Accepting the kingship of Christ
Jesus Christ...the ruler of the kings of the earth, loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father.
That Jesus has authority over all earthly rulers, whether they acknowledge it or not, is important to us, His disciples. We have accepted the kingship of Christ over our life. In one way that acceptance is a matter signed, sealed and delivered some time ago when we were baptised. For most of us, however, there is a need for a daily recommitment. The morning offering, for example – I offer the prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all intentions of the Sacred Heart – is our reminding ourselves of who is in charge. Perhaps also at other moments of the day we pray once more to submit to the true king. The Word was made flesh. And dwelt among us. The king, Jesus Christ, stands beside us and concerns himself with what concerns us as a friend but also as one with the authority of God. Earthly rulers have quite an impact on us. It can feel as if they are stronger than Christ. However we know the true situation. In fact Jesus’ kingdom of truth gives us space to assess all that happens in the world and to sift what is worthwhile and good.
The ruler of the kings of the earth, loves us and has washed away our sins with his blood. That we accept Jesus as the king in our life is a commitment which needs continual acknowledgement and renewal. Such re-commitment takes place through prayer, through the sacraments and through the practice of the Christian life. This continual reminding ourselves of our life-shaping priorities and commitments is not simply submissive. We bend the knee to our king: but we do not only submit to him. This king loves us and we seek to love him in return. His is a kingship of the heart and our response is also heartfelt. Jesus deals with us lovingly. As we strive under grace to obey him and to live as he has taught and commanded we do so affectionately and joyfully. We do so with all the optimism of love. Our king invites us to come closer to the throne of grace: we approach with delight. The king’s love has been demonstrated by his washing away our sins with His blood. Our relationship with Christ the king has as its background this mercy and forgiveness. Its context is also our awareness that something wonderful has happened to us thanks to his having died for us on the cross.
Pontius Pilate who was the first to hear what kind of king Jesus is condemned him to death. Christ nevertheless continues to reign from the cross. For raised up high on the Cross, He gave Himself up for us with a wonderful love and poured out blood and water from His pierced side, the wellspring of the Church’s sacraments. Pilate, the earthly ruler, brought it about that Christ the true king was placed upon his rightful throne, the tree of Calvary. But he, Pilate, did not understand the nature of the enthronement of which he was master of ceremonies. The love, the forgiveness of sins, the true kingship of Jesus: these passed him by. These truths were reflected in Pilate’s unease but not in his understanding.
We mention Pontius Pilate in the creed so as to anchor our faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in a precise moment in history: we continue to live in the time of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. However we who say the creed can be like Pilate in being right in the middle of the most important spiritual events while scarcely beginning to understanding them.
We aspire to full understanding because Christ the king has made us kings also. He has made us a line of kings, priests to serve His God and Father. The kingship of Jesus is reproduced in our life. This participation in the Kingdom is no pageant since for us also the throne that is the cross figures importantly. Christ the king was raised up on the cross, Our promotion, our conversion, our being changed into persons-who-are-like-Jesus is thoroughly ennobling but it is a ‘crowning’ which has its share of suffering. Jesus teaches us that the cross is, for him, not only a throne but also an altar. Christ the king reigns from the cross and Jesus the high priest offers his sacrifice on that same sacred structure. We are in his line. We do as he did and does. Our lives are structured on the model of that of Jesus. Our portion of suffering and sacrifice is our share in the royal and priestly work of the same Lord Jesus Christ.
There is an understanding to be acquired of this work that we are to do, this life that we are to live. It is an understanding however that comes not from books, nor from attention to the rulers of this world but from living attentively in the kingdom of God. The same sacramental life, the same life of prayer, the same Christian life which, in being lived, teaches us about our divine ruler, Christ the king, also shows us what we are to do and how we are to be.
Yes, I am a king. I was born for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice. Our being on the side of truth is our finding our place in the line of Jesus, king and priest. Christ the king, anointed by God for his mission of salvation anoints us who are baptized to share that mission. The oil of gladness strengthens us. The anointing is an acceptance of our share of suffering. There is joy and confidence in such difficult acceptance. Like the cross of Jesus, our troubles, far from being meaningless, have the holiest purpose of all. With his help we endure them. By his grace we soar beyond them.
Peter Gallagher SJ