Christ the King (November 20, 2016)

Christ the King (November 20, 2016)

All of the feasts on our liturgical calendar have their own unique histories.  Our solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, only goes back to 1925, instituted by Pope Pius XI as a response to growing nationalism and secularism in the world at the time, from Mexico and Russia to many parts of Europe, with regimes threatening both the existence of the Catholic Church and civilization itself.  He wanted to remind the faithful that while governments and philosophies come and go, Christ reigns as king forever.

I actually saw a lot of this kind of sentiment leading up to our recent presidential election—people sharing on Facebook and whatnot that whoever would win or lose the election, Jesus Christ is king.  While this belief shouldn’t be used as some kind of out for not being civically engaged, it is a good reminder of the central place that Jesus must have in our lives.  He is to be the Lord of our life, the only one to whom we must have undivided loyalty.  But I think that ultimately it’s not so much that He rules over us, as much as He reigns within us.

And yet we can ask, who is this Jesus, and how does He want to reign in us?  In the Gospel we see what was—for people at that time—the very last place any king would be expected to be seen: on a cross.  Christ reigns not by show of force but through His sacrificial, self-emptying love—this divine love and power that brings redemption and salvation.  St. Paul says, “For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross.”  The Father “delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Yet—then, as now—the world will not always recognize Him.  The sign above His cross proclaiming Him as king was meant to be a mockery.  But to the one on the cross next to Him who really got it, He said, “today you will be with me in Paradise.”  This man was a criminal, justly condemned.  But Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was about bringing those far off back home and into the Kingdom of God.  To consider this is fitting, I think, as we close out the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Jesus is also a descendent of David, the great king of Israel.  Unlike King Saul, a ruler who pursued his own interests, David ruled according to the will of God, and he united the tribes of Israel.  Yet while David was able to unite his people (God’s people) around himself, Jesus unites God’s people TO Himself, as the head of His Body the Church.  David had a familial relationship with his people (they said, “Here we are, your bones and your flesh), but with Christ, “all things were created through him and for him.”

Three years ago on the feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis said in his homily, “Jesus is the center of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. And so our thoughts will be Christian thoughts, thoughts of Christ. Our works will be Christian works, works of Christ; and our words will be Christian words, words of Christ. But when this center is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.”

Year to year, day to day, our path of life/our journey of faith must lead to Christ reigning in our lives more and more: having reign over our thoughts, our words, our actions, our attitudes, our decisions, our priorities, our work, and our relationships; strengthened by Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by the Word of God in Scripture, by making time for prayer, by learning more about the riches of our faith, through the gift of our self in service to others, and through fidelity to our Christian calling.  Even if we come up short sometimes, we continue to strive for the Kingdom of God to dwell within us/for the Lord to reign in us.  Trusting in the grace and mercy of Christ to help us and to guide us, as the repentant thief did, we do not despair, but with both humility and confidence we call out to the Lord, “Jesus, remember me in your kingdom.”  It is not a Kingdom of domination but of deliverance and of life; a Kingdom of justice, love and peace.  As the Jubilee Year of Mercy ends, we give greater thanks for the merciful love of the Lord that has called us to share in the glory of His Kingdom, now and forever.