The Scriptures from the past few weeks have pointed us toward thoughts of the Second Coming of Christ. The Old Testament readings are especially important because they describe a time that was deeply disturbing and dangerous for the people of Israel, not unlike the moral, spiritual, and physical dangers of this present time. They had finally attained freedom; the country, once decimated as a result of its own unfaithfulness, was trying to recover. Into this time of rebuilding both nationally and spiritually came the cruel Greek oppressors. The Jewish people were once again tempted to let themselves be stripped of their identity. Greek culture was ‘in vogue,’ and Jewish customs and culture were ‘out.’ To look and act like a Greek was what one did in order to fit in, or so many of the population thought. Some of the younger men even tried to hide the mark of their Jewishness, the sign of the covenant, in order to participate in athletic games which were thoroughly Greek; others co-opted their Jewish tradition in favor of Greek philosophy, even to the point of preferring to speak Greek instead of Hebrew.
A number of years later when the people were still struggling with the influence and oppression of the Greeks, Eleazar, a prominent scribe in the Jewish community, was threatened with death unless he ate the forbidden pork which was sacrificed to the Greek gods. (2 Maccabees 6:18-31) He refused to do so. But because he was well liked, some of the men in charge of the ritual took him aside and urged him to simply pretend to eat the unlawful meat. They said he could provide his own approved meat and substitute it for the pork; no one would know the difference and then he could live. But Eleazar refused because in his heart he knew he would be betraying God by pretending to acquiesce, but also because he would be leading others into sin since they would be watching and following his example. Like Mattathias, Eleazar realized that he was responsible not just for his own actions, but that as a leader his example could either teach correctly or lead others astray. Therefore, he did not waver, choosing to follow his true King, and not the pagan Greek king. He was put to death for his choice, but he inspired others to also remain steadfast in their faith even in the midst of the terrorism of torture by their enemies.
Christ the King is the King of love and mercy. Coming into the world was an act of great love. Though a King, He chose to be born in humility with no political power, no army, and no wealth. He chose to remain lowly spending His ministry with the poor, marginalized, powerless, sick, outcast, and sinner. His care for his friends and followers, His mercy extended to sinners, and even His compassion toward His enemies revealed His love. However, Jesus never called Himself a king, though once when asked point-blank by Pontius Pilate if He was a king, Jesus implied that He was, saying that that His Kingdom is not of this world. And He did speak clearly about ‘His Kingdom’ numerous times during His ministry. For example, He told parables in which He described what His Kingdom is like: a mustard seed, sown seeds in a field, a pearl of great price, leaven, etc. In other parables He described what the King is like: a sower of seeds; one who throws a great banquet and invites the poor and destitute; a wealthy man who leaves his wealth to servants to aid in its growth; a compassionate and merciful Father who forgives even the worst insults.
The feast of Christ the King teaches us that though we praise and worship Him with the utmost reverence, we are His friends, not merely His subjects. We serve Him because we are loved by Him and we want to respond in love. He is a king with whom we fall in love. He is merciful and just, slow to anger and quick to forgive. He will right all wrongs at the end of time when He returns and He will wipe away every tear, heal every wound, unbind all those imprisoned, and lead us all to the New Jerusalem. Our savior, Jesus Christ, who left Heaven so that He could establish His Kingdom, will come again in glory. Let us wait in joyful hope for His return.
©Michele L. Catanese
The top image is a painting called Christ in Majesty by Fra Angelico (1447). It is in the Chapel of San Brizio the cathedral of Orvieto, Italy.
The photo which is next is one of mine, taken in Big Bend National Park, Texas.
Next is Jesus Teaching by Duccio di Buoninsegna.
Next is an icon, Christ the King The Bridegroom by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/christ-the-king-the-bridegroom-066-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Finally is another of my photos, a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, taken in Biloxi, Mississippi.