Jesus Christ rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Because of his victory, “all power in heaven and on earth” has been given to him (Matthew 28:18). That core Christian belief is celebrated each year on the last Sunday before the season of Advent begins in a special celebration called the Feast of Christ the King. Instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, it reminds all kings, rulers, and lords that only Christ is the true King of kings and helps all Christians remember that Christ must reign always in their hearts.
On the day of his crucifixion, Jesus was brought before Pilate, the local Roman governor, who asked him whether he was a king (John 18:33). Earlier, various people had claimed that Jesus was the promised one who would overthrow the imperial rule of the Roman Empire. That would have been unacceptable to Pilate. Anyone claiming to be a king would be seen as a rival to the emperor, and the claim would be met with swift and cruel punishment in order to eradicate the threat and deter future uprisings.
Jesus’ response is curious. Without denying his sovereignty, he responds that his “kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36). It does not originate from the world and therefore is “not here” (Id.). Jesus is not saying that his kingdom is absent from the world. Rather, he explains his kingship in terms of his heavenly identity and mission to come into the world in order to “testify to the truth” about God’s love (18:37). As Saint Augustine put it, Jesus’ kingdom “is not from here” but “is here right up to the end of the world” (Tractates on John 115.2). Accordingly, his followers must live as he did and build up his kingdom by faithfully witnessing to the truth of the Christian faith.
But God’s kingdom is not theoretical. As we’re learning in our Sunday message series called, Next Door: The Art of Neighboring, God’s kingdom is formed person-by-person, family-by-family, and neighborhood-by-neighborhood. In order to build up this kingdom, we have to take leadership over our neighborhoods. Too often neighborhood organizations focus exclusively on reducing crime and eliminating threats. While important goals, true leadership moves people beyond fear and isolationism into trust and collaboration.
Each year, our parish brings the local neighborhood together in a celebration of Christ’s birth. In a giant block party, we extend Christian good will to our neighbors by inviting them to our Christmas carnival and boutique. Read more about it in our companion piece this week.
Think about what could happen if you invited a few neighbors over for coffee and asked the simple question: “What can we do together to lift up our neighborhood for God?” Take leadership in your neighborhood and claim it for Christ the King.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson