Christ: A King Without Airs
Thoughts on the First Readings -by Joe Frankenfield
The Feast of Christ the King
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Americans have never been big on kings. There are exceptions but, generally, we view them as autocratic, power-hungry, scheming, pompous, cads. That’s a strange group in which to include Jesus.
Pope Pius XI created the Feast of Christ the King in 1925 to make the point that Christians can never value governmental agendas or political movements above the Way of Christ when choosing how to live. Nazism was on the rise in Germany and Communism in Russia. It wasn’t enough for the Christians to participate in the sacraments, read Scripture and pray to Jesus. Jesus hadn’t come as an other-worldly royal to be praised and assuaged; he came to demonstrate God’s relationship with humanity and the relationship that humans must generate among themselves.
The image of Jesus as King makes another point. We easily overlook the courage and dedication demanded of a king, especially an average king rather than the head of one of the richest and most powerful realms. A king was responsible for defending his people. He was the man in front when the battle started. He was the prime target of all his people’s enemies. True, folks threw him a party if he protected them but failure could also cost him his life.
Ancient, agrarian cultures referred to their kings as shepherds. Those folks knew how hard and dangerous a herder’s life was. Knowing few, if any, shepherds ourselves, we’re largely ignorant of the hardship and danger they endure leading their flocks to water, pasture and safety.
When we imagine Jesus as king of the world, we celebrate our faith in a God totally committed to human welfare and the human future. We claim a God so committed to us that the best way we can speak of him is as a leader willing to give all his energy and even his life out of love for us. Christ the King presents an image of God not as an all-powerful sovereign demanding reverence but a lover willing to risk everything for his beloved.