Christ the King

I read a story about Mother Teresa of Calcutta this week. The story claims that Mother Teresa was once in the United States to raise funds for her work among the lepers in Calcutta. One morning she was to meet with two high-powered Wall Street executives, big shots who called the shots, and these two kings of finance had decided ahead of time that they were not going to give Mother Teresa any money. As the meeting began, the diminutive little future saint from Calcutta shuffled into the room and took a seat at a shiny mahogany table across from the two men in their Armani suits. “We appreciate your work,” one of the executives said, “but at this time cannot commit any funds.” Mother Teresa nodded quietly and said, “Let us pray” and then proceeded to ask God to open their hearts, using some strong Biblical words, reportedly words involving sheep and goats, perhaps referencing one of the places greedy people go after they die. After she intoned a quiet “Amen,” the executives again said, “Look, I’m sorry but at this time, we are unable to make any commitments.” “Let us pray” Mother Teresa said, at which point both men took out their checkbooks and wrote big fat checks. The two executives, they thought they were the ones with all the power, they thought they were kings, masters of their own worlds. They thought they were kings, until they met a real queen, and that queen was five feet tall and owned nothing.

Today is the Feast of Christ the King, our patronal feast, for Jesus Christ Himself is our patron. We honor Him in all things, of course; we honor his mother in our Lady Chapel. As our King, we obey His greatest command, to do what we are about to do, in remembrance of Him. Dom Gregory Dix, the monk and author wrote:

“Was ever a command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacles of human greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetish because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so, wounded and prisoner-of-war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheater; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc. One could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them . And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the priests have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei — the holy common people of God.”

Was ever a command so obeyed, was there ever a King so obeyed as Jesus, that on the night that He was betrayed He took bread and wine; He blessed those common things, and gave them to His disciples, that they might partake of His actual Body and Blood, that they might become the holy common people of God, and that they might show us to do the same. Two thousand years later and here we are, in obedience to our King, saying the same words, partaking of that same Body and Blood.

And yet, what kind of king commands us to do such a thing? What kind of king are we looking at in today’s lesson from blessed John? A bit of an upside-down king, right? If Jesus is a king, He should be sitting on His throne, free from molestation and discomfort, His head anointed and feet free of dung, but here we find Jesus bruised and bloodied, His hands bound, His head pierced by thorns, not sitting on a throne but standing before that middle-manager Pontius Pilate. And yet this is the King we obey, adore, the King for whom we will both fling ourselves into battle and turn the other cheek, the King for whom we stand and kneel, feast and fast, the King who now sits in glory at the right hand of the Father, but whose greatest glory was the altar of the Cross.

Does this make sense? No. And yes. But the only way you’re going to make sense of it is to get to know this strange and wonderful King, to listen to His voice and learn the Truth, that this Jesus has been given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. So to Him who loves us and freed us from our sins by His blood, and made us to be a kingdom of priests serving His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

+In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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