CHRIST THE KING YEAR B (Nov 21, 2021) (Dn 7:13-14; Rv 1:5-8; Jn 18:33b-37)
Introduction: The Church’s liturgical year concludes with this feast of Christ the King, instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to celebrate the Jubilee Year and the 16th centenary of the Council of Nicaea. Instituting this feast, Pope Pius XI proclaimed: “Pax Christi in regno Christi” (“The peace of Christ in the reign of Christ”). This feast was established and proclaimed by the Pope to reassert the sovereignty of Christ and the Church over all forms of government and to remind Christians of the fidelity and loyalty we owe to Christ, who by his Incarnation and sacrificial death on the cross has made us both 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 our spiritual King and Ruler, rules by Truth and Love. We declare our loyalty to Jesus by the quality of our Christian commitment, expressed in our serving of others with sacrificial and forgiving love, and by our solidarity with the poor. The Cross is Jesus’ throne and the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ rule of law. His citizens need to obey only one major law: “Love God with all your being, and love others as I have loved you. A King with a saving and liberating mission, Jesus frees us from all types of bondage, enabling us to live peacefully and happily on earth, and promising us an inheritance, in the eternal life of heaven. This Thirty-Fourth and final
Homily starter Anecdotes: 1: “Christ has conquered, Christ now rules, Christ reigns supreme” (Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat”): In the middle of St Peter’s square in Rome, there stands a great obelisk. About four and half thousand years old, it originally stood in the temple of the sun in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis. It was bought to Rome by the dreaded Emperor Caligula and it was set right in the middle of the equally dreaded Circus of Nero, on Vatican hill. It was in that Circus that St Peter was martyred, and the obelisk may well have been the last thing on this Earth that Peter saw. On top of the obelisk there now stands across. In ancient times, there was a gold ball representing, of course, the sun. Now there is a cross, however, the cross of Christ, and on the pedestal of the obelisk, there are two inscriptions. The first of them is in Latin, “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat”, which translated means, Christ has conquered, Christ now rules, Christ now reigns supreme. The other inscription is, “The Lion of Judah has conquered.” So here we have the language of victory. Christianity has triumphed by the power of the cross and triumphed over even the greatest power that the ancient world had known, the Roman Empire, and here in the middle of St Peter’s square stands the obelisk bearing those triumphant inscriptions. See examples of heroic souls:
2: “Long live Christ the King!” In the 1920s, a totalitarian regime gained control of Mexico and tried to suppress the Church. To resist the regime, many Christians took up the cry, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”) They called themselves “Cristeros.” The most famous Cristero was a young Jesuit priest named Padre Miguel Pro. Using various disguises, Padre Pro ministered to the people of Mexico City. Finally, the government arrested him and sentenced him to public execution on November 23, 1927. The president of Mexico (Plutarco Calles) thought that Padre Pro would beg for mercy, so he invited the press to the execution. Padre Pro did not plead for his life but instead knelt holding a crucifix. When he finished his prayer, he kissed the crucifix and stood up. Holding the crucifix in his right hand, he extended his arms and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”) At that moment the soldiers fired. The journalists took pictures; if you look up “Padre Pro” or “Saint Miguel Pro” on the Internet, you can see that picture.
#3: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” St. Thomas More is the patron saint of lawyers and politicians, among others. He was a brilliant lawyer and diplomat in 16th century England. His patriotism and loyalty to the throne attracted the attention of King Henry VIII who made him Lord Chancellor of England. What Henry VIII did not know was that Thomas More’s first loyalty was to Christ, the King of kings. When Henry VIII decided to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn and make himself head of the Church of England, Thomas More thought this was not right. Rather than approve what he believed to be against the Divine Will, he resigned from his prestigious, wealthy position as Lord Chancellor and lived a life of poverty. Since he would not give his support to the king, Thomas More was arrested, convicted of treason, imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534 and beheaded in July of the following year. On his way to public execution, More encouraged the people to remain steadfast in the Faith. His last recorded words were: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” For More, it was not simply enough to confess Christ privately in the safety of his heart and home; he believed one must also confess Christ in one’s business and professional life as well as in the laws and policies that govern society.
4: On His Majesty’s Service: St. Polycarp, the second-century bishop of Smyrna, was brought before the Roman authorities and told to curse Christ and he would be released. He replied, “Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my King, Jesus Christ, who saved me?” The Roman officer replied, “Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt.” But Polycarp said, “You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgment to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish.”
5: A king with a big difference: Charles Colson, former legal counsel to Richard Nixon and later founder of the Christian Prison Fellowship, says it like this: “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.”
Life Messages: 1) We need to assess our commitment to Christ the King today. As we celebrate the Kingship of Christ today, let us remember the truth that Jesus is not our King if we do not listen to, love, serve, and follow where Jesus leads. We belong to Christ’s Kingdom only when we try to walk with Christ, when we try to live our lives fully in the spirit of the Gospel, and when that Gospel spirit penetrates every facet of our living. If Christ is really King of my life, Jesus must be King of every part of my life, and I must let Christ reign in all parts of my life. We become Christ the King’s subjects when we sincerely respond to Jesus’ loving invitation: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart“ (Matthew 11:29). By cultivating in our lives the gentle and humble mind of Christ, we show others that Jesus Christ is indeed our King and that He is in charge of our lives.
2) We need to give Jesus control over our lives. Today’s Feast of Christ the King reminds us of the great truth that Christ must be in charge of our lives, that we must give Jesus sovereign power over our bodies, our thoughts, our hearts, and our will. Tired of struggling with my strong-willed little son, Thomas, I looked him in the eye and asked a question I felt sure would bring him in line: ‘Thomas, who is in charge here?’ Not missing a beat, he replied, ‘Jesus is, and not you mom.’ ”
3) We need to follow Christ the King’s lesson of humble service to the truth. Christ has come to serve and to be of service to others. Hence, we are called to Christ’s Own service – service to the Truth. In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus saying, “For this, I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth” (Jn 18:33). The Truth to which Jesus bears witness by His Life and teaches us is that God, His Father, is also our loving and forgiving Father, so we are all His children, forming one Body. Hence, whatever we do for His children, our sisters and brothers, we do for our King. For we are called to be a people who reach out to embrace the enemy and the stranger, a people called to glory in diversity, a people called to offer endless forgiveness, a people called to reach out in compassion to the poor and to the marginalized sectors of our society, a people called to support one another in prayer, a people called to realize that we are called not to be served, but to serve. In other words, servant-leadership is the model that Christ the King has given us. “For the Christian, ‘to reign is to serve Him,’ particularly when serving ‘the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder’” (CCC #786).
4) We need to obey the law of love of Christ the King. Citizens of Christ’s kingdom are expected to observe only one major law–the law of love. “Love God with your whole heart and love your neighbour as yourself.” “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Jesus expects a higher degree of love from His followers: “Love one another as I have loved you.” On this great Feast of Christ the King, let us resolve to give Jesus, our King, the central place in our lives, living the obedient loving, generous service Jesus commands, sharing what we have with all our needy brothers and sisters.