Kingdom and Fire

Christ the King

First reading: 2 Sam. 23:1-7; Ps. 132:1-13, (14-19) Alternate: Dan. 7:9-10, 11-14; Ps. 93 • Rev. 1:4b-8 • John 18:33-37

We will get to the godless, piercing them with an iron bar or the shaft of a spear, and throwing them to an all-consuming fire (see 2 Sam. 23:6,7).

To begin, however, we turn our attention to the oracle of the Lord resting upon the house of David. In the presence of God Almighty he is “raised on high, anointed, favored, the Strong One of Israel” (RSV), “a sweet song” (Vulgate). His descendent will rule in the fear of the Lord, a reign imagined as “the morning sun, gleaming on the rain of the grassy land” (23:4). “The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body will sit on your throne’” (Ps. 132:11).

The people of God had awaited a king from the house of David. When that King arrived, tented under flesh, subject to human weakness, learning obedience even to death, they knew him not. Although he inaugurated the dawn of God’s reign, he was quick to assert that “my kingdom is not — ek tou kosmou toutou — from this world” (John 18:36). The Greek is clear enough. The Vulgate may tempt us wrongly (“my kingdom is not about this world”). Knowing however that Jesus went about doing good, teaching, and healing the sick, the Latin preposition de assuredly means here the same as the Greek preposition ek. Jesus was dripping in royal power, but he did not get it from the rulers of this age. His power came not from the world, but from the deepest center of his own being, his person hid in the bosom of the Father’s substance.

Speaking the Word from the Father, Jesus bears witness to the truth, and everyone who belongs to the truth hears him (John 18:37). When do they hear him? When the Father calls. For no one can come to the Son unless the Father calls him. Will ever a moment occur when everyone hears him? “As I watched in the night visions,” the prophet says, “I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven” (Dan. 7:13). St. John, in his great Revelation, says, “Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail” (Rev. 1:7).

Are we now a great distance from the sparkle of morning sun flickering on the dew of grass? Where is the beauty of Jesus, the grace of his garments, the efficacy of his healing word? It is the same Jesus coming in love and coming with fire, coming to make good on the promise that we will be “a kingdom, priests to serve his God and Father” (Rev. 1:6). For this to be, he must “free us from our sins by his blood” (Rev. 1:5). He whom the Son sets free is free indeed. Yet the old man limps. Jesus will burn away the vestiges of fallen Adam, converting every inner enemy until they rest as a footstool for his feet.

The enemy comes. Thus, “Let us mortify our members which are on earth, and let us bear fruit in the Spirit that God alone may walk around and rule in us as if in a spiritual paradise” (Origen, On Prayer). Completing this destructive work, Jesus says, “O death, where is your sting? O hades, where is your victory?” (ibid.). Throwing the old man to the flame, Jesus makes us fresh and new.

Look It Up
Read Rev. 1:4b-8. We pierced him.

Think About It
“O living flame of love that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center, draw near and consummate the love of this sweet encounter” (St. John of the Cross).

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