The feast of Christ the King
I find the term ‘flesh and blood’ appealing. It says something about a family connection and a sense of belonging. It implies something tangible, something real, something we can touch and see, a common identity and humanity.
The tribes of Israel came to David (2 Samuel 5:1-3) with the appeal ‘we are your own flesh and blood’. You are part of us, you know us, we have seen you in action, we know what kind of leader you are - the Lord has his hand on you, and we want you to be our King. They anointed him.
The Gospel taken from Luke 23:35-43 presents us with Christ, his flesh and blood is laid bare before us on the cross. Here was the man who had sort out the vulnerable and the broken, the weak and infirmed and now before all to see was broken and vulnerable himself. People had come to know him by his words and actions, and they had seen what he stood for but this is a very different situation to that of King David.
The leaders jeered, the soldiers mocked and one of the criminals crucified with him blasphemed. With a strange twist of irony that they are the ones who tell us who this man really is…. the Christ of God, the Chosen One.
And above his head a roughly printed placard intended to state his crime but in reality, proclaims his true title ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ We look upon the cross and see Jesus, our own flesh and blood making the ultimate sacrifice for us, the ultimate sacrifice for all broken humanity.
As St Paul in Colossians states (Col 1:12-20), we are his body and he is our head. He is the King who entered fully our condition, the chosen one who knows us completely- the anointed one who took on our flesh and blood in order to raise us up beyond power and control, beyond position, self-interest and influence.
The two criminals crucified alongside Jesus whose flesh and blood was very much laid bare too, react in very different ways to the way Christ shows his Kingship.
The first reacts, come on do something if you are the Christ- show some power, save us…You don’t have to go through this. …what are you waiting for? Get us down off this cross! What are you trying to prove? You’re all talk.
The other response sees an innocent man who makes him think and reflect on his own life, his own behaviour and the need to make up for what he had done. His encounter with Christ is a conversion experience. Christ, innocent, condemned and dying enables him to see hope beyond what seems hopeless. He experiences the mercy and presence of God in this broken figure before him and makes an incredible act of faith. ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom’.
As flesh and blood people ourselves who face difficult and trying situations at times there is a bit of both thieves in us. Sometimes we may want to escape responsibility and the pain involved blaming God for what we’re going through, sometimes we may want God to deal to a situation or to a person who has hurt us because they deserve it, sometimes we can question if God even cares but other times we are prepared to see beyond the present moment, to learn and grow through the experience and to trust that God fully understands what we’re going through because he is indeed flesh and blood like us and he was broken and vulnerable like us and he has made peace by his death on the cross.
For those who share in the Eucharist today, may the flesh and blood of Christ remind you of the crucified King we follow and be a foretaste of the kingdom he promises each one of us.
And as you greet each other may the simple gesture of taking someone’s hand or embracing them in welcome remind you that the Kingdom of God is here.
Given today we celebrate, ‘Christ as King’ listen to the ‘Maryknoll Gloria’ from ‘A Noble Work’ and lift up your heart in thanks and praise. I wrote this ‘Gloria’ when I lived in Greenmeadows in 2012 in our community house called ‘Maryknoll’.