Christ the King (A) 22nd November, 2020
The feast of Christ the King is not a particularly ancient feast. It was introduced in the 1920’s as a counter to the rise of totalitarianism, to remind the faithful that it is not the rulers of the world who govern our inner lives, but Christ himself who ruled not by domination, fear or violence, but by service, love and sacrifice. The feast was never meant to be a comparison between Our Lord and any earthly king, so much as a challenge. Despite the political context in which this feast was instituted it has attracted a faithful response and devotion from people of faith who do recognise that Christ is the one to whom they look for guidance and authority in their lives.
You might expect a Gospel on the feast of Christ the King to be an exaltation of his dignity and regal nature, but today’s gospel is not so much about Christ as King as about us – not about us as subjects of a divine king , but about us as individuals who have a responsibility to act. And, of course, responsibility for actions lies with the person doing those actions. In the last century, and rather sadly, even in this century, many people said ‘I was only obeying orders’ as some sort of excuse for brutal or barbaric behavior. Today’s gospel makes it clear that there is no space for such vocabulary in the Christian lexicon. Today’s gospel about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked at so on, calls us to account for our own responsibility to live as true subjects of Christ, our responsibility to imitate him in his active concern for others, especially those in need. The big challenge from Jesus’ words today is to look to the things we don’t do. Most of us can confidently stand up and say, “I did not harm, kill rob, steal and so on”. But how many of us could truly stand up and say, “I fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and so forth.” – I know can’t. To take responsibility for the things we don’t do, is the perhaps the big challenge to us as individuals and to our society at large.
When we pay with cash or put a stamp on an envelope we probably don’t spnd too much time thinking about the Queen’s head that is on the bank notes and stamps. But we might well notice if it was no longer there. As Christians, the challenge is to have Christ’s head stamped on the mechanism of all our human exchange and activity. When we walk down the street we don’t look at another person and say, ‘Oh, there goes a subject of the Queen – and, although they may be a subject of the Queen, they are not the Queen, or even representative of the Queen. But when we walk down the street and see any other person we should say and think to ourselves, not ‘there’s a subject of Christ the King’, but ‘there is Christ the King himself.’ For he said, ‘In so far as you did it, or did it not to the least of these, you did it or did it not to me.’