The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Reflection: Jesus, the king of love
By SISTER MARY McGLONE
Once upon a time, a wicked queen asked, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who in this land is fairest of all?”
Unfortunately, the magic mirror could only speak the truth; instead of naming the woman admiring herself, the mirror named her stepdaughter, putting little Snow White in mortal danger. Although the queen tried three times to murder her, Snow White survived, married the handsome prince and became the fairest queen in the land.
This classic story depicts royalty, poverty, servitude, danger and finally, punishment for evil and the triumph of innocence and beauty over cruelty. It’s all about image, innocence and evil — about whose image is the most beautiful and the woe that flows from jealousy.
In the hymn Paul quotes in his letter to the Colossians, he describes Christ as the image of the invisible God in whom all the fullness was pleased to dwell. Snow White’s beauty reflected one culture’s sense of the best they had to offer. Paul’s depiction of Christ is based on behavior rather than appearances; he describes Christ as being like God rather than appearing like what any culture would want or imagine a god to look like.
We have no description of Jesus. We can assume he looked like a Middle Eastern man of his time and dressed in the clothing that distinguished observant Jews. The only hint we have about his appearance comes from Isaiah who described the suffering servant as so startlingly disfigured that he no longer appeared human (Isaiah 52:14).
Luke tells us that as Jesus was dying, his torturers sneered and jeered at him, insisting that if he were of God, he should be able to save himself as he had supposedly saved others. Then, the mother of all insults was the sign posted over his head proclaiming his crime: “This is the King of the Jews.” It’s not an appealing picture.
Truly, the only touchstone between Jesus and the fairy tales is the suffering of the innocent. God sent Jesus no handsome prince or saving angels. This king of the universe died, nailed down and rejected by civil and religious authorities. To the Romans he meant next to nothing. To the religious elite, he presented a moral and perhaps even a mortal threat. To most of his disciples, he had become a danger and an apparent failure. Yet, some of the most powerless people around saw something else. The lamenting women continued to accompany him, offering him the only thing they could: their loving and brokenhearted presence.
The saving grace in this scene is revealed when the dying Jesus interacts with the God-fearing criminal who shared his sentence. Somehow, he more than any other man, grasped a portion of Jesus’ own faith. Flying in the face of appearances and reason itself, the man said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The request, “remember me,” resounds with scriptural significance. The Exodus happened because God remembered the covenant and acted (Exodus 2:24). When Jesus broke and blessed the bread of his self-giving, he told his disciples to do the same in remembrance of him. Remembrance is a form of calling on real presence. Jesus promised his crucified companion that he would not only share his death, but also his life.
The title of this feast is superlative. The images we typically create for it are flush with symbols of royalty and high priesthood; greatness and grandeur are the order of the day. Nevertheless, the Gospel we hear today reflects none of that. Today’s Gospel portrays an apparently impotent Christ: defeated in the eyes of the world and dying in the sight of an impotent or uncaring God. If we ask which of these images, the royal or the shattered, better reflects Christ, we must choose the one from the Scriptures rather than the human imagination.
As we think about the Christian message, especially on a feast like today’s, it’s too easy to fall into a fairy tale mode and recall Christ the King as the ultimate happily-ever-after story. This flies in the face of the Scriptures. It strips Jesus’ death of its depth and risks portraying his love as shallow as that of a prince enchanted by prettiness.
On the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, let us remember the real Jesus: rejected and mocked, he was powerless to stop the violence. Let us remember that he reigned through active love even as he suffered and died. When God raised him, even though he still bore the marks of suffering, it was the love that continued to reign. Faith insists that love is the only power capable of overcoming evil. As living images of our God, it is that love and that alone that we are called to remember and make present again.
(2 Samuel 5: 1-3)
In those days, all the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said:
“Here we are, your bone and your flesh.
In days past, when Saul was our king,
it was you who led the Israelites out and brought them back.
And the LORD said to you,
‘You shall shepherd my people Israel
and shall be commander of Israel.'”
When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron,
King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD,
and they anointed him king of Israel.
(Psalm 122: 1-5)
(Colossians 1: 12-20)
Brothers and sisters:
Let us give thanks to the Father,
who has made you fit to share
in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
He delivered us from the power of darkness
and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.
(Luke 23: 35-43)
The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”