SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE (2018)
Psalm 93:1-2, 5
We celebrate today, as we always do on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the kingship of Christ. This solemnity was proclaimed by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to celebrate the Jubilee Year and the 16th centenary of the Council of Nicaea. The feast was intended to reassert the sovereignty of Christ and the Church over all forms of government, and to remind Christians of the fidelity and loyalty they owe to Christ, who by His Incarnation and sacrificial death on the cross made them adopted children of God and future citizens and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Feast was also a reminder to the totalitarian governments of Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin that Jesus Christ is the only Sovereign King. Christ is our spiritual King and Ruler who rules by truth and love. We declare our loyalty to him by the quality of our Christian commitment, expressed in our serving of others with a sacrificial and forgiving love, and by our solidarity with the poor.
This is the second week in a row where our Liturgy of the Word begins with a reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel, and we recognize the apocalyptic language which describes to a beleaguered people of captivity the coming of a true King on the “clouds of heaven.” Daniel describes that king as one who “received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples , nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion…. his kingship shall not be destroyed.” It is this “Son of Man” / King from Daniel with which Jesus later identifies himself. It is He who the disciples will one day see coming on the clouds of heaven, as the Book of Revelation, our second reading, confirms. Jesus is a king, unlike the kings of this world, but a king nonetheless. His conversation with Pilate in today’s gospel from John indicates that His kingdom “does not belong to this world,” and His ministry made it clear that he was unlike the kings of his day. Indeed, he is unlike the kings of any day! Although we have never lived under a monarchy, we have an understanding of what kings are all about, and whether it is the kings of the Scriptures, or the kings of human history, so many have behaved badly. Kings seem to be even more susceptible than the average person to the pull of concupiscence, and to the lure of riches and power, and few in human history have distinguished themselves as paragons of virtue.
Jesus is, blessedly, unlike the kings with whom we are familiar. It was Charles Colson, former legal counsel to Richard Nixon of Watergate fame, who stated: “All the kings and queens I have known in history sent their people out to die for them. I only know one King Who decided to die for his people.” That king is Jesus, whose kingship we celebrate today. Jesus rules as King by serving others rather than by dominating them; his authority is rooted in truth, not in physical force, and his Kingdom, the reign of God, is based on the beatitudes, not on any passing civil code. He is the king who three “kings from afar” came to worship; He is the king who rules, not from a gilded throne, but from a cross which He embraced to show His love for all people.
The Kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is beautifully described for us by Gerald Darring, of the St. Louis University Center for Liturgy. Mr Darring states: “The Kingdom of God is a space. It exists in every home where parents and children love each other. It exists in every region and country that cares for its weak and vulnerable. It exists in every parish that reaches out to the needy. The Kingdom of God is a time. It happens whenever someone feeds a hungry person, or shelters a homeless person, or shows care to a neglected person. It happens whenever we overturn an unjust law, or correct an injustice, or avert a war. It happens whenever people join in the struggle to overcome poverty, to erase ignorance, to pass on the Faith. The Kingdom of God is in the past (in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth); it is in the present (in the work of the Church, and in the efforts of many others to create a world of goodness and justice); it is in the future(reaching its completion in the age to come). The Kingdom of God is a condition. Its symptoms are love, justice, and peace. Jesus Christ is king! We pray today that God may free all the world to rejoice in His peace, to glory in His justice, to live in His love.”
As men and women who number ourselves members of the Kingdom Jesus came into our world to establish, we are called to live our lives as the King instructed us. We do not elect Jesus King today, we acclaim Him ruler and king, because His message calls us to love and to serve. We are not coerced into being members of His kingdom. Rather, we have fallen in love with our King, and we are willing to forsake all earthly things in order that others may come to know what a kind, benevolent, and loving King it is that rules our hearts and guides our lives. Our primary identity comes from the God and King who loves us and all people, and our citizenship papers are our baptismal certificates which compel us to live our lives in such a way that others will be drawn to become members of that kingdom. May the king, Jesus, truly rule our hearts and guide our lives, that the Kingdom He chose to establish during His earthly ministry may truly become a reality. May the very last words of St. Miguel Pro, twentieth century Mexican martyr, be on our lips today, and when we are called to leave this world: “Long Live Christ the King!”
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