By REV. MSGR. SAM R. MIGLARESE
The Gospels describe how Jesus, throughout his ministry, was consumed by a burning desire to announce to one and all the arrival of God’s Kingdom. This message consumed him. To fulfill his mission motivated all he was about. Mark’s Gospel describes how at the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus’s first words were, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
Jesus’ contemporaries, however, soon discovered that the Kingdom he preached was unlike anything they had expected. Their nationalistic hopes for a warrior king, a messiah who would overthrow the Roman oppressors, were soon dashed by the gentle message of Jesus to love one’s enemies and to forgive 70 times seven times. For his apostles and others who dreamed of sitting on thrones to rule over the 12 tribes of Israel, he promised a cup of suffering and assured them that the least would be first.
In the Kingdom, Jesus announced, beggars and sinners were to sit at royal wedding banquets, replacing the guests who ignored the king’s invitation. The king was to wear a crown of thorns, not the royal diadem which the prophets had foreseen. And when at last he comes in glory, the messiah king will be revealed as having resided in the poor, the outcast, the hungry and the criminal.
The king of Jesus’s parables reigns now from a sickbed and from Death Row, from the dumpster into which he fell as he searched for scraps of food. This king of Jesus’s description is the illegal alien and the AIDS victim, the welfare cheat and the refugee with the swollen belly. This insidiously hidden king, disguised in a million grimy ways and dying a thousand wretched deaths, is the guy we passed on the street hustling money for the next drink, the woman hustling Johns to support her habit.
This king, who judges the high and mighty as well as the weak and lowly, is a king of surprises and contradictions. His standard of measurement defies our logic. In fact, he overturns our logic and stands our worldly-wise categories on their heads. Christ is king indeed, but in so many hidden ways that only the blind can recognize him, only the lame run to greet him, only the thirsty drink of his water. Christ is king here and now for those who dare to live out his vision of the real priorities in life.
No wonder he said that we would have to “repent” of our accustomed ways of thinking, seeing and acting, if we were ever to believe the incredible good news of God’s unconditional love. Christ can, does and will reign as king when and where and if we accept his message.
Msgr. Sam Miglarese is vicar general of the Diocese of Charleston.