The King, with Arms Open Wide
On this final Sunday of the Liturgical Year, we celebrate the kingship of Christ. Our readings and liturgy make it clear that Christ’s kingship has little to do with the exercise of monarchical power. We are reflecting on Jesus’ identity, rather than his life. Rather than calling up images of Jesus dressed in kingly robes, we are reminded in the words of the Gospel, that Jesus is proclaimed as a king, by the sign over his head, which is on his throne of a wooden cross, “Jesus, King of the Jews.”
So what kind of descriptions do we have of this “king”, who is not a king by the means of descriptions we are used to in describing a king? We can find them in today’s second reading from the Letter of Paul to the Colossians. Jesus is described as the First Born of all Creation, the Head of the Body, the Church and the Beginning, the First Born of the Dead. These titles are intended to call all believers to the posture of praise and thanksgiving, and to proclaim that God’s redemption and forgiveness are for everyone and was accomplished through sacrifice on a cross. That seems to some a lot to wrap your arms around. This describes a king? The leaders of Jesus’ time, those who were versed in the law, those “learned of the law” had problems accepting these attributes of a king and because of this they did not recognize what a true king looked like.
It took the most unlikely person, a self-confessed criminal who admitted that he deserved to die for what he did wrong. All the Gospel writers give insight from their versions of the Passion Story that illustrate just what kind of king Jesus is. There are particular examples found in Luke’s Gospel throughout this liturgical year, hat give us answers. In Mary’s Magnificat, before the birth of Jesus, Mary proclaims that God has come to the help of Israel, being mindful of his mercy. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we see what a true act of mercy is like. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we see what a true act of forgiveness looks like. In Jesus’ continual prayer, while being nailed to the cross, “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing”. Finally, Jesus’ mercy being extended to a criminal who ask to be remembered by Jesus when Jesus enters into his kingdom. Jesus’s response is the promise of forgiveness, which leads to eternal life. In words and actions throughout his life, and now in the final stages of his earthly life, Jesus shows that his kingship lies in his expression of God’s mercy, a mercy he makes a reality, not just an aspiration.
So by now, we just know that everyone is invited to enter into the kinship of Jesus. When did we receive our personal invitation? At our baptism, when we were anointed, Priest, Prophet and King. Are we comfortable with that invitation? Do we really embrace the meaning of this invitation from a king? Are we still a little nervous, knowing one day, we will meet the ultimate King? I invite you to listen to the words, found in a country song, which presents a gentle invitation.
Welcome to my world,
won’t you come on in.
Welcome to my world,
built with you in mind.
Knock and the door will open,
seek and you will find,
ask and you will be given,
the key to this world of mine.
If we still need evidence of what the mercy of God looks like, all you need to do is to look at Jesus’ life, study his actions. Jesus, the king, who embodies the Mercy of God. Reflect on the closing words of the song, I’m waiting here, with my arms unfurled, Welcome to My World.