THE KINGSHIP OF THE SON OF MAN
Readings: Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:5-8 and John 18:33-37.
Today is Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe, which marks the end of the liturgical year cycle B. In today’s celebration we adore and worship Christ our King, the Alpha and Omega of our lives, whose kingship is to establish equity, justice love and peace in contrast to earthly kingship.
Originally, Pope Pius the XI established this solemnity in 1925 against the influence of secularism. And for pastoral reasons the Church in Nigeria combines it with the solemn procession of Corpus Christi, which ought to be celebrated Thursday or Sunday after Trinity Sunday in thanksgiving for the institution of the sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist. So, the title of this feast was “Iesu Christi Regis” (Jesus Christ the King). Later in history, Pope Paul VI in his “Motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis” of 1969, gave it a new title as: “Iesu Christi Universorum Regis” (Jesus Christ, King of the Universe) and it was transformed from feast to Solemnity. Interestingly, today’s readings abundantly testify to this Kingship of Christ.
The first reading presents to us the night vision of Daniel, who saw “One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven and to Him was given dominion and glory and Kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him.” The title “Son of Man” was a favorite self-designation of Jesus used several times in the four Gospels. He received all dominion previously held by the four beasts that came from the sea, representing the earthly kingdoms (Daniel 7:2-3), and His reign will not be for a given period but permanent. As regards the identity of the earthly kingdoms represented by the beast in the vision of Daniel, the traditional Roman view identifies these kingdoms as: Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece and the Roman Empire.
The reading describes the transition of human dominion on earth to divine dominion when it says, “His dominion shall not pass away and His Kingdom shall not be destroyed.” There is an allusion here to describe Gen 1:26, when the first man (Adam) was given dominion over all creatures and in addendum, Ps 8:4-8 says, “What is man that you care for him? …you have given him dominion over the works of your hands and have put all things under his feet.” In a different manner, the kingdom given to the Son of Man depicts the four human kingdoms in the vision of Daniel chapter 2, which is followed by the establishment of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of today portrays the earthly and heavenly kingdoms in the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus Christ. Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He asked probably because Jesus didn’t appear to be a violent revolutionary or a criminal who would intend to overthrow the Roman government. He had probably expected to meet a rebel or an arrogant person, but instead he met a calm majesty of confident superiority. He could not reconcile the character of Christ with the charges brought against Him. Christ’ kingship was different from the expectations of Pilate and He continued to explain His Kingship to Pilate saying, “My kingship is not of this world.” It wasn’t a rival political kingship or kingdom.
Earthly kingdoms are based on force, pride, the love of human praise, desire of domination, political, economic and social power and authority. They are based on the numerical strength and prowess of military personnel, ammunitions and weaponry. These were the attributes of Pilate and the Roman Empire, which serves as the archetypal kingdom pursued by people of the world. In contrast to the earthly kingdom instead, Christ demonstrated His kingship to be that of humility, of one who did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Luke 22:27). Even when the crowd wanted to crown Him as their king, having seen His good works, He slipped out of their midst. He demonstrated His Kingship through His suffering, death on the cross and His resurrection. This Kingship is based on love, sacrifice, humility and righteousness, which was “A stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles” (I Cor. 1:23).
The second reading from the book of Revelation says, “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” The earthly king shed the blood of others for their sins and offenses but the eternal King shed His own blood for the remission of sins. In conjunction with this, St. Paul tells us, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
Importantly, to recognize the dominion of Jesus is to let Him truly rule over us. If we say, “To him be glory and dominion,” we must give him dominion over ourselves. Each man is a little empire of three kingdoms: body, soul and spirit. None of these should set up for itself a distinct rule but be under the Kingship of Christ. This indicates to us that we love God with all our heart, mind and soul. We must let Christ reign in our hearts, homes, work/business and everything about us, for He is the Alpha and Omega (beginning and end) of our lives, who is, and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Happy Solemnity of Christ the Universal King!
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ