Image: Stained glass window at the Melkite Catholic Annunciation Cathedral in Roslindale depicting Christ the King with the regalia of a Byzantine emperor. (January 2009 photo by John Stephen Dwyer [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
“Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
This is one of my favorite Sundays of the year. It marks the final Sunday of the liturgical year. That means that next Sunday begins the Advent Season with the celebration of Christmas just a few weeks later.
However, as many of us need to remind ourselves each year, we need to slow down. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King—King of the Universe.
Not only is Jesus Christ the Messiah and our Savior, not only is he our brother and our friend, but Jesus Christ is also our Lord and King. To Him we owe our first allegiance and obedience.
This celebration is a recent addition to the liturgical calendar, added in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.
Then, as now, the world was witnessing a growing nationalism and secularism. It was a time that saw the collapse of old powers and orders and the spread of a fascism, communism, and socialism. This new order rejected the authority of Christ and His Church over the lives of men and women. It was a time when the practice and observance of faith was increasingly relegated to within the four walls of a church. Sound familiar?
Pope Pius wrote in 1925, “that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be really no hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.”
Here, in the twenty-first century, we also live in a time when truth and the virtue of religion is questioned and challenged. Religious liberty and the freedom to exercise one’s conscience is threatened by the very secular governments and the culture which we have nurtured.
So it is fitting that we are reminded this Sunday that the answer to all our desires and aspirations is Jesus, our King, who testifies to the truth.
In our Gospel passage, we heard the exchange between Pilate and Jesus regarding the Lord’s kingship. Here’s the last verse again.
“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.’” (John 18:37)
In the very next verse, Pilate asks his famous question, “What is truth?” And it is a question that continues to be asked today. The answer was right in front of Pilate. The answer was, is and will always be the Person and nature of Jesus.
Jesus stands before each of us as well. Do we listen to His voice? Do we recognize Him as Truth? Do we strive to follow His commands? Jesus says to each of us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
More than simply following a set of rules, being a disciple of this King is a way of life… a way to be… to be the person our king made each of us to be. A person of the Truth, loves God above all and loves neighbor as oneself.
Pope Francis speaks of a danger present in the world today, “There is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the tyranny of relativism, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.”
So, with all the sin, confusion and error in the world and the consequent violence, and lack of justice and peace, where are we to turn to find our way?
There are so many different voices calling out to us claiming to be the answer to our every want and need. We might buy the latest phone, the trendiest clothes and listen to the most popular music, and these might be fine things, but they do not satisfy our deepest longing.
These and other voices sometimes call us to live and behave in ways that are unhealthy and sinful, placing self before God and neighbor. Too many of these voices would have us reject the Lord and leave our faith. In so many ways, you might hear, “you’re worth it, just do it, it’s your thing, do what you want to do.”
But again, these voices are empty promises that lead us astray.
Listen to the voice of our King, Jesus Christ who call us in truth and authentic love.
Jesus calls us away from self-love and self-centeredness. He calls us to direct our love towards others, loving without regard to what’s in it for me?
Jesus is unlike earthly kings. His Kingdom and His Kingship will never falter or end. His is a Kingdom where the King serves as well as rules. He is a King who shares His three-fold office of priest, prophet and king with those He calls His brothers and sisters. He asks us to live and love and serve as He does, leading with our hearts as He leads with His Sacred Heart.
This life is hard. We experience many challenges, trials, and temptations. You might be burdened and discouraged, even afraid. But know this, we are a people with a sure hope. There is no need for us to despair or be afraid. Jesus is a King who is faithful to us and present to us even when we do not see Him.
He is present to us today in this Holy Mass—in His Word and His Blessed Sacrament—and He is with us in our trials… whether at home, at school, or at work. Wherever you are and in whatever circumstance you find yourself, Jesus is with you.
He is the first-born of the dead, whose enthronement as King on the Cross defeated death. As He rose again, so shall we who love Him and keep His commands rise to new life. He has given us the Church as our teacher and mother. He came first to God’s Chosen People, and then also to all the nations. He is King of us all. He is your King. Let Him be Lord and King of your life.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. (Revelation 1:8)
To Him be all glory and honor, amen.
Into the deep…
The readings for the Solemnity of Christ the King (Year B) are: Daniel 7:13-14; Psalms 93:1, 1-2, 5; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33-37.