“I came into the world, to testify to the Amen/truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” So ends the Gospel for the Solemnity of Christ the King at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada. This passage alludes to John 10:1-16, the story of the Good Shepherd. “The gatekeeper opens the gate, the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name, he leads them. As he drives out all his own, he walks ahead, and the sheep follow him; they recognize his voice.”
The Gospel for the Solemnity of Christ the King also has a passage misquoted often, “”My kingdom does not belong to this cosmos. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my sailors would be contending for the prize of keeping me from being handed over to the Jews.”
Fundamentalists often interpret this to mean that legions of angels from heaven would fight for Jesus if Jesus’ nation were of this cosmos. Jesus is speaking in terms of a nation of sheep, a domesticated non-violent animal. If Jesus’ nation were of this cosmos, his subjects would be like the other subjects of this cosmos. They would be running for guns and clubs to behave like the other nations. We are not; we are sheep.
We look at American Defense Spending. The US spends $739 Billion in defense spending. The remaining nine nations of the top ten defense spenders spend a total of less than $500 Billion each year. America is not a Christian Nation. We are not a nation of sheep, but of goats, a consumer nation, which eats everything. Matthew 25:31-Matthew 26:1 is the address to the nations. In that address, Jesus compares sheep with goats. Farmers often put goats in with the sheep as goats have horns and a nasty temper. When coyotes and other predators come near the herd, they deal with the goats. Jesus’ herd is a herd of sheep, not goats.
We see the same message in the First Reading for the Solemnity of Christ the King. Daniel has just given us the image of the prior nations. The first was like a lion, but with eagle’s wings. The second beast was like a bear; raised up on one side, and among the teeth in its mouth were three tusks. I looked and saw another beast, like a leopard; on its back were four wings like those of a bird, and it had four heads. To this beast dominion was given. In the visions of the night I saw a fourth beast, terrifying, horrible, and of extraordinary strength; it had great iron teeth with which it devoured and crushed, and it trampled with its feet what was left.
Last, we see one like a Son of Man. In Hebrew, “Son of Man” simply means a human being, like the rest of us. This is Daniel and Jesus’ definition of the ideal king. It comes from Deuteronomy 17:14-17:
When you come into the land the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, gives you, “I will set a king over me, like all the surrounding nations,” you may set over you a king whom the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, chooses. From among your own kindred you may set over you as king; you may not set over you a stranger, no kin of yours. He will not have a great number of horses; nor make his people go back again to Oppression to acquire horses. Nor will he accumulate a vast amount of silver and gold.
Our King, our ruler is to be like the rest of us. He is not the great and horrible thing over there. He is the person like us, here. He is not to be about military power, but he is the gatekeeper who invites all to join us in the great pasture here on earth. Jesus also tells us in John 10, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
We must learn to listen to the other sheep in the cosmos. We must first look to the shepherd, and then listen to the other sheep. We do not force our religion on others. If God calls the other nations, they will hear his voice and follow. The pasture entices the nations to follow him. We show the other nations our garden. If they hear the call of God, they will follow. If they are a conquering nation, Rome conquered Israel, and Christianity conquered Rome, not with violence but by being sheep. Always remember that.