Reflections on the Feast of Christ the King
by: Phillip Douglas
“People are and were ready to risk their lives to get out of here!” These were the harrowing words from an Afghan citizen with dust and tears welling up in his wounded eyes.
I don’t know where you were, but I know I will never forget where I was as I watched the horror unfold in Afghanistan this past August. Indeed, people were ready to get out of there as thousands of them flooded the terror scene tarmac of the Kabul airport. Several deaths were later reported in perhaps an unprecedented fashion…meeting their own death after hanging on and falling from a moving plane.
So, What is God’s Secret Plan?
Is it just me or does it seem like the world we live in is getting madder? Increasing violence, terror, a global pandemic, global injustice and worldwide political upheaval. Sometimes, I find myself crying out, Where oh where are you in all of this, Lord!”
This coming Sunday marks the celebration of Christ the King in the Catholic Church, a feast instituted by Pope Pius XI in the year 1925. Just a couple of years before that Pope Pius XI released a document entitled Ubi arcano Dei consilio, which is which is Latin for “When in the inscrutable designs of God“ or perhaps more simply: Where is God’s secret plan. He begins the document with the following statement:
“Manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.”
Indeed, Pope Pius XI was correct, the abounding evil in the world is a result of lack of submission, our turning away from Christ, the only one who can provide us with any lasting hope. As I watched people hang onto moving airplanes for their dear lives I humbly yet fearfully asked Jesus that same question, “God what is your secret plan here?”
The King Has Arrived and His Kingdom Will Have No End
As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man. When he reached the Ancient of Days and was presented before him, He received dominion, splendor, and kingship; all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.
The prophet Daniel reminds us that God’s plan for humanity does not reside in the plans of earthly men and women. Despite our unbelievable efforts to rule and govern the world with justice, we have and will continue to fail miserably. Nations will rise and fall, yet one Kingdom remains forever. Jesus Christ is our King and His ruling invitation (order) is for us to bow down to His will in our lives. His secret plan is… COMPLETE SUBMISSION on our part to the KING. This is the grand invitation of the entire Gospel, summed up in the opening statement of Jesus’ preaching in Matthew’s Gospel, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”. (Matthew 4: 17).
Speaking of Matthew’s Gospel, there are roughly 30 mentions of “the kingdom of heaven” in his Gospel account. In Matthew, Jesus states that His Kingdom is like a treasure in a field worth more than anything else, a merchant who finally finds his greatest pearl, a king who demands his servants forgive others with sincere hearts, ten virgins who did not know the day or hour their master would return, and a king who threw an enormous wedding feast only to conclude that many are invited but few are chosen because they fail to respond appropriately.
Consider this, over 80 times in the Bible we hear of the Kingdom of God in some such fashion. It seems that for Jesus kingship is an amazingly important aspect of our lives as believers?
Submission to a King Sounds So Old School
If you are anything like me the word submission quickly conjures up a slew of negative connotations… teaching an animal to submit, weaker women in relationships with abusive men, and a martial arts fighter choking or forcing his opponent to submit…
But Jesus’ invitation is different, His Kingship is different, and His kingdom is different. Imagine for a moment a king who is found at the same table as his servants. Not only that, but imagine this same king offering Himself in full as a sacrifice for those subject to Him. There is nothing old school about that king; this is what you call a revolutionary king. St. Paul sums up this revolutionary king far better than I ever could in his letter to the Philippians,
“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
-Philippians 2: 5-11
Humility, Kingship, and Freedom For All
God humbling himself in such a radical manner to become man is an idea and biblical truth that we often carelessly gloss over here in the western hemisphere. Yet, for Christian believers in the east it is often the reason to believe in Jesus! How could God, the ultimate King become man, and subject Himself to such a grueling death for His beloved? Here in Nepal I have met many believers who walked away from generations of traditional Hindu religious belief because “God became man”.”the king humbled himself”.
Fortunately, there were thousands of Afghan citizens who were able to successfully escape the terror of the kingship before them in their home land. Many of them are now scattered among us in America now seeking life in a better kingdom. But even our American kingdom with her promises of peace and prosperity is fading. The only kingdom that will last is among us, it is the Kingdom of Heaven and the King is Jesus. The beauty of our King Jesus is that in all of His self-giving and humility he still desires absolute freedom for us. He comes knocking and patiently waiting. Most kings rule with an iron fist, placing demands upon those under them. Jesus offers us a free choice to believe and follow Him based upon our own conscience.
Finally, the Kingship of Jesus is offered for all of humanity; not one soul can escape the loving gaze and desire of their Heavenly Father. Thankfully, all of us renegades have received an invitation: white, black, straight, trans, believer, non-believer, Middle Eastern, American, and everyone in between. We live in a divided world today-many kingdoms in competition- a world who believes that Jesus came and established a kingdom among the righteous only. But, with Jesus, we have all received self-addressed invites that have been carefully crafted to our deepest of needs. With our King there are no distinctions, we are all His beloved sons and daughters, and while we are still here on earth we have the amazing opportunity to respond to the King’s invitation.
Phillip Douglas is a Catholic missionary serving in Asia with his family. He is the author of Glorious Adventure: Discovering the Treasure of Taking Christ to the Nations and Finding the Father: Reflections of Grace, Mercy, and Healing in Fatherhood. Read more at http://www.phillipdouglasbooks.com. Find more about Catholic World Missions at http://www.familymissionscompany.com.