Our eyes are getting used to the most harrowing images coming out of tormented and/or war-stricken places of this world. Our hearts are getting numb and desensitized before all the horror and helplessness of which we become aware. Yet, the Church challenges us to keep those disturbing images before our eyes a little longer and see if we can entertain the thought that we might find Christ’s Kingdom where there is so much pain, desolation, and helplessness.
Is Christ’s Kingdom to be found in hospitals where tender children fight cancer and look old without their hair and eyebrows?
Is it to be found whenever the little ones, the defenseless, the lowly and inconsequential have become invisible or are crushed?
Is it to be found whenever no one is there to pierce the walls of indifference and do something about the tears, the anguish, the despair, the degradation?
My friends in Christ, liturgical years A and B end with a more conventional, dignified, “more proper” way of celebrating Christ’s kingship. This liturgical year (C) offers us a closing that is totally unexpected, shocking and, thus, a lot more challenging for our faith.
Today, Feast of Christ the King, even the slightest trace of triumphalism is replaced by the compelling order to look for Jesus’ Kingdom in the most unsuspected places, under the most unlikely conditions, amid the most unusual circumstances. Thus, somehow, we are forced to reimagine the transformation that God is bringing about to turn so much pain into the unfathomable triumph of endless joy and pure love which constitutes the Kingdom that his Son Jesus will hand over to him at the end of time.
Even more than that, looking at our King on the cross, we are obligated to reshape our way of assessing honor, glory, and power from God’s perspective. We are forcefully shoved past our earthly ways and into God’s ways with the firm conviction that his are the only ways for anyone destined for his Kingdom. Indeed, if there are those with an edge in entering the Kingdom, these must be the outcast, the little ones, repentant sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the insignificant ones.
If we still find it quite hard to place ourselves in one of the above-mentioned groups, we should reflect seriously on the fact that even nowadays many consider our King a delusional troublemaker or a nuisance or an irrelevant martyr. Upon hearing this, we might strongly disagree because it seems clear that even some of those who do not care for our Christian faith, respect, and show deference for Jesus. However, they can do so only by clearly separating Jesus from his Body, the Church. Such a Jesus doesn’t exist!
If we were to accept their way of thinking, we would void the very essence of his Kingdom. Not only is Jesus, one with and inseparable from his Body but, as I mentioned before, he requires of all members of his Body to adopt and to abide throughout by his very mindset. If we are not yet convinced of this, we have only to look at what type of persons he seeks out and with whom he associates. We have only to go over the Beatitudes once again. We have only to recall his solemn assurance that whatever we did to the least of our brothers and sisters, we did it to Him. And that list is hardly an honor list: the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the sick, the incarcerated, etc.
If, at long last, all this makes some sense, we have then to check our spiritual eyesight. We must learn a difficult, yet simple lesson from the “repentant thief.” He recognizes Jesus as King not at the hour of triumph but at the moment of his total demise, when his closest friends have deserted him; his body is covered by spittle and blood; his head is crowned with thorns; his throne is a most shameful gibbet.
Christ’s Kingdom is hidden indeed and so is our King. The obvious and wise conclusion is, then, of knowing where to look for him, where to find his Kingdom. The Holy Eucharist is perhaps the best way to start. From a merely human perspective, there can be hardly anything more insignificant, more ridiculous than a little wafer in our hand or on our tongue.
Well, if our calculations are correct, right there is Christ our King and his whole Body too. Then, we will find him also in our heart, amid our embarrassing miseries, contradictions, and sins, just like modern days “repentant thieves.” And we will find him in war-torn countries, in hospitals, in North Korea’s and China’s prisons; anywhere there is pain; anywhere there is despair; anywhere there is need for our God.
All those are areas of his Kingdom where our God in human flesh is waiting for our response of loving concern.