The maple trees in our yard put on quite a show this season – offering a late-arriving, but ultimately spectacular array of yellow, orange and red hues to delight our eyes in the autumn sunshine.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. And so I spent most of Saturday removing the leafy remains from the turf.
But perhaps their fleeting beauty is worth revisiting for just a moment, before kicking the remnants to the curb:
The vibrant colors are actually there, in the leaf, throughout the growing season – or so I’m told. It’s just that the green pigment of the chlorophyll is so abundant that it overwhelms the xanthophylls (yellow), carotenoids (orange) and anthocyanins (reds) during the long days of summer. But as daylight hours begin to shorten, chlorophyll production ceases – and the erstwhile hidden pigments finally get their moment in the spotlight.
In some respects, it’s a fitting tribute to the way the liturgical season wraps up today. Week after week in the gospel stories proclaimed on recent Sundays, we’ve encountered the life-giving Jesus of Ordinary Time – the Healer, the Teacher, our Companion on the Journey.
But today the focus shifts to Christ the King – and we are given a glimpse of something that might have otherwise been hidden in the stories we’ve shared about Jesus’ life and times. We encounter a rather spectacular Jesus in the reading from Revelations on this final Sunday of the liturgical year:
Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth…
Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.
One of those who pierced him, of course, is Pontius Pilate – whom we encounter in today’s gospel passage. Seemingly, he wields all the power in this moment – literally, power over Jesus’ life or death. But isn’t it intriguing, the way Jesus responds to Pilate?
“Do you say this on your own, or have others told you about me?”
It’s almost as if Jesus is giving Pilate a moment – a chance to be changed by his close encounter with Christ the King. Jesus doesn’t seem to be so much interested in saving his own skin…as he is in revealing to Pilate a deeper reality about who actually wields power across the universe:
“…for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate misses the point, of course – and the events of Jesus’ passion begin hurtling toward their horrific conclusion. Like a bag of fallen leaves, Jesus is kicked to humanity’s curb on Good Friday.
But that’s not the end of the story, as we know…because there’s glory hidden in this ordinary-looking Son of Man. A glory we celebrate, on this final Sunday of the liturgical year, through the eyes of the prophet Daniel:
I saw one like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.