This coming Sunday is the Solemnity of Christ the King, and the final Sunday of the liturgical year before Advent begins on November 29th.
If you have been paying attention, you may have noticed the readings at mass on Sundays have taken a somewhat “ominous” turn. We have started dealing with end-of-the-world themes and hearing preaching about Jesus’ coming judgement at the end of time. All of this can be somewhat confusing: As the rest of the world begins its Christmas-time celebrations by singing cheery tunes and indulging in sweet desserts, those of us in the Church might be tempted to think of the readings on Sundays as being kind of a “downer” on the whole holiday spirit.
Just when we are ready to get excited for Christmas along with the rest of the world, the Church has us dwelling on the apocalypse—What gives?
Consider this your heads up. When you hear in the coming weeks preaching of the Son of Man coming on the clouds, separating the wheat from the chaff, or the coming tribulation of the end-times, it’s not meant to put a collective “bah-humbug” on your holiday cheer. Rather, it’s a reminder of why Jesus came into the world in the first place. And as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the first time our Lord Jesus came into the world, it is only appropriate that we also look forward to, and prepare our hearts for, the day when He will return, as He promised.
Jesus Is Coming, And Has Already Come
So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
“Parousia” is a fancy word from ancient Greek that means, a “physical presence” or “arrival” of someone. It is most often used to reference Jesus’ Second Coming.
When Jesus came into the world the first time, He was born in the bitter cold of night, into a poor family, and laid to sleep in the stable animals’ feeding trough. It sure didn’t look like the King of the Universe had just entered the scene. As we draw nearer to His Second Coming, or parousia, we are promised to be presented with various trials and tribulations. In those times, we will likely ask ourselves, “Where is God?”
When we are faced with those trials, let’s remember that it’s not only true that Jesus came long ago in a stable in Bethlehem, and it’s not even just that He will come again. Jesus has come, Jesus will come, and Jesus remains here with us, present in the Eucharist.
“Every Eucharist is parousia, the Lord’s coming, and yet the Eucharist is even more truly the tensed yearning that He would reveal His hidden Glory.”
We need not fear Jesus’ second coming at the end of time, and we don’t need to be anxious about the tribulations that He will lead us through as we prepare to meet Him. With the eager anticipation of a child as Christmas draws near, we take this time to kneel before Christ present in the Eucharist, and even dare to ask that He might hasten His coming, when the glory and splendor of the King will finally be made manifest!