From the Pastor – November 22, 2009

“Jesus says, ”˜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.’” (Jn. 18:36-38a)

On the last Sunday in Ordinary Time we remember Christ as Universal King. And it’s powerful to recall that His Kingdom was established on earth not as an exercise of power, but in an exercise of humility. Look at our church. Our forefathers who built this church had the Kingship of Christ in mind even before the feast of Christ the King was added to the Church calendar in 1925. Look up at the grand mural painted in the apse of our church to depict St. Stephen beholding Christ reigning in Heaven with His Father and the Holy Spirit. And then look in front of that mural to the marble cross which announces the kingship of Christ in the inscription above his head: I.N.R.I. Those four letters stand for four words: Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum or “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” Although we pray daily “thy Kingdom come” for a return of Christ in glory, we also recognize that the kingdom is here because Christ already inaugurated it on the cross. And the king is already present here, in the humble presence of the Eucharist. But to recognize that presence, we have to have faith.

It would be easier for us to adore Christ if He appeared in glory surrounded by the angels and the saints. And that will happen one day. But today He desires to hide his majesty under his great humility. The humility of the Eucharist reminds us that Christ’s crown wasn’t one of jewels but one of thorns. His dominion wasn’t dressed in a robe of purple, but in a body crimson with blood. And His throne was not of gold, but of the wood of the cross.

What does it mean for us to relate to Christ as king? Most people think that this simply means to obey Christ as we would obey a king. But seeing Christ as king is not the same as seeing another human being – one with the same humanity that we have – as a king. It’s doesn’t mean following the arbitrary whims of a king weak with original sin. It means trusting what Christ reveals is the truth, the very truth that sets us free (Jn. 8:32). Obedience in Christ’s kingdom is really the summit of freedom. Obedience is recognizing that Christ reveals authentic freedom through His service to us. Obedience to Christ makes us free to love purely, free to follow Christ in holiness, and free to give our lives out of love as a ransom for many. True freedom isn’t a license to do whatever gives us pleasure. That’s a slavery to sin! True freedom gives us happiness and holiness in this life, and eternal life in the next.

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty