O King of Nations: The In-Breaking of God’s Reign
O King of all nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of humankind, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.
With very good reason many people, especially women, recoil at the objectively patriarchal and hierarchical language often used to describe God. Such can be the case with the title “King.” This is a serious concern and one that should not be overlooked, but with an acknowledgment of the problematic nature of the term, today’s antiphon should allow us to move forward to the next point of reflection toward which this ancient prayer beckons us. God’s Reign.
What does it mean to talk about God’s reign, the in-breaking of that malkuth YHWH spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures and proclaimed in the kerygmatic narratives by the earliest disciples as having been inaugurated by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
We look to Luke’s Gospel and the prophet Isaiah to get a glimpse at what is being described in the live and ministry of Jesus Christ:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
These saving actions describe a disposition of impossibility. God is the one who breaks into the lives of the burdened, outcast and oppressed and releases them from the bondage of their cultural, social, physical, mental and ecclesiastical confines. Pushed to the margins of society, so many people suffer from the brokenness of abandonment, imprisonment and rejection, yet the message proclaimed by Isaiah and exercised by Jesus Christ is one that says what seems impossible in your condition becomes possible in God’s Reign.
God’s Reign is not a place, but a way of living. What was announced in the life and proclamation of Jesus was a not a road map to a certain location, but a game plan or model for how to be who we are truly called to be — heralds of the Great King (as Francis of Assisi would put it), messengers of God (in Greek, angels [ἄγγελος]). We announce God’s Reign by our actions and not merely by our words.
What Jesus announced by his life and word, the in-breaking of God’s Reign, continues into our own day. How is it that we bring the message of God’s Reign to our world by what we do, how we live, what we say? Do we live as though God is indeed the “joy of our hearts” as the antiphon continues? Do we recognize God as the “keystone,” what which holds together, all of humanity? Or do we live in another way, our own way, looking out for ourselves alone, concerned about nothing but our particular interests?
May our prayer today be one that leads us to live what we celebrate this week with the coming of the Lord who sends us out to announce the Reign of God by our lives.