THE SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING (Cycle B)
The Last Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 93:1-2, 5
All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).
God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).
The Theme of this Solemnity's Readings: Jesus Christ is
Lord of Lords and King of Kings!
The Solemnity of Christ the King is always celebrated on the last Sunday before the beginning of Advent. In our readings, we end the Church's liturgical year with a vision of the Christ the King's return at the end of the age, and we celebrate His universal kingship. We become heirs of Christ the King when we are anointed at our Baptism. It is then that we become members of a royal family in Christ's Kingdom of the Church. We are a royal people and we share in our King's crown. Most earthly kings wear jewel encrusted crowns and sit on golden thrones, but our King is crowned with thorns and His throne is the wood of the Cross. We are called to share in His Kingdom of justice, self-sacrifice, peace, and freedom. And the more we grow spiritually, the more we come to recognize the face of our royal ruler in the faces of the impoverished, the hungry, and the oppressed.
In the First Reading, the prophet Daniel has a vision of the divine Messiah who has the appearance of a human being, "one like a Son of man," coming before the throne of God to receive power and authority over all peoples, kingdoms, and nations of the earth. This is the same "Son of Man" in St. John's visions in the Book of Revelation, in our Second Reading. In the Gospel Reading, Jesus tells the Roman governor Pontius Pilate that His Kingdom is not political. His kingdom and the reign of God will not be fully realized on earth. There will continue to be evil and enemies who oppose the righteous who belong to Christ and His earthly Kingdom of the Church. Since His Ascension, Jesus is king of the Father's heavenly kingdom and "sits at God's right hand"—the place of honor. There He constantly intercedes for us, and He "waits until His enemies will be made His footstool" (Heb 10:13), which will happen in His Second Advent and the end of time as we know it. At that time, all the faithful will sing with the angels in Heaven as we sing in today's Psalm: "The Lord is king; He is robed in majesty!"
The First Reading Daniel 7:13-14 ~ The Everlasting
Kingship of the Son of Man
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel: 13 As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, 14 the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.
In this vison of the prophet Daniel that begins in verse 9, divine judgment is passed on the kingdoms of the earth. The prophet sees God the Father seated on a throne in Heaven, with His glory radiating and with angels all around (verse 9). Judgment is about to be announced and will be followed by the Divine Judge's sentence. The Books of Deeds, containing all the actions of all men and women during their lifetimes, are opened (verse 10). Then Daniel sees a figure that has the appearance of someone sharing the human condition coming on the clouds of Heaven (verse 13). When this mysterious figure is presented to God, He receives kingship and dominion over all peoples and nations of the earth. His rule is to be an everlasting rule that will never be taken away (verse 14), fulfilling the promise of the eternal covenant God made to David in which God promised that David's heir, the Messiah, would rule forever (2 Sam 7:16, 29; 23:5).
Reading this passage in light of the events of the ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, we understand that Daniel received a vision of Christ ascending to God the Father, centuries before the event of Jesus' Ascension that was witnessed by the disciples and Apostles in Acts chapter 1. Daniel sees the Christ, whose favorite title for Himself was "Son of man." Jesus used this title for Himself not only because He possessed two natures, human and divine, but because He is the divine Messiah Daniel saw in his vision. The title is used some eighty times in the Gospels and in all but two times as a self-designation by Jesus; outside the Gospels the phrase occurs only 4 times.
Jesus will allude to this passage from Daniel 7:13-14 when He is on trial before the high court of the Jewish Sanhedrin. When He quotes from Daniel 7:13 in answer to the High Priest's demand that Jesus tell them if He is the Messiah, Caiaphas, the High Priest, realizes that Jesus is claiming to be the divine Messiah of Daniel's vision. Caiaphas and the members of the court immediately condemned Jesus to death on the charge of blasphemy for claiming to be the promised Redeemer-Messiah (Mt 26:64-66; Mk 14:61-64).
Responsorial Psalm 93:1-2, 5 ~ The Lord is King
Response: "The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty."
1 The LORD is king, in splendor robed; robed is the LORD and girt about with strength.
2 And he has made the world firm, not to be moved. Your throne stands firm from of old; from everlasting you are, O LORD.
5 Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed; holiness benefits your house, O LORD, for length of days.
Psalm 93 is the first in a series of eight hymns that proclaim the kingship of God. It is a confession of faith in God's sovereignty and His dominion over the entire earth. The psalm begins by focusing on God's majesty as the victorious king who rules the world (verse1). His rule is everlasting with no beginning and no end (verse 2; cf Ps 10:16). The psalmist says that God makes laws like earthly kings, but unlike earthly rulers God's laws are always just and everyone can trust the wisdom of His laws.
God's "house" in verse 5 refers to God's holy Temple in Jerusalem where His divine presence resides in the midst of His people. Concerning this psalm in context of the New Covenant Church, St. Eusebius of Caesarea wrote: "This house is the Church. To remain standing forever what it needs above all is holiness. As truth is at the heart of Christ's testimony, so holiness is at the heart of his house" (Commentaria in Psalmos, 92).
The Second Reading Revelation 1:5-8 ~ The Alpha and the Omega
5 Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming amid the clouds and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. All the peoples of the earth will lament him. Yes. Amen. 8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
Jesus is identified by three Messianic titles in verse 5. All three titles are from Psalms 89:26-38, and each title calls to mind the promise of the three-fold mission of the Messiah as prophet, priest, and king. Jesus is:
"The Faithful Witness": It is from the Greek word "witness" that we get the word "martyr." Originally the word martyr, as used in the first century AD, meant one who works to enforce the Law and assisted in its execution, even to the enforcement of the death penalty. The significance of this title applied to Jesus Christ is that He both witnesses against those who are at war against God and He also prosecutes/judges them. As supreme Prophet Jesus Christ is God's prosecuting attorney, especially as He fulfilled that role in Matthew Chapter 24's prophecy of the Apocalypse when He called down judgment on Judea and as He met his death at the hands of false witnesses. Many of those who followed Christ, bearing true "witness" to Him as the promised Redeemer-Messiah in their deaths, fulfilled our modern interpretation of the word.
This title is fulfilled in light of God's promise to King David in 2 Samuel 7:16-17; 23:5 and Sirach 45:25/31. Jesus is the fulfillment of God's covenant with David that his (David's) throne will rule forever. Jesus is a direct linear descendant of the great King David (Mt 1:1, 6-16; Lk 1:32-33). He is, in fact, the fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises God the Father made about the Messiah (also see 2 Sam 7:1a; Ps 89; Is 7:14; 55:3-4; Zec 12:8).
"The firstborn from the dead": St. Paul called Jesus "the first-born of the dead" as well as the "first-fruits of the dead" (1 Cor 15:18-20; Col 1:18). In His resurrection, Jesus defeated sin and death and has obtained supremacy, having "first place" in everything. This concept is also expressed by St. Peter in his homily on the feast of Pentecost in Acts 2:32-36. In Jesus' resurrection God has fulfilled His promise in Psalms 89:27: I will make Him my Firstborn, the highest of the Kings of the earth. St John (and God the Holy Spirit) must have had this passage in mind because the third title he applies to Jesus is from Psalms 89:28.
"The highest of earthly kings": Christ is not only Savior—He is the universal King. Christ is in effect the King of kings sitting at the Father's right hand with dominion over all the earth. As Lord of all the earth, all earthly kings are subject to Him (1 Tim 6:15; Rev 17:14; 19:16; also see Ps 110:1-7). This kingship will be manifested in a special way in His Second Advent. For further study please read Psalms 89. Compare verses 26-38 with Jesus' titles in Revelation 1:4-5 and with Jesus' mission as God's anointed, the heir of the Davidic covenant who appeared to be repudiated by God in His crucifixion but who conquered death and the grave (Sheol) in His resurrection. Notice the repudiation of God's anointed (Ps 89:38-45), the plea for God's justice in the question "who can save himself from the clutches of Sheol" (Ps 89:48), and the call for God to remember His covenant with David (Ps 89:49).
6 who has made us
into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power
forever and ever. Amen.
Jesus has fulfilled what no Old Testament blood sacrifice could accomplish (Heb 9:1-4, 14-22). We are assured that we have we become a "Kingdom of Priests" through the ministry of our High Priest, Christ Jesus: But you are a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a people to be a personal possession to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light (1 Pt 2:9; also see Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:14; 9:11; etc.).
Because of the merit Christ has won for us, as His heirs we inherit this priestly role in the Sacrament of Baptism when we are reborn into the family of God and no longer live as a child in the family of Adam. Later, when our baptism is completed in the Sacrament of Confirmation, we take our place as active members of Christ's royal priesthood of believers, becoming apostles of Christ and carrying His Gospel ("good new") message of salvation to the world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: "Christ, high priest and unique mediator, had made of the Church 'a kingdom, priests for His God and Father.' The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ's mission as priest, prophet and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are 'consecrated to be a holy priesthood' (CCC 1546).
The Israelites were originally designated a "kingdom of priests" because every first born son of every Israelite family was destined to serve God in the Sanctuary (Ex 13:12-15). However, in the rebellion of the Golden Calf, the first born sons did not rally to defend the covenant. Instead, Moses' tribe of the Levites put down the rebellion, and as their reward they replaced the first born sons as the lesser ministers who assisted the chief priests—Aaron and his sons who were the chief ministerial priests (Ex 19:3-8; 31:1-4, 25-29; Num 3:11-13; 18:6-7). To fulfill God's original plan, we have two divisions in our New Covenant priesthood: those of us who are baptized believers are all members of the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ, but some of us are called to serve in the ministerial priesthood (CCC 1547).
Revelation 1:6 is John's doxology of praise to Jesus the Redeemer-Messiah. Not only have we been redeemed from slavery to sin by the power of His perfect sacrifice, but He has also constituted us as a Kingdom of priests. The end of the Old is the beginning of the New, and Christians are now ruling with Christ (see Eph 1:20-22; 2:6; Col 1:13), serving in His Kingdom of the Church, and spreading His Gospel ("good news") across the world over which only He has dominion and power.
7 Behold, he is coming amid the clouds... "Coming on the clouds" is a quote from Daniel 7:13 in our First Reading. St. John uses what is one of the most familiar Biblical images for judgment—the Glory-Cloud (see Gen 15:17; Ex 13:21-22; 14:19-20 & 24; 19:9, 16-19; Ps 18:8-14; 104:3; Is 19:1; Ez 32:7-8; Dan 7:13-14; Nah 1:2-8; Mt 24:30; Mk 14:62; and Acts 2:19). The Glory-Cloud is God's heavenly chariot by which He makes His glorious presence known on earth. It is also a revelation of His Throne from which He brings judgment upon the wicked and justice and deliverance to the righteous (Dan 7:13-14). In Matthew 26:63-66, Jesus identified Himself with the divine Messiah in Daniel 7:13 and the Davidic king in Psalms 110:1, when pressed by the High Priest to reveal His true identity: But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, "I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God." Jesus said to him in reply, "You have said so. But, I tell you: From now on you will see 'the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven' " (Mt 26:63-65). The High Priest immediately realized Jesus was accepting the title of Messiah in the context of these two prophetic passages and was claiming divinity and judgement upon Israel and the world. The High Priest tore his clothes and condemned Jesus to death (Mt 26:66).
Verse 7 continues: and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. All the peoples of the earth will lament him. Yes. Amen. This verse is a reference to Zechariah 12:10-11. It is the second time John made a reference to this passage from the prophet Zechariah. He also used it in the Gospel of John 19:37. Compare the passages (emphasis mine):
Those who "pierced" Christ are the Romans who crucified Him, but also everyone who figuratively "pierced" the Messiah by contributing to His death.
These verses signify that one day those who crucified the Messiah would see Him coming in judgment. In other words, they would experience and understand that His Coming "on the clouds" prophesied in Daniel 7:13-14 would mean God's judgment on the people of the Old Covenant for their failure to embrace the New Covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34. The Old Covenant was the preparation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was the tutor and the guide, but the old Law was incapable of offering eternal salvation because it did not have the grace of the Holy Spirit to fulfill it (CCC# 1962-64).
The Zechariah passage occurs in the context of the Southern Kingdom of Judah's mourning in repentance for the sins of the people. However, the Judea of John's day had gone beyond the point of no return. They were facing the judgment of "the Last Days" (of the Old Covenant) also called "the Day of the Lord," that Peter announced in Acts 2:17-20. But notice that Zechariah's prophesy also promises redemption. The promised was to be fulfilled by the means of the excommunication or "cutting off" of the Old Israel so the world could be saved through Jesus Christ. The message of salvation was to be carried by the New Israel (CCC #877), just as Jesus told the Jewish priests in Matthew 21:43. It was to be the responsibility of the disciples of Jesus Christ to bring their lost brethren who still clung to the Old Covenant back into the New Israel of the Universal Church (see Rom chapters 9-11). This was the means by which those of the Old Covenant could "turn again to the Lord and be saved." In Acts Chapter 2, St. Peter told the Jews they had crucified the Messiah: Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and asked Peter and the other apostles, "What are we to do, my brothers?" Peter said to them, "Repent, Peter and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:37-41).
Jesus the Christ comes not simply for judgment but for judgment unto salvation: Isaiah 26:9 ~ When Your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness (NJB). And John 3:17 ~ For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that they world might be saved through Him.
8 "I am the
Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God,
The "I AM" in this verse is significant (see Ex 3:13-15). It is understood to be God's holy covenant name: YHWH = Yahweh. In his Gospel, St. John record's Jesus' use of the words I AM ("ego ami" in Greek) seven different ways: I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world, before Abraham was I AM, etc. (see the Chart of "The Seven I AM's in St. John's Gospel."
Alpha and Omega are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet. The meaning is that Jesus Christ is the beginning and the ending of all things. This concept is expressed in the Old Testament reference in Isaiah 44:6 ~ Thus says Yahweh, Israel's king, Yahweh Sabaoth, his redeemer: I am the first and the last; there is no God except me (NJB). Jesus will use the title, "the Alpha and the Omega," three times in Revelation 1:8; 1:17 and 21:6. Then, at the very end of the book, in Revelation 22:13, the title is used a fourth time: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
"the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
God has existed throughout time and eternity with no beginning and no ending. The title "the Almighty" at the end of Revelation 1:8 is the most common translation of the Greek word Pantokrator, which means "the One who has all power and rules over everything" (it is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament "Yahweh Sabaoth," meaning "Yahweh of the Armies (of heaven and earth)." Jesus is our Shepherd-King who cares lovingly for those who belong to His flock, and He is also the all-powerful king of the universe to whom we owe our obedience and loyalty. Our eternal King is coming again at the end of the age to judge the living and the dead! Are you ready to witness His Second Coming and to endure His divine judgment?
The Gospel of John 18:33-37 ~ Christ's Kingdom
33 Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?" 35 Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nations and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." 37 So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king? Jesus answered, 'You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
Pilate removed Jesus from the presence of His Jewish accusers and privately asked Jesus if He was the king of the Jews. This is the one question that was of importance to the Romans. Since Herod the Great's death, the only King of the Jews was the Roman Caesar; even Herod's sons did not carry this title. All the Gospel accounts record these as the first words Pilate speaks to Jesus. In response to Pilate's question, Jesus asked Pilate if he is asking this of his own accord or if others have told him this (verse 34).
Pilate answered, "I am not
a Jew, am I? Your own nations and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?"
Pilate answers that he had no real knowledge of Jesus other than what he has been told by the Jewish authorities, and he was willing to listen to Jesus' defense. In this dramatic exchange, Jesus does not deny his royal status and explains His mission to the Roman pagan Pilate as a non-political mission. In fact, His coronation begins with His Passion and is completed in His Ascension (see Eph 1:20-23), from which He rules from Heaven His earthly dominion that spreads across the earth through the preaching of the Gospel and the sacramental ministry of His Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the universal Church (Mt 28:18-20).
Jesus tells Pilate that He has come to testify to the truth. The revelation of "truth" has the effect of judgment. Jesus said in John 9:39 that it is for judgment that He has come into the world, so that truth might be revealed. Those who can discern the truth, are those given to Jesus by the Father; they hear His voice and follow Him (Jn 10:4). These are the same ones who listen to the truth and belong to Him.
After their exchange, Pilate will judge Jesus to be innocent, saying I find no fault/guilt in him. Three times Pilate will judge Jesus and find Him innocent, using this same phrase (John 18:38; 19:4, 7). The irony is that animals offered to Yahweh in sacrifice had to be judged as perfect and without flaw, especially the daily Tamid lamb sacrifice around which the entire sacrificial system was centered (Ex 29:38-43; Num 28:3-8). Caiaphas, the High Priest, had chosen Jesus as the sacrificial victim (Caiaphas announced that Jesus had to die three times in John 11:50, 52; 18:14), but it was Pilate, a heathen Gentile, who judged the intended sacrifice as "without fault," and on the plaque above the Cross it is Pilate who ordered the inscription to read: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (Jn 19:19)!
Daniel 7:13 (CCC 440); 7:14 (CCC 664)
Revelation 1:6 (CCC 1546, 2855); 1:8 (CCC 2854)
John 18:36 (CCC 549, 600); 18:37 (CCC 217, 559, 2471)
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015