Sunday: Is Christ the Absent King?

Sunday, Nov. 23, is the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe (Year A)— but looking at the state of the world, he seems like an absent king.

That puts us in Robin Hood’s position. In the old story, King Richard the Lionheart is away in the Holy Land fighting a crusade — a mission that could take many years in his day. In his absence, his brother John, aided by the Sheriff of Nottingham, rules in a corrupt and oppressive way. When the king’s away, the true followers of the king have a very difficult time. To remain faithful to the spirit of their true ruler, they must become “outlaws.”

They are a little bit like Christians today awaiting the return of Christ the King.

Of course, our king is not absent in the way King Richard is. At the same moment that Christ told his followers, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” he also told them, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

He is very much with us in the Eucharist and in the Church. But he has also directed us to take his place in the mission as we “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe” his commandments.

What is our job? It isn’t terribly different from Robin Hood and Little John’s: We are to do what we can to live his Kingdom and await his return. We are to be detached from the corrupt ways of the realm, help the poor and fight the enemies of the Kingdom, just like they did.

If we do a good job of it, we should look like “outlaws.” We are the ones who refuse to settle with the world’s ways when they aren’t right. We are the ones who live in the world but not of it. We are the ones who don’t blithely accept the word of the false king, because we are the ones who are truly loyal — to the true King who just happens to be away at the moment.

As we await Christ’s return, it also might not feel like Jesus is the great King of the Universe who is setting all things in order. But he is. And we can remind ourselves that, upon his return, everything is going to change.

He will line up the sheep and the goats, say the Gospel — the followers of Richard and the followers of John — and send them off to their proper end.

The first reading describes what it will be like: “I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.  I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.  The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.”

The splendor of King Richard changed the culture of Sherwood Forest. But that is nothing to what Christ’s return to us will do to restore peace and good will — forever.


Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.