Solemnity of Christ the King - 22 November 2009
Readings: Dn 7:13-14; Ps 93:1, 1-2, 5; Rv 1:5-8; Jn 18:33b-37
Today we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. We honor and worship Christ, our King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (I can almost hear the great chorus of Handel’s Messiah in the background.)
The prophecies of the Old Testament are replete with references to the promised Messiah as King. In the New Testament, Jesus is called “King Eternal” (1 Tim 1:17), “King of Israel” (Jn 1:49), “King of the Jews” (Mt 27:11), “King of kings” (1 Tim 6:15; Rev. 19:16), “King of the Ages” (Rev 15:3) and “Ruler of the Kings of the Earth” (Rev. 1:5).
It was Pope Pius XI who officially inserted this feast into the liturgical calendar in his encyclical “Quas Primas” in 1925.
1925 was a Jubilee Year. It was also not the happiest of times. Europe was still reeling from the effects of World War I and, in a little more than a decade, another even bigger war would start. It was also a time that saw the rise of secularism, anti-clericalism, and Godless communism.
The feast of Christ the King was instituted to rekindle the faith of Christians during dark times, and remind us of the rightful place of Christ in the hearts of individuals, families, and nations.
1. Jesus’ kingdom is primarily spiritual.
In Jn 18:36, in the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus tells Pilate that his “kingdom does not belong to this world”. Pilate didn't get it. Many Jews in Jesus’ time, including some of his disciples, didn’t get it. Many in our time still insist to see it their way. And so it is worth repeating here: Jesus did not come to assume the role of a political hero or economic savior.
Our problems of corruption in public office, destruction of the environment, break-up of marriages, killings of the unborn, and a myriad other problems, all have their roots in sin and death. Jesus came to conquer sin and death, the very roots of oppression and poverty.
Pope Pius XI teaches in Quas Primas 19: “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.”
Jesus came to give us authentic freedom and authentic happiness. The Church bears witness to this commitment to authentic freedom and happiness in our teachings, sacraments, communal life, and in our participation (to some extent) in politics and business.
2. Jesus’ kingdom is universal.
When we say that Jesus’ kingdom is spiritual, it doesn’t mean that He is king only in the spiritual realm, but that since the spiritual realm encompasses everything, it means that He is the King of all - even of those who don't believe.
In both the First Reading from the book of Daniel and the Second reading from the book of Revelation, He is pictured as the Son of Man coming amidst the clouds. He has dominion over all.
He has power over demons, unclean spirits and illness of every kind. He is Lord of nature. He is Lord of the Sabbath. He is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Rev 1:8 says He is "the Lord God", "the Alpha and Omega ", "the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty".
What does it mean to have a King like this? The Feast of Christ the King reminds us that when we battle our temptations and addictions, we have a King to strengthen us. When we stand up to our faith, and to what is right and just, we have a King by our side. We are not alone. And He is bigger than our problems and any obstacle that life may present to us.
3. Jesus’ power is an exercise of love.
When we say that Jesus has power over all, we redefine what power means. Col 1:15 says He is “the image of the invisible God”. We are asked to look at Jesus and learn from him. And what do we see?
St. Cyril of Alexandria writes: “Christ has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.”
Since our idea of power has been so distorted by sin, Jesus came to teach us by His very life what true power means. True power comes in the form of a helpless child, an obedient Son, an itinerant teacher who has nowhere to lay his head, a betrayed friend, a persecuted person, a crucified convict, a dead Messiah, a risen Christ.
In short, true power comes in the form of love – self-giving, self-emptying, poured-out-for-others love. It is this kind of love that has the power to transform persons, families, communities, nations, and the world. We have seen it in the witness of Christian martyrs and saints, and even secular heroes.
St. Augustine says that sin is the separation of love from power. Jesus came to bring love back to the exercise of power, and expose power for what it really is: an exercise of love.
How do we achieve this kind of love? We become like Christ. We serve and love like Christ.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta advises: “To be able to love one another, we must pray much, for prayer gives a clean heart and a clean heart can see God in our neighbor. If now we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten how to see God in one another. If each person saw God in his neighbor, do you think we would need guns and bombs?”
Let us pray then on this feast of Christ the King that our lives will be transformed, and that we will see this great transforming power in our simple acts of love.
The author and teacher Leo Buscaglia writes: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” To this we add: Our consistent simple acts of love do not just help others change for the better, they also change us for the better.
Let us pray then on this feast of Christ the King that our lives will be transformed by letting him reign fully in our lives.
Pius XI closes Quas Primas with these words: “He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, “as instruments of justice unto God” (Rom 6:13).
How do we let Christ reign in our lives? Magigibo ta ini kun kita magtubod, magsunod, mamoot asin maglingkod ki Kristo, asin hale Saiya pasiring sa satong kapwa.
Happy feast of Christ the King! Viva El Cristo Rey!