Christ the King

This week's reflection is written by
V. Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS.

The Church concludes its liturgical year with the feast of Christ the King.  The kind of “king” that Jesus was reveals the kind of disciple that we are called to be.  Jesus came to give new life, to forgive sins, to reveal the depth of God’s love for us, and to uplift our spirits and sights to God.  He refused to associate with the world’s mighty ones, choosing rather to be among the lowly, at home with tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, orphans, widows and lepers.  As king, he never exploited people and spoke only with compassionate mercy of widows, Samaritans and prodigal sons. He extended to all, friend and foe alike, arms of mercy, compassion and a ready forgiveness. His reign was not one of coercion but rather one of invitation and persuasion: “Come, follow me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”  He demanded nothing from his followers but their love and trust and faith.  In his own words, he came not to be served but to serve and, in serving, to save.  

In a book entitled, His Way, David Knight suggests a way to test just how different our lives really are because of our faith in Jesus.  If you stopped believing in Jesus today, just how different, concretely, would your life be tomorrow? Would you, for instance, still come to Mass? Would you treat others any differently?  How so? How would you deal with a life-threatening illness if you had no resurrection faith? Whose face would you see in the poor or in the stranger or even in the person across the table from you?  If there were no parable of the Good Samaritan, how would you define, “neighbor”? How differently would the foot-washing love of Jesus at the Last Supper speak to you?

We can answer all those questions only when we fully understand the true nature of Christ’s kingship:  that he came to associate with the lowly, and to forgive sinners; that he came to seek out the lost and to save people like the good thief, the prodigal Son, and the repentant Magdalene; that he came to suffer even a criminal’s death so that each of us could be freed from sin and live the brand new life of grace.  He came in mercy!

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The true nature of the kingship of Jesus describes the true nature of Christian discipleship: “as I have done for you, so you must do for one another!”   We seldom see the face of the glorified Christ in the faces of the needy.  More often than not, it is the face of the disfigured Christ that is turned to us.  “We see his fear and his shame, his brokenness and sense of loss.”  It is not easy to look into such eyes.  In fact, it is much easier to turn away from them.  This, we are often tempted to do and, unfortunately, sometimes actually do.  And how many times are we tempted to help only the “worthy poor,” that is, those who fit the standard that we have set?  But, as we learn from the Gospel, these are precisely the ones with whom Christ our King chooses to be identified: “what you did to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”   

We know what Jesus expects of us as his disciples.  Let us then love all others just as he has taught us to do by his own example.  If we do that during our lives, then when he makes the final separation between his sheep and goats, we will hear from him these beautiful and comforting words: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  And don’t be surprised if, on that day, you see all around you those whom you once saw as hungry, thirsty, naked, ill or in prison.  Since you once saw in them the face of the suffering Jesus, on that happy day they will lead you to the face of the glorified Jesus, our King!