[Christ the King, Year A, Sunday Nov 23, 2014 / Ezek 34:11-12, 15-17 / Ps 23:1-2a, 2b-3, 5, 6 / 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28 / Matt 25:31-46]
TODAY’S feast was instituted in 1925 by Pius XI. Often feasts are introduced to strengthen the Church in a particular devotion such as Corpus Christi when reverence to the Blessed Sacrament had grown cold. To understand a feast it helps to be aware of the historical, political and cultural context at the time of its introduction.
This period was a time of kings and empires, of countries seeking to dominate others, to rule over one another. It was also the period between the great World Wars when the world was in need of the King of Peace. Belief in authority was at a low. Christianity was under attack from totalitarian mentalities. Pope Pius XI wrote the encyclical, “Quas Primus,” to underline the Kingship of Christ and that in him “men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ.”
The Pope also noted that if earthly kings, princes and those in power recognize Christ as King then they would govern better and more wisely. It was also the intention to strengthen the faithful in their devotion to Christ the King, helping Christ to reign in their minds, hearts and wills and encouraging them to fight bravely under the banner of Christ their King countering “a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict or oppose but a weak resistance; thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks.”
Normally when we think of kings we think of pomp and ceremony, splendor and grandness. But Christ comes as King not in a golden robe but wrapped in swaddling clothes. He has no great earthly castle. Even the inn has no room for him so he is born in a manger. In his public ministry, the people wanted to crown him but he stole away. His kingdom is not of this world. But King he is and his is the Kingdom, the power and the glory. He is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” as Handel’s Messiah beautifully reminds us.
What type of kingship does he exert? Christ is a King who conquers with love. He wants to reign in our hearts. But he comes humbly, on a donkey 2000 years ago and today disguised in a piece of bread. Will we let this humble King reign in our hearts? One sign that he reigns is that we have dominion of ourselves. We dominate our passions, they do not dominate us. When Christ reigns in us we will want to propagate the peace and harmony his presence brings.
In fact, from our very baptism we are called to participate in his Kingly mission. The Kingly mission of all the lay faithful is to participate fully in the building of the Kingdom (cf.Lumen Gentium 36). It is different to go to work on Monday morning because “I have to” and “because we need the money.” These are valid and good reasons but how different to go to work because Christ the King is asking me to help in the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
At the train station today I gave the ticket man £5 too much and he returned it to me. Not only is this honesty in action but it is helping to build a kingdom of justice in this world. How many officials in public office in so many countries are dominated by greed and corruption? They are not even kings of their own desires because they are reigned over by money. What king is reigning in our hearts? When we see we are reigned over by greed, by laziness, by many false rulers we need to pray to Jesus, “Lord, come as King. Reign in our hearts.”
In the gospel of today, we see Christ as King. He shows his kingly power placing the sheep at his right and the goats at his left. The judgment is final and eternal. We have the gift of time now. Which crowd are you in? On the right or the left? Now, not only can we change but we can help others. This King of ours is so humble that he associates with the most lowly – “The king will say to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ ” In this last Sunday of ordinary time before Advent, let us ask Jesus to reign in us. “Jesus, come as King. Be the King of my heart. Cast out all the other rulers. Help us to extend your Kingdom on earth. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.” Amen