I was never
any good at checkers. The stratagems of this simplest of board games elude me.
My leaky defenses always leave a door wide open for an opponent to arrive at my
first rank. The arrival comes with the terse demand: “King me!” Moments later,
a two-tiered royal marauder that can move in any direction mops me up and takes
me off the board. In checkers, a king is a force of reckoning.
life is not much like checkers. Yet in life, the power represented by kingship,
presidency, or other supreme political authority implies a great source of
reckoning and the ability to control the lives of others. In addition, the very
notion of kingship conjures up images of opulence, triumph, judgment,
enforcement, and always great superiority.
The end of
the liturgical year brings us into contact with vastly different royalty
celebrated on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus
Christ, King of the Universe. The story of Christ’s kingship actually traverses
Ordinary Time and lasts right through Christmas to the Feast of the
On the last
Sunday of the Church Year, we pull out all the stops to proclaim the second
coming in glory of Christ the King. Then, like eager children sitting in the
theater for a second showing of a favorite movie, we return to the beginning of
the story with the First Sunday in Advent.
The core of
the catechesis on Christ the King is found in the three Gospels chosen for the
feast. They reveal that this kingship is no ordinary one. In Cycle A, the
Gospel is the judgment scene from Matthew (25:31-6). The king comes as judge
and outlines the criteria for how the sheep will be separated from the
goats—food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, welcome for the stranger,
clothes for the naked, comfort for the ill, and visitation for the imprisoned.
Obviously not the kind of tribute exacted by earthly rulers.
In Cycle C,
Luke’s Gospel (23:35-43) reveals Christ in deepest agony on the cross. Over his
head hangs a sign: “This is the King of the Jews.” The king on the cross is
taunted and mocked by all but a repentant sinner dying with him. “Lord,
remember me!” That prayer to the suffering Jesus was answered by an invitation
to accompany him into paradise. The picture is far beyond
the comprehension of the world’s power elite.
And on the
last Sunday of the liturgical year in Cycle B—November 25 this year—the choice is from John’s Gospel
(18:33-37). Here Jesus stands before Pilate. Pilate leads with the question:
“Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom does not
belong to this world. “My kingdom is not from here.” Pilate, an appointee of
the Roman emperor and one quite familiar with royalty, persists: “Then, you are
concedes and then proclaims his otherworldly mission—a mission again out of
sync with the wielders of human authority. “The reason I was born, the reason I
came into the world is to testify to the truth.”
of Christ the King is the human flesh he took on to come and pitch his tent in
our midst. He is the living message from the Father who so loved the world that
he sent his only begotten Son—the divine Word made flesh. That king was
discovered in a manger bed all bundled up in swaddling clothes. That king
entertained sinners and lavished on them the Good News of God’s kingdom. That
king entered the holy city of Jerusalem “meek and seated on an ass, the foal of
a beast of burden.” That king died so that all might live.
In the game
of checkers, the object is to use your king to eliminate all opposition from
the board. In the ministry of catechesis, the object is to acclaim and proclaim
your King—for God the Father uses Christ the
King to draw all people together, to care for their human needs, to suffer for
their sake, to share with them the truth, and to welcome them into paradise.
would seek to lead others can learn much from a kingship that is definitely not
of this world.
Schippe has been in Catholic publishing for well over 40 years and currently
serves as President and Publisher for the Peter Li Education Group. Email
Cullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.