Solemnity of Christ the King—November 25, 2012
Ps 93:1, 1-2, 5
Pilate said to Jesus,
"Are you the King of the Jews?"
Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?"
Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?"
Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here."
So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?"
Jesus answered, "You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
In 1976, while living in Delaware, our local band was invited to perform at the visit of King Gustav of Sweden, who was making a visit to the Diamond State. It seemed rather exciting for us, being 12 years old, to actually see a king: We had seen plenty of pictures of kings in books and movies: royal robes, a jewel encrusted crown, holding a scepter, exuding power with royal decrees. Instead, King Gustav appeared in a rather normal business suit and tie, no crown, no scepter, no robes! He really didn’t have any royal decrees beyond wishing us well and hoping our nations could be “of good will.” This tended to smash all our images of what a king would be like—a real disappointment!
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King and he too smashes all our expectations of what a king is: What kind of King do we have? A king before Pilate, who in love lays down his life. His crown a Crown of Thorns. His Throne is the cross. His Scepter and insignia are his wounds. His Royal Garments of his weakened human flesh. His kingly power is the Spirit of God upon him.
To consider how an image of Christ the King still remains vividly before us, the example of St. Lawrence the Deacon is germane. He and nine companions of the early church were convicted of treason by the Roman authorities, but because Lawrence was the treasurer of the Church of Rome, he was spared immediate execution. It seems that the authorities believed that the Church was fabulously wealthy (they were a few centuries too early!). So they commanded Lawrence to go away and bring back the treasures of the Church. "Give me two or three days," he replied, "and I will bring them here for you." Three days later Lawrence returned. "Where is the treasure?" the Romans demanded. Lawrence led them to the entrance of the hall and threw open the great doors leading to the courtyard. Outside was assembled a great crowd of poor, blind, and sick humanity. "Behold, the treasure of the church," said Lawrence. He was taken away to be tortured, then roasted alive on a gridiron.
If we are looking for an image of Christ our King, we look to those remade in his image in baptism, our brothers and sisters in Christ who make up the Body of Christ the Church. Among the members of the body of Christ, some of the clearest images of Christ our King are our treasured sick and infirmed—truly an image of Christ for us.
Just as we see a uniquely kingly image in Christ, His sick too show us the Kingship of Christ. For they too have all the marks of a Christ-like king, given to them in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick!
They too will have a crown—a holy anointing on their heads, where their suffering will be blessed with a spiritual crown of anointing by the Holy Spirit.Their throne too will be the cross—the cross of their sickness, in which they decree loudly the truth of God’s strength working through their weakness of illness and infirmity. A scepter too will be placed in their hands, the crosses of oil placed in each, as a recognition that their share of the cross become a powerful spiritual instrument for them and for us. They too have a kingly power, when I as priest lay my hands upon them and call down the power of the Holy Spirit on them, the same spirit that empowered Christ to reign over sin, illness, and death.
On this feast of Christ the king, if you want an image of what Our King Jesus looks like, look upon those who are sick and of advanced age: Jesus reigned as King when he mounted the cross and the power of God raised him from death to life. So too our sick, are joined to Christ the King in their weakness through the Sacrament of the Anointing—when their weakness becomes a time for the power of God to fill them and reign in them.
Don’t be mistaken—we have kings and queens in our midst today—but special types of monarchs—monarchs like Christ—who reign not in their own power but in the power that the Risen Christ bestows in the weaknesses of us, his sons and daughters.