With the predawn opening of America’s department stores on Black Friday we have entered (willingly or not) into the frenzy of the secular holiday. We are now officially awash in the sights and sounds of the season and we are told to buy, buy, buy … not only is it good for the economy but it is also an act of patriotism!
In the Feast of Christ the King, our Church throws us a lifeline to hold onto and to help us go deeper in order to find “the true reason for the season”. This Sunday we remember and reflect on who Jesus Christ is and what his birth means for us and for all of history. This Feast allows us to skip forward to the “last chapter” of the book – as it were – before we enter into the opening pages of Advent.
Christ is King – but in what does his kingship consists and how is it achieved? The kingship of Christ consists not in worldly might and the ability to impose one’s will and dominate (attested to by both Scripture and Tradition) but rather in the ability to reconcile and to make peace. Christ holds together. He heals that which has been fractured by sin. This is truly the work of God alone. The hymn found in The Letter to the Colossians proclaims, “For in Christ 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…”. Christ the King makes peace. Christ heals that which is fractured both individually in our hearts and universally in our world and all creation.
How is this achieved? Here we are confronted with nothing less than the mystery and the paradox of the cross. At this moment, a quote from Thomas Merton might be an aid as we contemplate the work of Christ the King on the cross.
Do not depend on the hope of results.
When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on,
you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless
and even achieve no worth at all,
if not perhaps, results opposite of what you expect.
As you get used to this idea,
you will start more and more to concentrate not on the results,
but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.
Hanging there on the cross (being jeered at and mocked by all around him) Christ the King is “doing” the work of peace and of reconciliation, not by the imposition of his will but by the very rightness, the very truth of the work itself – the rightness of the giving of himself and the truth of obedience to the Father’s will. Here alone is where peace is found and where the work of peace is built and achieved.
We always pray for peace during this time of year. We pray for it, we yearn for it, we even sing songs testifying to our desire for peace. In all this our Christian faith says “yes” it is right to pray for peace but also it is right to work to build true peace. Here though (our faith also wisely cautions) let our work be true and let our action be informed by the full revelation of Christ – peace is not built through the power of an action and the imposition of will but through right action – doing something because it is the right thing to do – no matter how small, seemingly insignificant and maybe even disparaged and mocked. Christ the King – “making peace by the blood of his cross” – teaches us that peace (both in our hearts and in the world) can only be built through the rightness and the truth of the work itself.