Solemnity of Christ the King
In my office hangs a numbered print of ” Walk of Faith” by Thomas Kinkade. It depicts Jesus walking with St. Peter along a pathway through a forest bright with colors and the mix of light and darkness characteristic of Thomas Kinkade. I find it to be an inspirational painting inviting reflection on our journey through life with the Lord Jesus. The image of Jesus reflects some of the more appealing images of Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus as Good Shepherd, Jesus as healer, the compassionate Jesus who forgives, Jesus the teacher sitting on the mound or in a boat or sitting in the temple – these all come to mind when I look at this painting. These images inspire, strengthen, encourage, and bring a kind of peace to those who spend time with them in mind and heart.
What a contrast to our scripture readings and Solemnity today ! Today we have the image of the Royal Jesus. In Daniel, Jesus is depicted as the Son of Man coming on the clouds to assume His everlasting dominion over the entire Universe. In Revelations, Jesus is the timeless ruler over all of the kings of the earth – He is the Alpha and the Omega ! St. John gives us a stop and look again image of Jesus. He is a prisoner before His captor but He is a prisoner who is in total control of the moment and the conversation. In testifying to the truth, Jesus assumes the royal position of proclaiming the truth of an unseen kingdom unknown to His captor. The kingdom is far superior to these earthly kingdoms and is everlasting. Here, Jesus is all powerful, glorious and reigning in splendor.
I have a dilemma in attempting to place these two images of Jesus side by side. The oddity is compounded by dimensions of our American culture. Most of us do not think in terms of kings or queens or royal families. Even when a writer uses the terms in reference to one or another political dynasty in America, we pretty much brush aside the implications of “royalty”. Royal concepts are alien to our thought patterns. Perhaps this is why we much more readily relate to the images of Jesus occasioned by the painting “Walk of Faith”. A kingly Jesus was much more understandable to us in the 1950’s when Sacred Scripture was pretty much left to the Priests of the Church while the laity was steeped in our devotional life. That was a wonderful time for me and my spiritual life but times have changed. Now we are encouraged to read and study the Scriptures as never before. Because we do, we are invited to wrestle with the images and the Person of the Lord Jesus in every dimension of our relationship with Him. Our Solemnity provides us with some food for thought for such a reflection.
Our idea of royal responsibilities needs to be stretched a bit. If we are thinking of a king who acts on the conviction that He is responsible for the welfare and well being of every one of His subjects, we may be able to think of the Lord Jesus as king. If we think of royalty as one who tempers accountability with mercy and compassion, perhaps Jesus can be royal for us. If we are expecting a kingly presence that champions truth and helps everyone to seek and to find the truth of life, then perhaps Jesus can be that presence for us. If we imagine a king who has a profound sense of being here for the service of His People, who is attentive to their every need, who provides strength in the weaker moments of life, healing in the wounded moments of life, forgiveness in the fallen moments of life and affirming motivation in the journey of life, then perhaps Jesus can be our King. All of those mind filling “Walk of Faith” dimensions of Jesus may actually come together to create a royal image of Jesus who we celebrate in Handel’s Messiah at Christmas as “King of Kings”.
For each of us, Jesus remains as the center of our life. As we walk with Him, circle around Him and look intently at Him from every vantage point, seeing Him and understanding Him in differing ways as the circumstances of our lives shift and change, perhaps we come to the moment in our “Walk of Faith” when all those dimensions converge into the image of the Lord Jesus, King of our hearts and King of the Universe.
Fr. Richard Burke, CP, is a member of St. Paul of the Cross Province. He lives at St. Ann’s Monastery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.