Solemnity of Christ the King. November 26, 2017 [Matthew 25:31-45]
“Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me (Mat 25:45)”
Today we are celebrating the solemnity of Christ the King of Universe. This feast also marks the end of the liturgical year and signals the fast-approaching Advent Session.
Living in the 21st century AD, many of us are no longer subject to a king or a powerful monarch. With very few exceptions, our present-day kings and queens, like the Japanese Emperor and Queen of England, are constitutional monarchs. Their powers are no longer absolute but based and governed by the Constitutions of the country. Some countries even vote to abolish altogether their monarchy, and the king just becomes a cultural symbol of the past. Perhaps, one of the best images of an almighty king may come from the TV-series Game of Thrones. A person sitting on the Iron Throne is a king with almost absolute power. Thousands of soldiers obey him and a myriad of citizens pay him homage. He is the law itself and he is not answerable to anyone. No wonder the TV-series revolves around the Iron Throne and how characters outsmart one another to claim the throne.
Matthew gives as an image of the glorious coming of Son of Man at the end of time. Jesus will sit on his throne and dispense His judgment upon us. Listening to this portion of the Gospel, we may imagine Jesus is like a king on the Iron Throne with His royal robe and golden crown, surrounded by blazing angels. Everyone will be terrified and kiss the ground begging for mercy. Yet, reading further the Gospel, this potent image is immediately counterbalanced by another image. Jesus introduces himself as someone who is imprisoned, a hungry and thirsty homeless guy. In short, he turns to be a man who all societies abhor.
In history, we may know some kings that fell into disgrace. King Louis XVI of France was an absolute monarch before he was executed by the guillotine. Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, used to be served by many servants even to brush his teeth, but he eventually ended up as a street sweeper in Beijing. However, Jesus is not this kind of disgraced kings, but rather He chooses to be one with the poor of the poorest. Doubtless, in heaven, He is almighty King of the universe, but on earth, He decides to walk with all of us, even with those that we detest. His Kingdom is not what we used to imagine. It is not a Kingdom of power, but of the poor, the weak, and the marginalized.
Now, are we willing to enter into this Kingdom of the destitute? Like the characters in the Game of Throne, we want to sit at our own version of the Iron Throne. Yet, this is not the Kingdom of Jesus. It is not enough just to give money to the beggars from time to time, but if we wish to serve our King, we need to serve these unfortunate brothers and sisters in more significant ways. It is the kingdom defined by justice and truth, rather than power and success. Last Sunday, Pope Francis established the first World Day of the Poor, and to end this reflection, may I quote his message, “We may think of the poor simply as the beneficiaries of our occasional volunteer work, or of impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience. However good and useful such acts may be for making us sensitive to people’s needs and the injustices that are often their cause, they ought to lead to a true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life… If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist.”
Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno , OP