Peek behind its all too triumphant regal imagery and look beyond the awkward political reasons for its creation, and the Feast of Christ the King invites us—compels us, really—to consider a tough question: Who or what has real authority in our lives?
Cast the same question in the language of discipleship and it might read, “Behind whom do we choose to walk?” Disciples always walk behind their teachers, never next to them, and as Christian disciples, we share the Baptist’s testimony that we aren’t even worthy to fasten the sandal strap of our teacher, the one who knows how to speak God’s language.
What would happen if we looked at our late autumn festival of Christ the King as a celebration of intimacy rather than power and obedience? Obedience, certainly the “obedience of faith” that Paul the Apostle talks about, has less to do with doing what we are told than allowing somebody else to have a say in our life. Can I trust being intimate enough with Jesus that I may wind up changed, converted, even wounded for the sake of divine love?
The Jesus we see in the Gospels and meet in our neighbor knows little about power and the superficial trappings of divine sovereignty. He is, rather, the one who is all too familiar with our suffering and always ready to shelter us in God’s compassionate embrace. This is the kind of intimate presence that is redemptive in its nature and divine in its suffering authority.
Image: Appliqué statuette of Christ on the cross, Limoges enamel/Wikimedia Commons