Christ the King

 

Pilate said to Jesus,
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?”
Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

-Today’s Gospel Reading from JN 18:33B-37

 

 On this beautiful feast of Christ the King, let us think about the King Whom we are called to serve.  What does it really mean to be a servant of this King? Pope Benedict says “Participation in Jesus’ lordship is verified concretely only in sharing in his abasement, with the Cross.”

See emerge now clearly, dear Brothers, the first and fundamental message that the Word of God says to us today: to me, Successor of Peter, and to you, cardinals. It calls us to be with Jesus, like Mary, and not to ask him to come down from the cross, but to stay there with Him. And this, in regard to our ministry, we must do not only for ourselves, but for the whole Church, for all the People of God. We know from the Gospels that the cross was the critical point of the faith of Simon Peter and of the other Apostles. It is clear and it could not be otherwise: they were men and they thought “as men”: they could not tolerate the idea of a crucified Messiah. Peter’s conversion was realized fully when he gave up trying to “save” Jesus and accepted being saved by Him. He gave up wanting to save Jesus from the cross and accepted being saved by his cross. “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32), says the Lord. Peter’s ministry consists altogether in his faith, a faith that Jesus recognizes immediately, from the beginning, as genuine, as a gift from the heavenly Father; but a faith that must go through the scandal of the cross, to become authentic, truly “Christian,” to become “rock” on which Jesus can build his Church. Participation in Jesus’ lordship is verified concretely only in sharing in his abasement, with the Cross. My ministry also, dear Brothers, and, consequently, also yours, consists altogether in faith. Jesus can build his Church on us the more he finds in us that true, paschal faith, that faith that does not want to make Jesus come down from the Cross, but entrusts itself to Him on the Cross. In this connection the authentic place of the Vicar of Christ is on the Cross, to persist in the obedience of the Cross.

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI on the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 23, 2010

The Holy Father was speaking to the newly created cardinals, but his message applies to each one of us, who are called, in love, to become joyful servants of Christ the King, Lord of the Universe.  He is Lord of all, and while everyone and everything is subject to Him, we are gifted with free will to embrace His Kingship or to reject it.

The Kingdom of God

Hubert Van Eyck, part of the Ghent altarpiece

To see this image in amazingly close detail, as well as the rest of the Ghent Altarpiece, go to: http://closertovaneyck.kikirpa.be/#home

Happy Solemnity of Christ the King!  Today is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, and one of our favorite feast days!  When the traumas and tragedies of the world seem overwhelming, it’s always a consolation to remember that Jesus Christ is truly the King of the Universe.  No matter what sorrow we endure here, it will pass – His Kingdom is eternal.  Moreover, He is not a king who rules from some distant throne.  No, He is closer to us than we are to Continue reading

The centrality of Christ

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Today marks the Solemnity of Christ the King, and the end of the Year of Faith.  Here is Pope Francis’ homily from today’s Mass:

Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.

I offer a cordial greeting to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches present. The exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price. With this gesture, through them, I would like to reach all those Christians living in the Holy Land, in Syria and in the entire East, and obtain for them the gift of peace and concord.

The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ as the centre of creation, the centre of his people and the centre of history.

1. The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the centre of all things, he is the beginning. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled (cf. Col 1:12-20).

This image enables to see that Jesus is the centre 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. When this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.

2. Besides being the centre of creation, Christ is the centre of the people of God. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-3). In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them.

Christ, the descendant of King David, is the “brother” around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one; united with him, we share a single journey, a single destiny.

3. Finally, Christ is the centre of the history of the human race and of every man and woman. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the centre, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel.

While all the others treat Jesus with disdain – “If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, save yourself by coming down from the cross!” – the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clinging to the crucified Jesus, begs him: “Remember me, when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). And Jesus promises him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard. Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his Kingdom!

Let us ask the Lord to remember us, in the certainty that by his mercy we will be able to share his glory in paradise. Amen!

Freedom to Reign

You always know Advent is around the corner when the Feast of Christ the King arrives.  How appropriate that the liturgical year ends with Christ the King, crowned in glory and majesty,  and then begins again with preparation for the birth of this same King in humble poverty.

This Lordship of His can’t be relegated to one day of the year, though.  This reign is eternal; Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  And it begins in a human heart, a human soul.  Before this Kingdom can encompass the whole world, Christ must take up His rule in our hearts, just as He first began to reign in Our Lady’s heart when she responded to the angel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to thy word.”

But Christ can’t sit upon the throne of our heart if it’s already occupied.  Sin can’t rule there, self can’t rule there, we must save that seat for Christ alone.  Honesty and courage are needed – we must take a close look at our lives and tell the truth about those areas where we have not given all to Jesus.  Compartmentalizing is a way of life for many of us; God is allowed in one or two areas of our life, but the rest is off limits.  Jesus can’t be shut up in a little room off to the side, we have to give Him free reign!

Pope Pius XI instituted this feast of Christ the King  in 1925 because secularism was on the rise, edging God out, infringing on the rights and freedoms of the Church.  It would be easy to get discouraged thinking about the progress secularism has made since then.  But the encouraging news is this: each one of us can choose to live our lives in the service of Jesus Our King; God has given every soul He created the freedom to make that choice. What can one fervent heart accomplish against a world of indifference? Quite a lot.  Never underestimate the power of one holy life, one faithful soul.  A blazing fire begins with just one tiny spark, and each one of us is that spark when we allow Jesus to reign in our hearts and lives.