A Throne in my Brokenness
Christ the King 2022
The Church invites us to gaze upon Christ as our King, at the threshold of Advent.
Advent focuses us on the two comings of Christ:
in humble awe and gratitude of the First
and with expectant longing towards the Second.
Why this particular emphasis on Christ as King?
Perhaps because Christ is King from his birth and in His return?
The kingship of Jesus is difficult to grasp.
When we think kingship, or kingdom,
we typically think power, and understandably so.
We think of the kingdoms that we see,
of great rulers exercising power from without to maintain order.
And so, we might be inclined, perhaps secretly, to wish that Jesus, King,
would, with one power-ful, sweeping move, end all dis-order, all injustice:
from Isis to the Mexican cartel to those cruel to animals to those who litter.
Slow as I can be (!), just to begin to grasp Jesus’ kingship,
I needed an unexpected experience dropped into my lap:
the community of L’Arche, in Belgium, before I entered seminary.
L'Arche, French for the Ark—as in Noah,
creates homes in which mentally-challenged people
live with so-called “abled” people, who come to help
and actually discover their own brokenness and become involved in mutual care.
Jean Vanier, who founded the movement in 1964, writes,
We discover more and more that those rejected by society because of their weakness and their apparent uselessness are in fact a presence of God. If we welcome them, they lead us progressively out of the world of competition and the need to do great things toward a world of communion of hearts, a life that is simple and joyful where we do small things with love.
Jesus reigns from within, leading us toward communion of hearts,
toward a life that is simple and joyful where we do small things with big love.
Any power in Jesus’ reign
(and there is power, for He is all-powerful)
is at the service of love.
Ah, the difference between power and authority…
In John’s gospel, chapter 18, verse 36, we hear Jesus say,
My kingdom is not from this world.
If my kingdom were from this world,
my followers would be fighting to keep me
from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.
Jesus’ kingdom is clearly not about power,
not political—as we tend to understand “political” nowadays.
Jesus impacts the body politic, the social sphere like none other,
but, notice: mocked and treated with derision, He does not save Himself.
Jesus does not engage His disciples in resistance or rebellion,
in fighting to keep Him from being handed over to the Jews.
Why? Well, the Kingdom must be more…
Now, you may be thinking, what about the “work of justice”?
Dr. Cornel West, formerly of Harvard, professor at Union Theological Seminary,
says that “justice is what love looks like in public”.
Well, what is justice? There are currently many notions circulating.
The Archbishop of Edinburgh, Scotland says that
“there still exists…an attitude towards justice
which can only be described as a ‘culture of vengeance’.”
Saint Thomas Aquinas (+1274) puts it very simply:
“the proper act of justice is nothing else than to render to each one his own.”
The Kingdom of God does not disregard such justice, such fairness.
But the Kingdom of God is more than life on earth being fair for all.
The Kingdom of God, therefore, cannot be reduced to the “work of justice.”
Why? Two reasons:
what may seem or even be unfair for sake of a greater good.
Unfairly suspended to the wood of the Cross, deliberately helpless,
Jesus introduces one of the criminals at his side into Paradise, the great good.
Jesus unjustly suffers and dies to love us into the mystery of God.
The Righteous One (Acts 22:14), crowned with thorns, is victorious.
As Saint Paul says (I Corinthians 13: 7), love endures all things.
The “work of justice”, carefully discerned, can be a way of welcoming it,
or better, can be an expression of the King reigning in our hearts.
For, in the end, as suggested, the Kingdom of God is Jesus, King, reigning in our hearts,
moving us then to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
In Luke 17, verse 20, we hear Jesus say, the kingdom of God is within you.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
(+394, Father of the Church) tells us that
Blessedness does not lie in knowing something about God,
but rather in possessing God within oneself.
When you pray, Thy kingdom come, you give Jesus permission
to reign in your heart, in your tired, perhaps broken heart.
And when you think that nothing is happening, that you are worth less,
that you will not find the energy or the hope necessary to go forward,
know that the kingdom, the King is within you, loving you into the mystery of God.
We have every reason to hope and not be discouraged,
for, as the prophet Daniel (7:14) says,
His kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.