Christ the King and the “Duck Test”

The “Duck Test”

We’ve all heard the expression… “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” Sometimes it is referred to as “the duck test”. Another way of saying it is to fly a “false flag” or giving the appearance of something one is not. In either case, political figures have used it to identify who someone who wears one label but acts like a member of another party.

Jesus had his own way of saying it. “By their fruits, you will know them”. As I was thinking about the feast of Christ the King I wondered how the “duck test” might apply to followers of Christ the King.

First, let’s look at the characteristics of Christ the King

Characteristics of Christ the king

Christ the king breaks the mold of earthly rulers in at least three ways.

He Identifies with everyone

Christ the King identifies with each one of us no matter how badly disfigured. He identifies with everyone who is hungry, thirsty, sick, lonely, a foreigner, in prison, and a stranger. He is in the needy, whether rich or poor. He is in the discouraged loved one who cannot find a job; He is in our children, who need to be taught and encouraged. He is in the co-worker who just lost his wife; he is in the patient who was diagnosed with cancer. He is in the lost family member who needs instruction and to be drawn back to the Sacraments. He is in our struggles and needs.

He Serves all

To understand Christ as King we must remember what he did at his last meal. He washed the feet of disciples, something a lowly servant did for his master. He became their servant. Then he pointedly asked them. Do you understand what I have done? I, your Lord and Master (King) have washed your feet. I want you to wash one another’s feet in love. He even added, “Do this in memory of me!” Lest we miss the point.

Some of His ways are paradoxical. We can not reduce “care” merely to meaning “that which comforts and consoles.” It can be that, but not always! Sometimes the “caring” thing to do is to rebuke, warn. God never ceases to care for us. Think of the times his care took the form or correction of disciples. Sometimes his care manifests itself in the unwelcome package of challenges that lead to growth.

He deeply respects the freedom of all

Jesus is a King who respects our freedom to decide whether to have Him as our King and to accept the virtues of His kingdom—or not. Anyone who chooses not to live these characteristics creates a separate space outside this kingdom, space filled with isolation and fierce competition. He is a King who does not force His kingship and laws. Rather he offers his example to all and allows each of us to decide which space we choose.

Identifying followers of Christ the King

Invoking the “duck test” principle we seem to have a way to determine who understands the kingship of Christ the King.

Followers of Christ the King are those who understand that in this kingdom we freely serve each other because we see in each person no matter what scars a participation in being Christ.

Some members of this kingdom stand out. We call them saints and blessed. In our Vincentian heritage Saints Vincent and Louise are among those whose lives clearly embody these characteristics. By their fruits we know them.

But Pope Francis constantly reminds us that we are called to be the “saints next door.” In our lives people see images of Christ the King,  Together we manifest what the Eucharistic Preface of the feast of Christ the King describes as *an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.”

Do we, individually and collectively, look and act like people who serve one another because we recognize we are the body of Christ?

This post drew on a homily by Msgr Charles Pope

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