22 November 2015: Solemnity of Christ the King

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Dn 7:13-14 Ps 93:1, 1-2, 5 Rv 1:5-8 Jn 18:33b-37

Kingdoms and kings

On this final Sunday of the liturgical year, the Lectionary asks RCIA participants and the believing community to think about God’s kingship and God’s kingdom. (Next week we start a new liturgical year centered on readings from Luke’s gospel.)

The first reading from the book of Daniel uses apocalyptic imagery to comfort the persecuted Jews of the second century BC. The author promises that the kingdom of God will ultimately triumph. The phrase “dominion, glory, and kingship” (literally “power, esteem, and land”)sums up the ancient world’s idea of earthly kingship. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to match the second reading and gospel themes of kingship.

The second reading is from Revelation, written by John of Patmos in the mid-90s AD. Today’s passage focuses on kingship: Jesus’ kingship,the faithful’s kingship, and God’s kingship. Jesus is the “faithful witness,” a reference to his passion and death; he is “firstborn of the dead,” a reference to his resurrection, and “ruler of earthly kings,” a reference to his exaltation by God. The faithful are called a “kingdom of priests;” this baptismal language reminds us who we are–“loved by God”–and our inherent dignity–“redeemed through Jesus’ blood.” God’s kingship spans eternity and the cosmos: God is “alpha and omega,” the beginning and end of all things; God is the one who “is, was, and is-to-come” a reference to God’s name (I am who am) in Ex 3:14, and “the almighty,” from Hebrew and Greek titles meaning ruler of all, all-powerful, or all-mighty.

John’s gospel addresses Jesus’ kingship:

  • Are you a king? Pilate assumes a Roman understanding of earthly kingship (“power, esteem, and land” from the first reading). Anyone who declared himself a king challenged the Roman imperium and was a threat and traitor to the Roman order.
  • My kingdom is not from this world: Jesus rejects Pilate’s definition of kingship. Jesus is not an earthly king with earthly origins. God’s kingdom is the communion of disciples with the Father through Jesus.
  • My kingdom is not from here: Jesus reiterates he is not of this world (Jn 8:23). God’s kingdom is present in Jesus and is imperfectly shared by his disciples. Jesus’ kingdom exists in the world, but it is not from the world (Jn 17:14-18).

Jesus’ definition of kingship is to be a witness to God’s truth (“to testify to the truth”). He acts as an obedient Son who reveals the Father and accomplishes God’s work. Jesus’ death witnesses the Father’s love and completes God’s redemptive reconciliation.

This week’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to reflect on kingdoms and our places in them. We live in earthly kingdoms (towns, schools, offices, clubs, and so on), where might often makes right and whose currency is prestige. In such kingdoms, it’s good to be king–but sometimes not so good for everyone else. Jesus invites us to live in God’s kingdom, where we are loved and redeemed. Who is our king? Where is our kingdom?

—Terence Sherlock

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