The readings for this Feast of Christ the King evoke three images of Christ as King. All of them are to some extent paradoxical because they emphasize things we don’t usually associate with kings. They also tell us that we have already met King Jesus even if we don’t realize it. Let’s look at these three images of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of all Creation:
I. Caring King – The first reading, from Ezekiel 34, speaks of the Lord as a shepherd who cares for His flock. Here are some of the lines that summarize His care: I myself will look after and tend my sheep … I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark … I myself will give them rest … The lost I will seek out … The strayed I will bring back … The injured I will bind up. The sick I will heal.
In the modern world we don’t typically think of kings and heads of state in such a caring role. Most world leaders are inaccessible to us, existing behind many layers of security and staff. Even bishops of larger dioceses are hard to reach personally.
Jesus, however, is a King who is more present to us than we are to ourselves. An old revival hymn says, “Jesus is on the Main Line … call him up and tell him what you want.” Another song says, “God is just one prayer away.”
In the ancient world it was much more comment to speak of a caring king. Most kings had more immediate contact with their subjects. Many had certain days on which their subjects could line up to talk to them. It is said that St. Athanasius ran up to the emperor on his horse one day, grabbed the reins, and proceeded to debate a theological point with him.
Until relatively recently, even U.S. Presidents had office hours. It is said that on Tuesdays Abraham Lincoln received visitors from among the citizenry who sought to speak to him of their concerns. They would line up at the door without formal appointments and he’d listen to them one by one. As our culture has become more violent and public figures have become more widely recognized and vulnerable, leaders have receded into sealed, bulletproof, and figuratively soundproof worlds, hearing little from “ordinary people.”
The idea of a king who cares for his people personally is somewhat paradoxical to us today, but Jesus does care for His people.
I want to testify that I do indeed have a caring King, Jesus. He’s been good to me. He has led me, rescued me, purified me, fed me, instructed me, and graced me; He died for me.
I also want to testify that He was being good to me even when I didn’t think He was being good to me. Scripture says, All things work together for good to them who love and trust the Lord (Rom 8:28). Notice that not just the “good things” work for my benefit but even the bad things. God sometimes permits some “stuff” to happen because it will bless us in the end. Even if you’re suffering, don’t give up on God. Some of His gifts sometimes come in strange packages. St Paul says, For this affliction is producing for us a weight of glory beyond compare (2 Cor 4:17).
Did you notice the last line in the passage from Ezekiel? But the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly. Yes, even at those times when I needed to be humbled (to have my pride destroyed) the Lord was shepherding me rightly. There was a time in my life when I was sleeker and stronger, but the Lord let me experience some humiliation, destroying me as it were, and giving me humility. I even see this humiliation physically, for I was once slim and now I am overweight. It is humbling to be fat, especially when people scold me; they seem to think it is easy to lose weight. But God will humble them too, perhaps in other ways. God hates pride; He just can’t stand it. This is because He knows how deadly it is to us.
Yes, God is a caring King. Some of His ways are paradoxical. Do not reduce the noun “care” merely to meaning “that which comforts and consoles.” It can be that, but not always! Sometimes the “caring” thing to do is to rebuke, warn, or even punish. God never ceases to care for us. I’m a witness. He’s been good to me. Even when I didn’t think He was being good to me, He was being good to me.
Finally note that Jesus exercises this care through his Body, the Church. This means all of us, not just clergy. Parents, elders, youngsters, and all area summoned to share the faith, to console and care, find the lost and straying, and correct the sinner. We are Christ’s voice, his heart, his hands.
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