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23 November 2014
posted by Canon Dakin on 25-11-2014

In days gone by, days that many of us remember, on this feast of Christ the King there was Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from Mass in the morning until Benediction on Sunday evening when the men and boys walked in procession before Our Lord in the monstrance. I can imagine a modern feminist saying in retrospect ‘Sexist!’, and, do you know, I should be inclined to agree. God is not a problem but we have a problem when we attempt to speak about God. Recently we managed to land a probe on a comet hundreds of millions of miles away from earth. A great achievement, but perhaps our greatest achievement ever was our invention of language, though here we are mainly restricted to naming what we experience through our senses. The sky is blue; the water is cold. So St Thomas Aquinas tells us that we can never say what God is like because we have never directly experienced God. Take the word ‘king’. Jesus said: ‘I am a king’. Kings, in our experience, with few honourable exceptions, have been greedy thugs believing that war is a king’s business for their own enrichment. We are reflecting just now on the carnage of the First World War.  Historians do speak of the unfortunate childhood influences which formed the German Kaiser’s personality but it is tragic that the willfulness of one man should have had such terrible consequences. The history of kingship is far from glorious. So why Christ the King? Jesus said, when questioned by Pilate, ‘Yes, I am a king, but my kingdom is not of this world’.  He struggled all during his life to reject the cloak of kingship with which people were wanting to invest him.  In their heads they carried the memory of King David as the prototype of kingship. God had reluctantly allowed the Jews a king because they wanted to be like all other nations. And a rotten lot their kings turned out to be. So why did Jesus even use the term?  He was confined within the borders of language, and he had to adapt to their expectation of a kingdom they believed that God had promised to restore. Jesus came into his kingdom on Calvary. Artistically, the first kind of crucifix that appeared in churches was in the style of ours here on the wall - a triumphant Christ on the cross.  A famous ancient hymn that we sing on Good Friday has a line: God reigned from the tree. We get nearer the truth when we sing: King of love on Calvary.  Calvary was the triumph of love.  Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends. Calvary was the proof of Christ’s love.  Pope Francis has written: “When we stand before Jesus crucified we see the depth of his love which exalts and sustains us, but, at the same time, unless we are blind, we begin to see Jesus’ gaze, burning with love, expand to embrace all his people”. In other words, we are called to share, to spread, his love.  That is why the image of a regiment of men marching as though to war is not appropriate for this feast. It is a reminder that the Christian life is to embrace life for love of God, to offer sympathy, to lend a hand. To quote Pope Francis again: “No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted. All of these encircle our world like a vital force”.  That is our faith; it is for us to live it. 

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