Christ the King C 2016


It is jarring so close to Christmas to hear the depiction of Christ on the cross.  Yet, the Church wants to remind us on this feast precisely what kind of King Jesus was. – a king not defined by his power over others; a king whose only throne was the cross.

This sacrifice of Jesus reminds of less dramatic ones made every day.  By now most of you know that my best friends, Diana and Fred, are Catholic Workers and they, like all Catholic Workers, live in voluntary poverty.  They are both well-educated and incredibly capable people who have decided that to best minister to the poor, they themselves should be poor.  It is not the same as cyclical poverty because they could leave their state behind at any moment.  But for them, it made more sense to live poor among the poor.

What does that look like?  They moved from a nice house in the Pine Hills section to the South End of Albany, so that the sirens that swirl through the neighborhood might be heard in their home as well.  They have forgone all of the luxuries and many of the niceties their upbringing and education might have afforded them.  They understand it is not the path for everyone (it was not my path when I discerned it) but it was a way of living the gospel like Jesus.  They were becoming more incarnational by taking on the flesh of what it means to be poor.

In five weeks we will celebrate the incarnation of Jesus, when the always existing word of God became human.  But incarnation means more than Jesus taking on the flesh and bones of human beings; it means he walked our journey.  And he walked it boldly.  He cared deeply and loss grievously.  He was beloved and betrayed.   He seemed to not just touch humanity, but he wanted to swallow it whole – to capture the entire experience and drama of being human in one short life.   Every step he took along that path was a greater commitment to incarnation, to inhabiting our space and walking our journey.

He even entered into the darkest of human places.  He saw the worst of us from the cross.  The most dreaded of our sins combined to put him there.  Jealousy, fear, corruption, lies, betrayal and violence all met at the intersection of the cross.  This is the incarnation of the cross, where the eternal light dwelt in our most forbidding darkness.

But there is something different about this incarnation.  Unlike the two powerless men on either side, Jesus can escape his fate.  Surely he who had the power to heal had the power to strike down.  He who was attended by a host of angels at his birth would have the same army of angels ready to defend him at his call.  This is voluntary vulnerability.  He chooses this harrowing moment because to do otherwise would be to abandon the road we travel with him.  It would mean shedding his incarnation.

So Jesus lets the shouts of “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself,” waft over him.  He chooses the pain and the incarnation and the only power left to him is that of mercy.  He shares it in three last phrases.  “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”

If this is the path of Jesus, it must be ours as well.  We must become ever more incarnational.  We must practice voluntary vulnerability.  We can rid ourselves of our puffed up insistence that we are invulnerable.  We can take off our masks and admit to our need for each other, to share the road with our brothers and sisters, with stranger and friend alike.  We can surrender our point of view and look through the eyes of another, a way which might bring our fractured nation closer together.  We can hear the cries of the other with our own wounded heart.  In other words, whoever wishes to lose their life for the sake of blessing, for the sake of love, for the sake of Jesus Christ, will save it.