November 24, 2013 –– Thirty-fourth (Last) Sunday in Ordinary Time
Solemnity of Christ the King
2 Samuel 5:1–3 / Colossians 1:12–20 / Luke 23:35–43
You Have To Serve Somebody
Back in the late 1970s the folk-icon Bob Dylan went through an Evangelical Christian phase, during which he wrote a song with this refrain: You're gonna have to serve somebody.... Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord / But you're gonna have to serve somebody.
Yet there’s a protest. There is something in us that does not want to serve. We want to be “free” to make our own choices. There is a brokenness in us that incites us to what Scripture and the Church call “sin,” and that brokenness makes us want to serve ourselves. When the ex-Beatle John Lennon (who esteemed Bob Dylan) heard Dylan’s song, he became so angry that he went into the studio and vented his rage into a long, long song called "Serve Yourself." The power of darkness (using Paul’s term when he writes to the Colossians) loves it when we think we are free to follow our self-interests. It only means we are spurning the rule of God’s kingdom.
Today we come to the final Sunday of the Church year with the Solemnity of Christ the King. Kingship seems to be an almost universal concept in human history. Earliest civilizations exhibit the phenomenon of divinized kings. This suggests an innate desire in humans to be ruled for the common good––an imprinted recognition that we are not sufficient, by ourselves, to take care of ourselves. We were created to live under a king. Dylan was right: You're gonna have to serve somebody.... But it makes all the difference in the world––and for eternity––who we serve. We live in a world where self-love and abuse of power cause fear and pain and death. Spiritual rebellion is real, and we can be so blind to the real cause of the evils in our world.
Jesus is truly the Messiah of God––the King of the Jews promised in the OT, and ultimately all the earth will bow to the King of kings and Lord of lords (see Philippians 2:10–11 and Revelation 19:16). Ironically, in today’s Gospel we hear those who do not believe––Israel’s rulers, Roman soldiers, and a criminal dying alongside Jesus. They taunt and revile him. They can only see a man who claimed to be a king who is nailed shamefully to a cross. Surely a king would be able to save himself! A “crucified messiah” does not make sense; the power of darkness will have nothing of it. But Jesus did not come to save himself; he came to save us.
It is by the blood of his cross that Jesus reveals his Kingship––not by saving his life, but offering it as a ransom for ours. In this way God the Father transfers us, in the words of the Epistle, to the Kingdom of his beloved Son. Our allegiance is not to self-assertiveness or raw power, but to a King whose name is Love.
We do not have a choice whether or not to be mastered. You're gonna have to serve somebody.... Yet we do have a choice who our master will be. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord / But you're gonna have to serve somebody. On this day when we honor Christ the King, invite him to be the King of your heart.