next to Jesus as the good thief. But he’s still a thief. He’s still a criminal. He’s still being crucified for his crimes.
Jesus, on the other hand, is the innocent shepherd king. He is the victim who gives his life to conquer sin and death. He is the innocent one who was slain because of our sins.
Our shepherd and king is the one who, at the Last Supper, gave us his body and blood.
As we gather to celebrate the Last Supper in this Eucharist, we hear Jesus say, “This is my body given for you. This is my blood shed on the cross for you.”
We also hear Jesus say to the thief who pleads remember me, remember me, “today you will be with me in paradise.”
If Jesus, our shepherd and king says this to the repentant thief, what do you think he says to you and me?