Tag Archives: Christ the King

26 November 2017: Solemnity of Christ the King

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Ez 34:11-12, 15-17   Ps 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6   1 Cor 15:20-26, 28   Mt 25:31-46

Shepherds and kings, sheep and goats: taking sides

White_gold_banner_sm On this final Sunday of the liturgical year, the readings celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King. (Next week we start a new liturgical year centered on readings from Mark’s gospel.) The readings ask us to think about shepherds and kings.

In the first reading the prophet Ezekiel addresses the failed Jerusalem leaders (v 17). God holds the leaders responsible for the people’s exile in Babylon. God promises to take back the role of shepherding, rescuing, and judging the people. Christian hearers understand that Jesus, the good shepherd (Jn 10:11), fulfills Ezekiel’s prophecy: God has come to care for the people. The Lectionary editors chose this reading (especially Ez 34:16) because it parallels today’s gospel.

In the second reading from his first letter to the ekklesia at Corinth, Paul lays out the end-time timeline so the Corinthians can see their place in God’s redemptive plan. Christ, who is already resurrected and therefore the “firstfruit,” has begun his reign as the kingdom’s king and the believing community’s head. During this present time, Christ’s enemies are still active, although “under his feet.” At Christ’s second coming, “those who belong to Christ” will be resurrected. The end follows. Having destroyed every oppressive sovereignty, authority, and power, and overcome all his enemies including death, Christ hands back God’s kingdom to God. Through Christ’s redemptive act, God’s relationship with the redeemed world is once again restored and direct: God is all in all.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus describes how God, shepherd and king, will judge the whole world at the end of time.

  • The sorting. First century Palestinian shepherds grazed the sheep and goats together. In the evening, they separated the goats, who were sensitive to cold, from the sheep, who remained out all night. In the gospel, God the Shepherd sorts everyone from all nations, based on their service or love of others.
  • The right-side sheep. In the ancient world, the right hand or side is often used symbolically. The king’s right hand is a place of prestige, power, or honor. In Jewish tradition sheep symbolized honor, virility, and strength.
  • The left-side goats. In the ancient world, the left hand or side was believed unlucky or evil. The Latin word sinistra means both “left” and “evil;” it is the root of English word sinister. Because soldiers wore shields on their left arms, people thought the left side was weaker and less honorable. The ancients considered goats lascivious; goats symbolized shame and shameful behavior.
  • The surprise. Jesus’ hearers would expect that God would reward or punish disciples based on their love of others. Jesus’ hearers would be surprised to learn that God judges not just disciples, but all nations according to the law of love. Even the least one is the same as God, worthy of love and service.

The readings invite RCIA participants and the believing community to consider God’s role as shepherd and king. As Ezekiel tell us, God alone shepherds, redeems, and judges the people. Paul describes God’s redemptive plan. Matthew identifies how the king measures each of us. Does the Shepherd see honorable sheep or shameless goats? To which side will the King sort us? Will we be surprised?

—Terence Sherlock

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Year A

20 November 2016: Solemnity of Christ the King

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
2 Sm 5:1-3 Ps 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5 Col 1:12-20 Lk 23:35-43

 

Kings and kingdoms: who can save us?

White_gold_banner_sm On this final Sunday of the liturgical year we celebrate the solemnity of Christ the King. (Next week we start a new liturgical year centered on readings from Matthew’s gospel.) The Lectionary readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider Jesus’ kingship and kingdom.

The first reading from the second book of Samuel describes the selection and anointing of David. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to introduce David’s kingship. For Hebrew scripture writers, David was the model king; the prophets promised that the messiah would come from David’s line. The messiah would be a new David: a king and a shepherd of his people.

The second reading from the letter to the Colossae ekklesia celebrates Christ’s messianic kingship. The words “delivered” and “transferred” in v 13 echo the Israelites’ Exodus experience and introduce the kingdom theme. The author explains redemption as “forgiveness of sins” (v 14). The Christological hymn (vv 15-20) describes Christ’s kingship in three sections: creation (vv 15-16), preservation (vv 17-18a), redemption (vv 18b-20).

The gospel, from Luke’s passion narrative, gives three human views on Jesus’ kingship and kingdom. These human misunderstandings hinge on the interpretation of the word “to save,” which appears four times in vv 35-39. The three views are:

  • Rulers: “He saved others, let him save himself.” The Jewish people’s rulers or leaders mock Jesus because he is a failed political messiah who couldn’t translates his miracles and healings into a populist movement. When they tell Jesus to “save himself,” they fail to see Jesus’ saving act as leading (“shepherding,” see the first reading: 2 Sam 5:2) and redeeming everyone.
  • Soldiers: “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” The Roman soldiers mock Jesus because he is a failed human king who has no armies. The soldiers confuse the transient Roman emperor’s military power with God’s just and eternal kingdom. When they tell Jesus to “save himself,” they fail to see Jesus’ saving act as establishing God’s kingdom in the midst of their oppressive human empire.
  • Criminal: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The criminal mocks Jesus because he is a failed military messiah who can’t deliver the Jews from their Roman oppressors. When the criminal tells Jesus to “save yourself and us,” he fails to see Jesus’ saving act as transforming all human life and death.

Although the rulers, soldiers, and the criminal urge Jesus to “save himself,” Jesus is the only human who doesn’t need saving. The reason that Jesus comes into the world is to save everyone else.

This week’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to think about what Jesus’ kingship and kingdom means to us. Jesus’ saving act redeemed everyone. God’s kingdom, now present, exists for everyone. Jesus’ death and resurrection changes the meaning of human death and life. Do we think human leaders will save us, or do we know we need redemption? Do we think power will save us, or do we see such justice and peace only when God reigns? Do we think we can save ourselves, or can we ask the saving king to remember us in his kingdom?

—Terence Sherlock

Leave a comment

Filed under Year C

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Year B