To whom does the Kingdom of Jesus belong?

Reflection for the Solemnity Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe by FAN Director of Franciscan Earth Corps, Rhett Engelking
This reflection was originally posted on our November 16th newsletter
As we reach the end of the liturgical season, we once again encounter the tradition of apocalyptic writing. Apocalypse is the end of something that no longer gives life, an ending that is accompanied by a call to renewal and a return to the ultimate source of life. That call is one to an original unity that has not so much disappeared in our world but rather faded into the background, becoming tertiary to our daily experience. This Sunday’s readings remind us that it is in the tertiary space that we truly encounter Christ. St. Paul refers to Jesus Christ as “the faithful witness” and this is deeply meaningful because it is only in the non-judgmental role of witness that one can really render an impartial account of humanity.
Jesus himself seems to identify with this tertiary space, as is visible in his interaction with Pilate in the Gospel narrative. It should be clear that under the Roman occupation, any sovereign title represents a threat to the authority of the Empire, and that is likely why Jesus himself is very deliberate in answering questions about his Kingship. He speaks of a kingdom that does not belong to the Romans or the Jews. This heavenly kingdom exists in a third space outside the authority of either sovereignty. One might ask, where is this third space where Jesus belongs?
Apocalyptic scriptures like Daniel and Revelation offer us an important lens with which to interpret the turmoil of current times, but what they don’t offer us is a system of belonging. Such a fundamentalist system might say, “I will be alright in the time of Judgment if I just join the right group, say the right words, or regress to a worldview where everything is black and white.” Our minds would like it if Jesus’ kingdom defined right or wrong, black or white, Roman or Jew, Democrat or Republican, Capitalist or Communist, marginalized or racist, or in a word “dualistic.” However, a simple examination of Jesus’ evasive response to questions of his kingship reveals that, although he fully accepted his sovereignty and the threat it posed to those belonging to Jewish or Roman factions, he recognized that the “everlasting dominion” of “the one who is and who was and who is to come” can only be accepted by those who belong primarily to truth. Christ is the original and ultimate unity among factions, the Alpha and the Omega. As “firstborn of the dead,” Jesus Christ necessarily died to partisan thinking and embraced a new non-duality.

As we navigate times of racial, political, and economic turmoil, we are called to turn to Christ as faithful witness and seek our ultimate belonging in a kingdom beyond factions. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all else will be given to you.” Faithful witnessing itself, is step one in discerning our way out of turmoil.

Rhett Engelking
Director of Franciscan Earth Corps

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Published in: on November 17, 2015 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  

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