Becoming King


20 November 2005: The Solemnity of Christ the King
Matthew 25, 31-36


At the end of the liturgical year, we affirm our belief that Christ is the King of our lives, and of the whole universe. It is not surprising that many of us have enthroned the image of the Sacred Heart or Christ the King in our homes. In the prayer of enthronement, the members of the household pledge their allegiance to Christ.

It is therefore appropriate for us to re-evaluate why we have enthroned Christ in our homes: How do we regard the image of Christ on the throne? Do we regard the image as a talisman to protect us from evil? Or like the Chinese, to bring us good luck and to ward off unfriendly spirits? Or like many Filipinos who put garlic outside their houses to shoo away the aswang? Or like the palm branches blessed on Palm Sunday to protect us from calamities? Do we actually think that the power is in the image?

On the other hand, should we see that no amount of holy water poured in the house or the number of statues in our homes will ever shoo away evil, except the power of our faith? All the images we have of Christ and of the saints are reminders of how we should be as Christians: just as Christ is King, so we too should practice our kingship--- lives patterned on the Kingship of Christ.

What then is Christ's kingship? We take the cue from Psalm 23, the responsorial psalm today. The image of the king in the Old Testament centers on the shepherd. The shepherd takes care of his flock. Every shepherd knows very well that the flock entrusted to his care is not owned by an individual but by the whole community. It is not surprising that when the lost sheep was found by the good shepherd, the whole community celebrated. For the shepherds, to keep a loving and watchful eye on the fold means to concretely serve the community. And because of the dedication of the shepherd, it has become the paradigm of Judeo-Christian leadership. Kingship is thus humble service; service in the name of the community and in the name of God to whom the community belongs.

How do we practice our kingship? Matthew's Gospel illustrates this by the literary form called repetition: if a phrase or sentence in scripture is repeated, it is therefore important. The Gospel repeats 4x the following in different manners: "when I was hungry, you gave me food; when I was thirsty, you have me drink; when I was a stranger, you welcomed me; when I was naked, you clothed me; when I was sick and in prison, you visited me." One observes that these works are ordinary duties: things which our parents do every day but hardly gets noticed. Many termed this as the sacrament of the ordinary: that the best service we do are not the one-time, big-time medical missions, outreach programs, fund-raising for the poor with the photo shoot and media coverage, but the daily tasks done quietly and regularly. Karl Rahner SJ, a Jesuit theologian and philosopher once said that the promotion of the Kingdom of God is not through our achievements, titles or status, but by hidden works, by unobtrusive service.

St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, teaches us to add one more thing: the magis, the more, the little extra in the little service. Thus, when we cook, we cook excellently; when we wash our dishes, we wash it excellently; when we clean our rooms, we clean it excellently; when we study, we study excellently; when we attend mass, we participate excellently; when we watch a movie, we enjoy it excellently, especially with those whom we love.

In other words, the little things we do to each other illustrate the depth of our faith in Christ our King. If we see Christ in each person, then excellent service will come naturally. Les Miserables further affirms this truth to us: to love another person is to see the face of Christ. We have indeed seen Christ our King: all we need is a new vision, and a renewed spirit.

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