Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (November 20, 2016)

Kingship is off-putting in our democratic culture. And, authority has so often become such a soiled garment in our times that the idea of ultimate authority can seem strange. We need to interpret what this feast of Christ the king means.

King and kingdom imply power, authority over other people. There are two ways of moving people to do what we would like them to do: one is to force them to do it whether they want to or not: coercive power; the other is to attract them to do it because of the inherent goodness in doing it: persuasive power. Persuasive power is more difficult and usually takes more time.

Jesus was goaded to use coercive power three times in today’s Gospel: by the rulers, by the soldiers, by one of the thieves. He refused. Coercive power never accomplishes conversion of mind and heart. It accomplishes only “behavior modification” as in prison or the 50-pupil catholic classroom of yesteryear. “My way or the highway, do it or else…”

If you and I possess any genuine goodness, it was not pounded into us. When we came under the influence of truly good people, a thought took shape in our minds: “Wow – this makes sense.” We may not even remember the incidents. But, if we look at the finest qualities people say they see in you and me, we can trace how these qualities became part of your and my character. H
Jesus knew preeminently that we never accomplish real conversion except by persuasion. Persuasive power was at the heart of his teaching about his father’s kingdom. Jesus was invitational: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavily burdened, I will refresh you. Come, follow me. Zacchaeus, come down.

Jesus’ single, royal command is: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.”
In John’s 1st Letter, we read: “God is love.” “He who abides in love abides in God and God in him.” His kingdom is the inbreaking of God’s presence in us.

Our Gospel tells the story of the two thieves on the crosses beside Jesus. Both were faced with the same choice about Jesus. One is consumed with himself and his situation. The other recognizes the goodness in Jesus and the lack of good in his own life – he is drawn to Jesus and acts upon it. The good thief snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Fulton sheen said it well: “He remained a thief to the end. He stole heaven as his final caper.”
At the conclusion of our Eucharistic Prayer, we pray the Lord’s Prayer. We pray: Thy kingdom come. We ask our father to fill our lives with himself, love. Each of us needs to determine where we say “thy kingdom come” and actually live “my kingdom come. “

The kingdom of God cannot be equated with the Catholic church although before Vatican II, we heard church leadership call the catholic church “the kingdom of god on earth” implying that if one were not a catholic one would have great trouble getting to heaven.

The kingdom of God is bigger than the Roman Catholic Church. Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus turns “ power” and “authority” inside out. The kingdom of God exists in the collective heart of the faithful who are open to divine and neighbor love.

The kingdom of God is a presence to the world of unbelief. We attempt to be a vibrant model that is persuasively visible and attractive to everyone. We stand behind Jesus as he says: “Here I stand, knocking at the door . . .”

The closing feast of the liturgical year addresses our spirituality. So, on this feast of Christ the King, we celebrate his persuasive love. May we look at Jesus and may we ask ourselves: what part of me still remains “my kingdom” and private. May we seek the goodness of God and allow the reign of God to thoroughly permeate us.

Next Sunday we begin the liturgical New Year. See you on the other side.