This Sunday is also known as the last Sunday of our present liturgical year or the 34th Sunday of Year C.
In our present culture and world, the word “king” is somewhat archaic and at times some of our present kings are not the best of characters, e.g, “King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand dismissed two aids for adultery, a week after he stripped his official mistress of her titles for disloyalty” (!) (“The World This Week,” The Economist, November 2, 2019). So this title is somewhat questionable in reference to Christ even though the November issue of Living With Christ calls Christ the King of the Universe. Please keep this in mind when approaching this Sunday’s coming liturgy and when reading and reflecting on the following comments. Thank you.
Christ’s kingship encounters us immediately in the Entrance Antiphon taken from the biblical book, the Book of Revelation. Christ was slain so that He would be our “king” in terms of love and grace and God the Father’s/Mother’s will. This sets us in the right direction for our thinking and praying. The Collect (prayer) tells us that all things are restored in Jesus Christ and set free from all that would enslave us so that we become free to serve the whole universe by orienting everything to God.
The first reading in which David is anointed “king” of Israel operates out of the usual common understanding of “king” throughout history but it also includes the fact that David is to “shepherd” Israel – not the usual normal way of picturing kingship in Old (Hebrew) Testament times. Furthermore, “there is nothing very religious in this passage [First Reading] which simply reports human solutions for human problems. And yet it is by the play of political events that God will begin preparations for the coming of the Son of David.” (Saint Joseph Liturgical Bible)
The Responsorial Psalm urges us to go happily to the house of the Lord (the Temple), i.e., go up to where God is and be or live in His/Her presence. God is the One Who is Creator of all, including ourselves.
The second reading has no real concept of “kingship” in it but it speaks powerfully beyond it. God is the Creator Who rescues us from darkness and makes us children (“saints”) of the Light in the fullest sense of grace (redeemed and forgiven and totally alive FOREVER). No King can do this and the word “king” is too small to describe this transformation. Saint Paul does use the word “kingdom” but he realizes this cannot be understood in our ordinary usual way: Paul here is speaking about Christ’s primacy in every way! So, true: Paul uses the words “king” and “kingdom” and the use of this reading today is because of that but in hearing the words, personally soar well beyond the limitations of “king” and “kingdom” today!
This reading today clearly shows us the awesome magnificence of Who Christ really is – the manifestation and icon of the great almighty God on Whom this reading is focusing. This God is infinitely much more beyond kingship and anything we can say about it. For Paul, Christ is the One or the Medium Who delivers us to and before the loving and unlimited God Paul is struggling to show us. This all-eternal-love God is referenced again in the first part of today’s Gospel Acclamation.
And be sure to understand Christ’s ROLE in all this! “[He] is the first-born of humanity which, by means of all its choices, gropingly seeks the true God. Christ is present to enlighten men/women concerning our ultimate future, for He is the only one to have arisen from the dead. In Him a new humanity is rising, an unpublished and irreversible phase of history: that is why this new attraction emanates from Him.” (ibid.). Ongoing in us there is a temptation to make Christ part of our thought systems today but this is wrong and this is why we need the above deeper theology about Christ.
In the Gospel, we also encounter “king” and “kingdom”. The inscription on the cross states “King of the Jews” – this is sarcasm writ large. And the second thief approaches Christ as One Who has a Kingdom. But much more important is to understand that in this section of the Passion of Christ, and throughout the Passion of Luke, the evangelist stresses God’s love and hunger and desire for us; in this Gospel, the Passion is a continuous miracle of forgiveness and reconciliation and grace aimed at uniting us to God (forever).
Concluding, let me state the following: please feel free to use royal language regarding Christ if you like but be sure to go way beyond it in the way you see Christ in Faith and in Love! Amen! God always bless you!