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Called to serve the king

November 19, 2015
Deacon Faiva Po’oi

On this last Sunday of the church’s liturgical year, we focus our attention on Jesus as the king of the universe. What a divine irony there was on Calvary when the cross became his instrument of victory, and a condemned thief was the first to be assured of a place in his kingdom.

The day when Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives into the Kidron Valley, people ran out to meet him. “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” This was the traditional way a triumphant king was greeted when returning home. When it had become clear to them that Jesus had no intention of driving the Roman occupation forces out, or in becoming the new king David that even his disciples thought he would be, they had assumed that they were wrong in looking upon him as their king.

In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus being asked by Pilate: “Are you the king of the Jews?” We hear Jesus’ response: “My kingdom is not of this world.” Not of this world? At the top of Jerusalem’s value system was a king, and at the bottom was an alien. But here, in an unthinkable turn of events, the king was revealed to be an alien.

Despite the better informed views that we may bring to church today, Christ remains an alien king. He is alien to many of the values that we cherish the most: the idolatry of success that oftentimes makes our goal more important than our relationships and our standards more quantitative than qualitative; the false assumptions about what constitutes the “good life”; and the self-serving ways that cloud our view of the world, other people, and even God.

Jesus is the king of God’s kingdom. He does not come to rule over our doomed or petty little kingdoms. Instead, he comes to invite us day by day, step by step, to enter a kingdom that is not of this world at all. In celebrating the feast of Christ the King, we acknowledge Jesus to be the one who offers us the fullness of life in his kingdom, both now and forever.

His reign is not one of power but of mercy, not one of self-service but of self-giving, not one of material wealth but of eternal salvation. His throne is the cross. Such a king the world has never seen! Such a king the world has never known! And yet, this is how God’s kingdom is established and where our discipleship begins. We are to allow ourselves to be crucified on the cross of self-giving. We are called not simply to pay homage to our exalted king, but to do as he did. This means that every day we must give of ourselves and reach out to others, for it is in the face of those in need that we encounter our king! We serve our king when we reach out across boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and status to touch the lives of those who have less than ourselves. Our king challenges us to be inclusive of others, and most especially of those who are different than us. He challenges us to serve the poor and the vulnerable, sharing our time, talents and possessions. He challenges us to be advocates for public policies that protect human life and promote human dignity. Christ is king, the alpha and the omega, the meaning and endpoint of all existence.

Christ our king continues to rule through the cry of the poor for justice, the cry of the oppressed for freedom, the cry of the despised for acceptance. Christ our king rules in the struggle for dignity and opportunity. May the holy Eucharist empower and strengthen us to do the same.

Deacon Po’oi serves at St. Timothy Parish, San Mateo.

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