Here is a list of names/terms/ phrases applied to Jesus in the scriptures and preface of this feast of Christ the King: "the chosen one, the Christ, King of the Jews, only Son, eternal priest, universal king, beloved Son, image of the invisible God, firstborn of all creation, firstborn from the dead."
Some years ago I came across a prayer by St. Richard of Chichester: "Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, / for all the benefits thou hast given me, / for all the pains and insults Thou has borne for me, / O most merciful friend, redeemer, and brother. / May I see Thee more clearly, / love Thee more dearly, / and follow Thee more nearly." Herein Jesus is Lord, friend, redeemer, brother. A brief reflection on each of these names/titles might give us cause to thank and praise our God.
Jesus as Lord. One dimension of our Christian faith is "submissive obedience to the Lordship of Jesus" (A. Dulles). The image of lord and king are neither common to our daily life nor harmonious with our stress on democratic freedom. Yet Jesus is one who is Lord, though not lording it over others, and king, though the authority here is one of service.
Jesus as friend. One senses in the reading from St. Paul a profound intimacy with the Lord and the beginning of a friendship between those crucified. Jesus calls us beyond servanthood and discipleship into friendship, a mutual relationship of warmth and affection. Jesus takes the initiative in inviting us into the heart of God.
Jesus as redeemer. Something is ajar in the universe, in human existence. We call it sin, original and actual. (In a recent confirmation letter, a high school senior wrote: "I will strive to live a sin-free life.") Relationships have been ruptured through misused freedom, a rupture so deep that no purely human agency can repair the tear. Through the mystery of the Incarnation, the coming of God-among-us in Jesus, we have been offered mercy and salvation. We have a redeemer, a Savior who has conquered sin and death.
Jesus as Brother. It is possible for a king to have brothers and sisters. And we are they. Jesus invites us to call God our Father, enabling us to experience the fact that we are all sisters and brothers of Him. This sense of solidarity challenges us to be about the work of the kingdom, fashioning a world in which God rules our minds and hearts. Jesus as brother invites us to understand truth and life, holiness and grace, justice and love and peace.
This liturgy of the feast of Christ the King does not exhaust the mystery of Jesus. For many he is a Liberator, setting free those who are oppressed. For others, Jesus is primarily Teacher, one who instructs us about the mysteries of God. Still others, Jesus is Judge or Suffering Servant or Prophet.
No single name captures the person of Jesus. At different times on our journey, a particular name will help us to express our unique relationship with the Lord. In the end what matters is to conform our minds and hearts to his thinking, his obedience, his allegiance to God's will. This done, we will come to know the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)
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