Dedication of the Church Fourth Sunday

FEAST OF CHRIST, THE KING
Christ sits at the right side of God. Matthew 22:41-46

INTRODUCTION

As we have reached the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar, we are celebrating the feast of Christ the King. As members of the church, we are in the kingdom of God initiated and headed by Christ. The culmination of the salvation history is that Christ shall be enthroned as “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev. 19:16). Through his dispute with the Pharisees, Jesus proved that the Messiah is more that the “son of David.” He is the also Son of God who came to the world as son of man. Jesus acknowledged to Pilate that he is king; but his kingdom does not belong to this world (John 18:36). Jesus told his disciples: “you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19). Let us acknowledge the great sacrifice of our redeemer who has chosen us out of the world to be citizens of his divine kingdom and let us be loyal to his leadership so that we later enter into the fullness of his kingdom.

BIBLE TEXT

The Question About David’s Son.
(41) While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus questioned them, (42) saying, “What is your opinion about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They replied, “David’s.” (43) He said to them, “How, then, does David, inspired by the Spirit, call him ‘lord,’ saying: (44) ‘The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet”’? (45) If David calls him ‘lord,’ how can he be his son?” (46) No one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

INTERPRETATION

(41) While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus questioned them,

Different groups that opposed Jesus used to question Jesus. Most of them were to refute him rather than to understand the divine truth from him. The context of today’s gospel passage is that the Jewish leaders raised several questions to Jesus in Jerusalem for which he gave appropriate answers.

1. The chief priests and elders questioned the authority of Jesus for his teachings and his act of cleansing the Temple. They asked: “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).

2. The disciples of Pharisees and Herodians asked him: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:17).

3. The Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, questioned him on the resurrection based on a hypothetical story of a woman who married seven brothers one after another and died childless. “Now at the resurrection, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had been married to her.” (Matthew 22:28). 

4. A scholar of the law representing the Pharisees asked Jesus: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36).

After responding to all these difficult questions, Jesus took his turn to ask a question to the Pharisees. Now the questioned became the questioner. While the purpose of those who questioned Jesus was to make some reason to put him to death, his purpose was to prove that he was the Messiah.

(42) saying, “What is your opinion about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They replied, “David’s.”

The Israelites were expecting a Messiah that God would send to deliver them from the evil. The word Messiah came from the Hebrew word mashiach which means “anointed one” or “chosen one.” Its Greek version is Christos and English terminology is Christ. In biblical times, priests, prophets, and kings were anointed with oil as a sign of God’s selection and consecration of them for a God-given role. Jews were expecting a special Messiah, who would deliver Israel from the evil as promised by God even from the time of Adam and renewed through other holy men in the history of Israel.

Jesus’ question to the Pharisees was on the sonship of the Messiah. There are seven sonship titles of the Messiah in the Bible, out of which the Pharisees chose one.

1. The Son of God

St. Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus back as the son of God (Luke 3:38) emphasizing the divine origin of Jesus. Though he was born of a woman, he had no human father. Angel Gabriel said to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35). At the time of his baptism and transfiguration, God revealed him as His Son. This divine sonship was confirmed in the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 13:32-33), (Romans 1:3-4). St. Peter acknowledged Jesus as “the son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) and St. Thomas as ‘My Lord and my God” (John 20:28) both affirming the divinity of Jesus. Though Adam was also a son of God directly created by Him, Jesus was far different from Adam. Nicaean creed states: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.”

2. The Son of Adam

Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus also as the son of Adam (Luke 3:38). This title emphasizes the humanity of Jesus as an outcome of the Adamic Covenant: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel.” (Genesis 3:15). Thus the promised son of Adam was to be born of a woman who would strike the head of the serpent. 

3. The Son of Man

This usage is taken in different senses. The incarnation as son of a human being, the suffering of the Messiah like a human (Mathew 12:40, 17:22, 20:18-19,28), the supernatural nature of Jesus (John 1:51) and his second coming in glory (Daniel 7:13). Jesus preferred to use “son of man” for himself out of his humility.

4. The Son of Abraham

The genealogy of Matthew traces back Jesus as the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1). This shows the relationship of the Messiah to the Abrahamic Covenant. Jesus was circumcised on the  eighth day following this covenant. Jesus was the fulfillment of Abraham’s words to his son Isaac: “My son, God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:8). Though God saved Isaac’s life replacing a ram, the real replacement took place with Jesus, the lamb of God, who was sacrificed on the same mountain. All the three promises God made to Abraham were fulfilled in Israel and continued to fulfill in Jesus. Through Jesus also, God selected descendants of faith, promised a perfect dwelling place for the faithful, and a blessing to all nations through the faithful.

5. The Son of David

Mathew starts his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus stating him also as son of David (Matthew 1:1). The emphasis here is on the royalty or kingship of Jesus and as the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. God promised to David: “when your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom. He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12-13). Though the promise was partially fulfilled in David’s son Solomon who built the Temple, the promise came to its completion only in Jesus who established the universal kingdom and rules it forever. Jesus was a direct descendant of David through Mary and his adopted father Joseph as per the genealogy of Luke and Matthew.

6. The Son of Mary

Jesus was also told as son of Mary (Mark 6:3) emphasizing his human origin from Mary. His humanity came only from Mary who was also from Davidic line according to the genealogy given by Luke. Jesus had the royal blood of King David through his son Nathan and his descendants.

7. The Son of Joseph

Jesus was also considered as son of Joseph (Matthew 13:55, John 6:42). Though Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, Joseph was his adopted or legal father from Davidic line. The genealogy of Jesus that Matthew presents traces back Joseph to Solomon, the son of David.

In answer to Jesus’ question, the Pharisees answered that the Messiah must be the Son of David. That was a popular expectation of the public regarding Messiah. That is clear from the fact that many people addressed Jesus as the son of David.  Some examples are the crowds who doubted the Messiahship of Jesus (Matthew 12:23), the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:22), the crowds that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem shouting hosanna (Matthew 21:9), and Bartimaeus who was a blind beggar (Mark 10:48).

Though Pharisees’ answer was correct, Jesus challenged their response to prove that Messiah was more than a descendant of David.

(43) He said to them, “How, then, does David, inspired by the Spirit, call him ‘lord,’ saying: (44) ‘The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet”’? (45)  If David calls him ‘lord,’ how can he be his son?”

David, inspired by the Spirit
Jesus quoted from Psalm 110: “A psalm of David. The LORD says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, while I make your enemies your footstool.’” From the verse it is clear that the psalm was written by David and that he wrote it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord said to my lord
The ‘lord’ or the Messiah would be far higher than an earthly king because the Messiah would rule the kingdom forever, as God promised to David. No earthly king can rule forever. David addressed that future son to be born in his direct lineage as ‘lord.’ Besides, the “lord” was in existence before David. That is why David said in past tense that “the Lord said to my lord.” No son can exist before the father. In that sense, the ‘lord’ is not just a son of David. Instead, this son must be of divine origin who existed with God the Father and incarnated in the lineage of David. He is the creator of David and his descendant, as Jesus reveled to St. John at Patmos: “I am the root and offspring of David.” (Rev. 22:16).

Sit at my right hand
Bible presents Jesus as one sitting at the right hand of the Father (Psalm 110:1,5, Matthew 26:64, Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, and Acts 2:33, 7:55). The biblical meaning of right hand is power, authority, or honor. The person next in authority used to sit on the right side of the king. When Bathsheba, the mother of King Solomon approached the king, he honored her by sitting her at his right on a throne. (1Kings 2:19). St. Stephen before his martyrdom was privileged to have a vision of heaven. He said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55). This standing is interpreted as Jesus stood up to encourage and welcome Stephen to heaven. There is no mention in the Bible as anyone sitting at the left side of God though there is a Jewish belief that Abraham sits at the left side of Yahweh.

until I place your enemies under your feet
In the past there was a practice of the conquerors placing their feet upon the neck or body of their defeated enemies. A typical example is given in Joshua 10:16-27 on the surrender and execution of five Amorite Kings who were hiding in a cave at Makkedah when Israelites conquered their nation. When these kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon were brought to Joshua, he asked the commanders of his army to put their feet on the necks of the kings in the presence of all the army of Israel. It was a sign of the victory of Israel over those kings. So also, the Spirit inspired David to say that one day the spiritual enemies will be brought under the feet of the ‘lord’ who sits at the right hand of the LORD.

(46) No one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and Scribes who used to question Jesus to put him in trouble found that he was a man of unbeatable wisdom. They could not defeat him in any Theological disputes. So they stopped interrogating him with religious questions.

FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING

The concept of Jesus as king and his kingdom are understood in a different sense from the secular world. The failure of the Israelites was that they misunderstood Messiah as a mundane king who would liberate Israelites from the Roman rule. They were fed up with being under foreign monarchs one after another like Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Even the disciples of Jesus asked him before the ascension, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). However, Jesus role was to reestablish the Kingdom of God by saving humanity from the bondage of Satan, sin, suffering, and death that entered the world because of the fall of first parents. That indeed is the permanent solution and establishment of the eternal kingdom headed by Jesus the Messiah.

“By the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are allied with him experience it." (Wisdom 2:24). This death is physical as well as spiritual. Christ, through his death and resurrection, broke the power of the evil and set us free from the slavery of sin. (CCC 421). By offering himself as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), Jesus has regained us “the promised eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15). “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). As St. Paul wrote: “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross [through him], whether those on earth or those in heaven.” (Colossians 1:18-20). At the end times, Jesus “is Lord of lords and king of kings, and those with him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14).

The term Christ or Messiah implied that he was anointed. Just as kings, prophets, and priests were specially selected by God and anointed for His service, Jesus was the Messiah in full sense. He performed the role of prophet, priest, and king. As a prophet, he was the Word of God and preached it to the world (Luke 24:19). As a high priest, “passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle …he entered once for all into the sanctuary, … with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:11-12). Jesus is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev. 19:16). “Raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” (Ephesians 1:20-23).

There are several references to the kingship of Jesus in the Bible. At the time of annunciation, Angel Gabriel told Mary, "the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." (Luke 1:32-33). Jesus preached that the kingdom of God was at hand. (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 4:43, 11:20). Nathanael acknowledged Jesus, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel." (John 1:49). Matthew quoting from Zechariah 9:9 reported that the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was the fulfillment of a prophesy: “Behold, your king is coming to you.” (Matthew 21:5). People welcomed him saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” (Matthew 21:9). The accusation the Jews brought to Pilate against Jesus was that he claimed to be the king of Jews because they knew that it would irritate the Roman governor. That was why Pilate questioned Jesus asking "Are You the King of the Jews?" to which he answered: "It is as you say." (Matthew 27:11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3). Jesus clarified to Pilate saying, "My kingdom does not belong to this world." (John 18:36). The soldiers of Pilate mocked Jesus based on the accusation against Jesus claiming as temporal king. “Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” (Matthew 27:29). The inscription Pilate placed on the cross of Jesus was: “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19).

Origin of the Feast Celebration of Christ the King

The Feast celebration of Christ the King is of recent origin. The background for considering this feast was World War I (August 1, 1914 to November 11, 1918) and the lack of peace even after the war. Pius XI, the then pope, wanted to give importance to the kingship of Christ as “Prince of Peace.” The pope published an encyclical Ubi arcano Dei consilio in December 1922 and another one, Quas primas in 1925. Pope Pius XI instituted the feast in 1925 and it was celebrated on the last Sunday of October or the Sunday before All Saint’s Day. Pope’s intention was to remind the Christians that they should show allegiance to Christ the King rather than to the earthly rulers.

St. Pope Paul VI moved the feast of Christ the King to the last Sunday of the liturgical year in 1970 and renamed the feast as “Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe.” That is relevant because of two remembrances. It reminds Christians the second coming of Christ when the kingdom of God will be established in its fullness with Jesus as the King. It also leads into the season of Advent when we prepare for Christmas, the birth of the newborn king.

MESSAGE

1. Though Jesus was born in the lineage of David as the fulfillment of Davidic covenant, He was also Son of God. Through baptism, we are reborn in the spiritual family of Jesus. Jesus told of his disciples: “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50). Let us do the will of God and remain in the family of Jesus.

2. Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father is indicative of how pleasing he is to the Father. At the final judgement, the righteous will be placed on the right side of Jesus. Let us keep the works of Christian charity based on faith in Jesus to be at the privileged position during the final judgement.

3. Jesus Christ established the church as his kingdom and he is its head. As Christians, we form the body of Christ in the church with different gifts and functions to exercise in this world (Romans 12:4-6). Are we working in unison with the church and the representatives of Christ?

4. Jesus told that he is the vine and we are the branches. “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4). Let us remain in the love of Jesus and bear fruits of Christian love.

5. “On Judgment Day at the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil which, like the wheat and the tares, have grown up together in the course of history.” (CCC 681). So let us continue fighting against evil with the grace of Christ and persist in doing good awaiting the glorious return of Jesus.

6. After the final judgement, Jesus Christ shall be enthroned as “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev. 19:16). Let us pray and work for entry into this perfect kingdom of the Lord.