November 25, 2018 - Homily01/19/2019
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:2528).
What is a king? At different times and in different cultures, being a king has meant different things, but it has always carried with it a sense of authority. Even if that authority is only symbolic, people look up to a king and are expected to honor, obey, and serve him.
As Americans, we have a hard time wrapping our heads around that concept. After all, our country was born through a revolution by which our forebears cast off a king and created a new form of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That independent spirit still burns in the hearts of Americans today, and we get our dander up at the mere thought of having to obey anyone.
That can make the feast of Christ the King, which we celebrate this weekend, a tall order for American Catholics, that is, until we reflect on what kind of king Christ is and what that means for how we relate to him. If anyone had the right to be a king in the traditional sense and to lord over people, compelling our obedience and service, it would be Christ, the Word through whom God creates and sustains the universe and all that is in it, who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everlasting. Yet, though he had every right to rule over us in that way, he did nothing of the sort. Quite the opposite, “he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:78).
The kingship of Christ is one of servant leadership in which he does not compel us to obey him by wielding power over us but inspires us to follow him by giving his life in our service. To honor, obey, and serve him means to follow his example by humbly serving others in the same way. As we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, let us spend some time reflecting on the true meaning of Christ’s kingship, and then renew together our commitment to serve him by serving one another.
Fr. Marc Stockton