This Sunday, we end the Church’s liturgical calendar with the Solemnity of Christ, the King. Many think that this celebration is anachronistic, even subliminally offensive. In an age when democracy is highly valued, kings have become irrelevant and serve merely as living cultural and historical artifacts. Any semblance of kingly or autocratic rule is vehemently opposed, like the tyrants and dictators who unfortunately still rule in some countries (including ours?). What then can we make of today’s feast? What is its significance?
For all the value and merit of democracy, the figure of Christ, the King, is still relevant. In fact, its meaning stands out even more plainly. Presidents, prime ministers, and political leaders do not last. The people can vote them out when they no longer need them. Their power is not only temporary but limited. In contrast, Jesus is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rv 19:16), “and of his kingdom, there will be no end.” (Lk 1:33)
That Jesus is King indeed is clear and obvious. He is God, our Creator; “through him, all things were made.” (Jn 1:3). He is our Savior who redeemed us by his blood, and thus possesses us. “He is head of the Body, the Church… so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (Col 1:18) And we can go on, quoting verse after verse, but that would just belabor the point.
When Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king, Jesus replied, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” What does this mean – that Jesus is the king of another world? Of course not! We’ve just seen that he is king, not only of this world but of the whole creation.
Jesus’ statement simply means that he is king in another manner. Pope Francis explains the contrast of two types of logic: the logic of worldly kingship, characterized by ambition, competition, arrogance and manipulation, and the logic of Christ’s kingship, founded on truth, justice, love and peace.
Today’s feast reminds us of the primordial truth that “all authority comes from God.” (Rm 13:1) Every human authority is but participation of divine authority. And since “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Jesus]” (Mt 28:18), everyone who holds authority must exercise it in the manner of Jesus.
We shall soon be holding our national and local elections. We can never emphasize enough the importance of these elections, since our future and welfare greatly depend on the leaders we choose. For our reflection, let me point out three features of Christ’s kingship, alluded to in our readings, namely: truth, love, and self-sacrifice. It is my ardent hope that in the coming elections we shall elect leaders who bear these marks of Christ’s leadership.
“I am a king. For this I was born… to testify to the truth.” It is appalling to witness today the proliferation of fake news, conspiracy theories, historical revisionism, malicious lies and deceptions. This kind of propaganda, which some candidates employ, is not only despicable and unjust but outright diabolical. Jesus himself tells us that Satan is “a liar and the father of all lies.” (Jn 8:44) Let us make sure that the leaders we choose are godly, men and women of truth.
“I came into the world to testify to the truth.” What truth? That God is love. This is the truth that Jesus revealed not only with his words, but with his whole life. His testimony culminated with his sacrifice on the cross. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” (Jn 3:16) Thus the cross becomes the throne where Jesus manifests his sublime kingship as God-Love.
Let us choose leaders who have the capacity to love. Pope Francis speaks of a political love as “one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 205)
Jesus “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” Political love is proven by one’s ability to sacrifice personal good for the common good. I strongly believe that one who is not capable and willing to sacrifice himself for the common good has no business entering politics.
I once read James Fallows’ article on the Philippines, entitled, “A Damaged Culture.” The gist is that the Filipino is incapable of patriotism for the simple reason that he has no sense of the common good. His loyalty cannot go beyond himself and his family. Just think of the political dynasties that plague Philippine politics. Look at the usual tandem of father-son, sister-brother…, even husband-wife, running for mayor and vice mayor in many cities and towns. We need to rid the government of this scourge if common good is to be served. We can, if we vote for leaders who, like Christ, are capable of self-sacrifice.*