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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

"O King of All Nations"

Thursday, December 22, 2022, 4th Week of Advent

by Fr. David M. Knight

View readings for today:

O King and desire of all nations,

The cornerstone of unity and peace,

Come! Save us your creatures,

whom You fashioned from the dust!

The whole human race was created from the "dust of the earth." But from the moment we draw our first individual breath we try to lift ourselves out of the dust and fashion for ourselves an identity distinct from the common mass of humanity. We do this both as individuals and as nations -- and competitively, so that frequently "distinction" becomes confused with superiority and grows into divisiveness.

Historically kings have been used as symbols of their people's identity. In theory, and in the popular mind, the ruler embodies the ideals, aspirations and accomplishments of the nation. He is treated with the respect given to the nation itself, and his lifestyle should reflect back to the people the image or dream they have of their own beauty and greatness.

Unfortunately, just as rulers frequently seek to distinguish themselves at the expense of their people, so nations seek to distinguish themselves at the expense of other nations. It is unspokenly taken for granted that the first duty of rulers -- and of loyal citizens -- is to assure the survival and prosperity of their own people, even if this means destroying and impoverishing other nations. As a result, distinction between nations tends to become division between nations, and countries feel obliged, again and again, to preserve their self-identity by war.

Jesus refused to involve Himself in saving any nation as such. Although He was executed as "King of the Jews," His own people rejected Him because He refused to be the kind of nationalistic Messiah-King they expected. Jesus would only rule over a kingdom embracing the whole human race, without ethnic, racial or national boundaries. The plan of God which He was sent to accomplish is "to bring everything in heaven and on earth together into unity under Christ's headship" (see Ephesians 1:9-10). He came to be the "corner-stone," the meeting-point that joins all the peoples of the world in unity and peace. He is addressed as "King and desire of all nations" because, while He refuses to identify Himself with any one nation's aspirations, He is the fulfillment of all people's desire.

What the people of all nations share is a common origin from the "dust of the earth" and a common destiny to die: all human life is in bodies which cannot last. More basic than the surge of individual persons or nations toward self-identity through distinction from others is the desire to survive, to live forever. And Jesus alone can satisfy this desire. By offering "eternal life," He can bring together all the peoples of earth in a common striving motivated by the one desire which unifies them all.

Jesus is universal King because He not only symbolizes, but embodies and fulfills the one longing which can unify the human race in peace, pursuing a common goal. As today's Opening Prayer proclaims, Jesus has power "to free the human race" from the one thing all people most want to avoid: "the power of death," and to grant the one thing all most desire: to "share in His divine life," life forever.

Jesus gained His identity as King, not at our expense, but by giving His life for us. And if we want to benefit from His universal Kingship we must renounce every divisive desire -- and specifically any attempt to preserve or distinguish ourselves at the expense of others. When all who would be first are competing to be last, and all who have property refuse to defend it, and all who want to save their lives are willing to give them up for others in love for the sake of eternal life (see Matthew 5:38-48; 16: 24-26; 18:1-4), then God can grant us "the unity and peace of His Kingdom." This is what we commit ourselves to work for as we pray, O King and desire of all nations, come! Save us whom You fashioned from the dust!

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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