November 23, 2018

Christ the Cornerstone

Feast reminds us that our king is not of this world

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.” (Rv 1:5-6)

This weekend, the Church calls our attention to a very different kind of kingship—or governance—than we’re accustomed to.

On Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, and in celebrating this great feast, which concludes the Church year, we are invited to reflect on the mystery of God’s dominion over his creation—all things visible and invisible.

The kingship of Jesus is not of this world. It is a radically different way of exercising leadership, a form of governance grounded in humility and meekness. To be sure, Christ our king can be bold and courageous, unyielding in his defense of the poor and oppressed, but his kingdom is of a spiritual realm not a political one.

That means that our Lord is not one who wields power and influence over others. Instead, he bears witness to the truth. “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (Jn 18:37).

As the one eternal king, Jesus is the one who shepherds his people, protecting us from every kind of danger, including the threats to our immortal souls that come from selfishness and sin. The truth that Jesus bears witness to is that God is love and that we are called to share in this divine love through our submission to Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life.

The encounter with the Roman procurator Pilate in St. John’s Gospel reveals Jesus’ understanding of his absolutely unique role. He is not a threat to civil authority except insofar as earthly rulers deceive themselves and their subjects with illusions about who they are and what they can legitimately demand of their people. “Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate demands, but Jesus does not answer him directly. “My kingdom is not of this world,” he says. “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” (Jn 18:33-36).

The Second Vatican Council taught that, “Since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, the Church or People of God takes nothing away from the temporal welfare of any people by establishing this kingdom” (“Lumen Gentium,” #13). Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, but it invites all nations, peoples and cultures to become sharers in his divine kingship. “This is the time of fulfillment,” Jesus proclaims. “The reign of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15).

The invisible, spiritual kingship of Christ is made concrete and visible through the Church which has been empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the voice, the hands and the heart of Christ in the world. “Before all things, however, [God’s] kingdom is clearly visible in the very person of Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, who came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many” (“Lumen Gentium,” #5).

When we make the person of Jesus Christ visible through our care for one another—especially the poor and vulnerable—Christ’s kingship is made manifest. When we act as one people united in faith, hope and love, we proclaim by our words and actions that the reign of God is at hand and that no worldly power can triumph over the lordship of Christ, King of the Universe.

Sacred Scripture tells us that “Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we who are baptized have been freed from our sins. We have been gathered into Christ’s kingdom “and made priests for his God and Father” (Rv 1:5-6).

The prophet Daniel foresaw “one like a Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven” whose “dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away,” and whose “kingship will not be destroyed” (Dn 7:13-14).

In times of great uncertainty and political division such as we are experiencing now, the kingship of Christ should be a source of comfort. This Sunday, let’s thank God for the gift of his kingdom.

And let’s recommit ourselves to making Christ visible through our care for one another—especially the poor and the vulnerable. †

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