Feast of Christ the King
[Scripture Readings: Dan 7,13-14; Rev 1:5-8; Jn 18:33-37 ]
One day an old man with a long white beard stood on the shoulder of a country road along with his elderly wife who was holding up a sign. It said, “Stop before it's too late! Turn around, the end is near.” A car full of teenagers slowed down just enough to wave and laugh at them, and then sped around the next corner. A moment later there was a screech of tires, a bit of silence and then a loud splash of water. The old man's wife said to him, “Maybe the sign should say, 'Stop, the bridge is out!'”
Today, the feast of Christ the King, Jesus is described as coming on the clouds of heaven. Elsewhere we are warned that the sun and moon will be darkened, stars will fall from the sky and the powers of heaven will be shaken. What are these signs trying to tell us? John the Baptist expected the Messiah to come in power with an axe in his hand to cut down every fruitless tree. Instead, Jesus came in meekness, looking nothing like a king when he was put on trial and condemned to death by Pontius Pilate. Are we being told that at the second coming Jesus will do it right by shaking the heavens and scattering the stars? Will the entire universe and all the galaxies really fall apart? Or, do these signs mean something more personal and immediate, like “Stop, the bridge is out!”
Describing the rebellion of Lucifer and his angels, the prophet Isaiah writes, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star!” (Is 14:12). In the Book of Revelation St. John writes, “I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and the sun and moon were darkened with smoke from the shaft” (Rev 9:1f). “A great red dragon appeared with seven heads and ten horns. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (Rev. 12:3f). Here falling stars and the physical darkening of sun and moon are symbols of a deeper darkening, a world where love grows cold, a dark world of demons, terror, murder and death.
Elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus holds up very clear signs when he warns us that, “Nation will rise against nation. You will be beaten, put to death and hated by all for my name's sake,” (Mk 13:8-23). “Many will fall away. And because wickedness is multiplied love will grow cold,” (Mt. 24:10-12). Then he says, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:8). Does this description send chills down your spine as it does mine? It is so much like our world today. For those whose love has grown cold, the bridge is out, they are in immediate danger, and they are falling stars. For them the coming of Christ the King will be fearful, because they are not ready. But if we stand firm in faith and love, if we are not driving blindly around the next turn, then we can have hope to receive Christ with joy when he comes again at the dawn of a new day and a new world.
To prepare for his coming, Jesus says, “Watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man,” (Lk 21:34). Yes, let us pray every day for strength to endure and escape all these things that are taking place, so that we may not be like stars falling from the heavens, but may stand with joy before Christ the King when he comes in his glory.