Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

A King like No Other

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

A King like No Other

Article excerpt


Dn 7:13-14; Ps 93; Rv 1:5-8; Jn 18:33-37

What That does it mean to accept the sovereignty and dominion of a king? What does it mean to pledge allegiance to a monarch? In centuries long ago and even not so long ago, in some areas of our world--to be king or queen meant absolute ownership. As ruler of the realm, the monarch claimed all the lands and their produce, all the fields and their flocks, all the realm's resources, all its revenue, as well as the very lives of his/her subjects. This ownership was often maintained by force, and subjects who objected often lived quite short and unpleasant lives.

Those were the days of towers and dungeons, of guillotines and scaffolds. The histories of too many countries are punctuated with instances of monarchical power abuse. Recall the selfishness of Marie Antoinette, whose disregard for her poor subjects has been memorialized in the words, "They have no bread? Let them eat cake!" Recall the treachery of Henry VIII of England, who either divorced or killed several of his wives in pursuit of a male heir.

Even the names of some world rulers attest to the manner in which they abused the power entrusted to them. The Russian Czar Ivan had each of his' five (some say seven) wives poisoned to death or forced into a convent when he tired of them. For such acts as these, as well as for the murder of his own son, Ivan is forever known as "the Terrible."

Monarchies continue to exist in 27 countries of the world--from Bahrain (Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa), to Lesotho (King Letsie III), to the Netherlands (Queen Beatrix), to the United Kingdom (Queen Elizabeth II). Most of these monarchs are mere figureheads whose appearances at public and political functions add an air of history to the occasion. Some are treasured, and some are simply tolerated as living relics of a bygone era.

Jesus' kingship is exercised in a manner that has rarely been reflected in other rulers, be they kings, queens, czars, sheiks, presidents; prime ministers, or even bishops and popes. Many of these would rule for their own intents and purposes, but Jesus exercises his power as protection, his authority as service. …

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