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Christ the King – not of this world

At the culmination of this liturgical calendar, today’s reading reveals that Christ the King, in attitude, appearance and dominion contrasts sharply with our secular perception of kingship.

In Trinidad, perhaps this contrasting kingship is most evident during events where kings reign—for example, when the Calypso Monarch is announced amidst thunderous applause, the winner, beaming with pride, literally and symbolically assumes a throne and when crowned, he collects his cash award and is allowed some semblance of power to command and demand.

In contrast, the King of the universe accumulates no material wealth and He is not applauded. Instead, “the rulers scoffed at Jesus … the soldiers also mocked him … one of the criminals who were hanged, railed at him” (Lk 23:35–39).

Do we too scoff at Jesus, mock Him and rail against Him? Or is He truly the King not only of the universe but of our hearts, wills and minds, our families, our communities and our nation?

Perhaps more significant than the verbal abuse Jesus endured, the misunderstanding demonstrated by those who placed the inscription above His head, “This is the King of the Jews” highlights the onlookers’ failure to understand that Christ the King does not lead a political kingdom.

The four qualities of Christ’s kingdom, according to Msgr Rudolph G Gandas are that it is supreme, extending not only to all people, but also to their kings and princes; it is universal, extending to all nations and to all places; it is eternal, for “The Lord shall sit as King forever”; and it is spiritual, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.

Indeed, misunderstanding and mystery still feature today as characteristics of Christ’s kingdom—a kingdom that simultaneously exists in the past, present and future.

Not only is His kingdom not of this world but His reign is not one of power but of mercy and compassion—not one of self-service but of self-giving. Jesus hangs between two thieves—one who rails at him and shouts, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us”. Yet this King demonstrates kingship not by saving Himself but by saving others, offering Paradise to all who come to Him, accept His reign and remain faithful to His Father’s will.

In Trinidad, another contrasting image between Christ the King and a secular one is when the King of Carnival appears in all his regalia, clad in beauty and brilliance. We, onlookers hold him in high esteem and stand in awe, enthralled by his massive costume and the intricate, often creative details of his masterpiece. He is a man who attracts our eyes.

Yet Jesus, “like a sapling he grew up, like a root in arid ground. He had no form or charm to attract us, no beauty to win our hearts; he was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it were, we averted our gaze, despised, for whom we had no regard” (Isa 53:2–3).

Finally, the throne, the symbol of the king’s seat of power is often extraordinarily elaborate but the throne of Christ the King is a cross. Like the two thieves, our encounter with Christ often begins there. Although the cross of self-giving and self-sacrifice is where we least want to be— discipleship also begins there.

However, we prefer to engage in the pomp and pageantry and grandeur of the coronation of the king at the castle. We rarely understand nor do we want to witness Christ brand of kingship on the cross, lacking as it does, the pomp and pageantry and grandeur we have grown to expect from kings.

Indeed, in attitude, appearance and dominion Christ the King contrasts sharply with our secular perception of kingship but His brand of leadership is the one to which we should aspire and emulate.