Sunday Reflection with Father Terry Tastard - 21 November 2010

Byzantine Christ the King

Byzantine Christ the King

They say that a fish rots from the head downwards, and this metaphor is often used to describe corruption in society around us today.  We feel that if our leaders are people of integrity, then others in the country will be inspired or encouraged to play their part in a spirit of responsibility and fairness.  The same would apply of course to large business enterprises:  if the team at the top consists of people who are just and fair, then others throughout the whole corporation will take their cue from them.  And of course the reverse applies:  where the leaders are corrupt, it will be difficult for those under them to follow the path that Jesus called ‘the straight and narrow way’, the path of honesty and truth which always seeks what is best.

This idea of the king as setting the tone for the whole society was very much in the forefront of the minds of Israel, the ancient people of God.  It occurs again and again in the Old Testament.  The king is the one who models how others should live and behave.  And this is the idea that inspires the concept of Christ the King.  His kingdom is what our Eucharistic preface calls ‘a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.’  Within every society this kingdom can be growing.  Its citizens are you and me.  In our desire to follow Christ, to live as he would have us live and love as he inspires us to love, we build what the late Pope John Paul called ‘a civilization of love’.  You can live in a republic and still follow this king, you can live in a society dominated by cynicism and still live by the values he lived by himself.  Christ the King gives us the example and the values for a kingdom which takes daily reality in this world and yet is not a kingdom like any other.

There is judgement here too.  Traditionally in Israel and Judah the king was the one who made sure that justice was done.  He was the guarantor of justice and integrity.  There are many in our world who do rule, and their rule is a reign of terror.  The cruel and corrupt rulers of the world are tried by the spirit of Christ’s kingship and they are found wanting.  He spoke words of forgiveness.  Do the rulers of this world show the mercy of Christ?  He walked among ordinary people and broke bread with them.  Do they walk alongside the ordinary people of the land?  He was a king who, as our gospel today reminds us, suffered on the cross.  Do they touch the wounds of others to bring them healing, or are they more likely to inflict wounds?  Christ in his kingship challenges all rulers who live corrupt and selfish lives.  He finds them wanting and calls on them to replace their house of selfishness with a house of generosity and compassion.

 Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His latest book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, on ICN's front page. To read Sr Gemma Simmonds' review on ICN see:

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