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Reflections for the Feast of Christ the King

Fr. Antony Kadavil reflects and comments on the readings at Mass for the Feast of Christ the King.

(II Sm 5:1-3; Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43)

Introduction: In the Church’s calendar, Christ the King is the parallel of the Super Bowl trophy or the Final Four in college basketball or the last game of the World Series. 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 they owed to Christ, who by his Incarnation and sacrificial death on the cross had made them 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 is our spiritual King and Ruler who rules by truth and love. We declare our loyalty to him 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. Although emperors and kings with real ruling power exist today only in history books, we nevertheless honor Christ as the King of the Universe and the King of our hearts by allowing him to take control of our lives.  In thousands of human hearts all over the world, Jesus still reigns as King.  The Cross is his throne and the Sermon on the Mount, his rule of law.   His citizens need obey only one major law: “Love God with all your being, and love others as I have loved you.”  His love is selfless, compassionate, forgiving, and unconditional.  He is a King with a saving and liberating mission: freeing 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.


Homily starter anecdote: Christ has conquered, Christ now rules: In the middle of St Peter’s square in Rome, there stands a great obelisk. It about four and half thousand years old and it originally stood in the temple of the sun in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis. But it was bought to Rome by the dreadful Emperor Caligula and it was set right in the middle of Circus of Nero, equally dreadful, that was on the 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 a cross. 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 in Latin, “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat”, which translated means, Christ has conquered, Christ now rules, Christ now reigns supreme. The other inscription, “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 even 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. (Mark Coleridge Archbishop of Brisbane)

Today’s scripture summarized: The first reading (II Samuel 5: 1-3) describes all the tribes of Israel choosing of Israel's second king, the great David as their “shepherd” and “commander.” His successful 40-year reign became the model for the hoped-for Messiah or Christ the anointed one in later Judaism. In the second reading (Col 1: 12-20), Paul quoting an early Christian hymn, assures the Colossian Christians of: (1) the primacy of Christ over and above all angels and cosmic powers; (2) the value and necessity of the cross; and (3) the cosmic effects of salvation. Today’s gospel (Lk 23: 35-43),  referring to the sign board hung by the order of Pilate on the cross of Jesus, “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews,” presents it as an imperial admission of the kingship of Christ, although it was intended to serve as a three-fold mockery. It prompted the  Jewish leaders to call out, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the messiah of God” and the soldiers to shout at Jesus,  “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself” and the thief on the left side to challenge Jesus, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Then save yourself and us.” Pilate probably had his own reasons to write the inscription on the board. It was to protect himself from being charged with bowing to the pressure of the mob; to mock Jesus and thereby to appease the Jewish leaders; and to forewarn other would-be revolutionaries that their rebellion against the empire would be similarly extinguished. But Pilate was unknowingly accepting the person and mission of Jesus as King and Savior. The repentant thief accepts Jesus as his Savior, calling Jesus Jeshuah, or Jesus, meaning “the Lord saves!” Jesus assured the thief that he had the power to promise a share in his everlasting reign.

First reading: II Sm 5:1-3, explained: recalls the story of David's anointing as King of Israel. David was seen in the Old Testament as a type, a representation, of the future Messianic King (2 Sm 7:16, Is 9:6-7, Jer 23:5). Jesus is often identified as the Son of David, as the Messiah and as the Shepherd of God’s people.  King David's successful 40-year reign became the model for the hoped-for Messiah (that is, the Anointed One, or the Christ), in later Judaism. Saul, the first King of Israel, learned from the Lord God through the prophet Samuel that the kingship would not remain in his family because he had disobeyed the laws of God. David was chosen by God to replace Saul and was anointed secretly by Samuel in Bethlehem.  Having had to flee from Saul, David settled in Hebron.  Accepted by the tribe of Judah, he reigned there as King of Judah for seven years.  The first reading tells us how, on the death of Saul, the northern tribes came to David in Hebron and anointed him King over all of Israel.  David's reign lasted a mere forty years, but Christ's reign is eternal.  David was a mere man, sinful but repentant.  Christ was True God and True Man, sinless and All-perfect. Christ died on the cross to free all men from their sins. 

Second reading: Col 1:12-20, explained:  Among the early Christians at Colossae, there were people promoting a detailed belief in angels and their mediating role in our relationship with God. Paul, neither affirming nor denying the existence of these "Thrones, Dominations, Principalities or Powers," simply states that Christ is superior to the whole lot. St. Paul tells the Colossians how grateful they should be to God for having made them Christians and citizens of Christ’s kingdom.  The Apostle then describes Who and What their new Sovereign is: true God and true Man, the true Image of the invisible God and, at the same time, the perfect exemplar of true humanity. As God’s beloved Son, our King has direct and immediate access to God. As the Image of the invisible God, Jesus, our King, is the embodiment of Divine Sovereignty. As the firstborn of creation, He is the promise of all the good things that will follow. As risen Lord, He is the Head of the Church and the promise of our own resurrection. This portion of St. Paul's Epistle is aptly chosen for this great Feast of the Kingship of Christ, for it reminds us of how blessed, how fortunate we are to be Christians, citizens of His Kingdom on earth, with a promise of perpetual citizenship in His Heavenly Kingdom if we remain faithful to Him, because “in Him all things hold together.”

Today’s Gospel explained: Today’s Gospel presents Christ the King as reigning, not from a throne, but from the gibbet of the cross. Like the “suffering servant” of Isaiah (53:3), He is despised and rejected, as the bystanders ridicule the crucified King, challenging Him to prove His Kingship by coming down from the cross.  The Gospel also tells of the criminal crucified beside Jesus who recognized Him as a Savior King and asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered His kingdom. Jesus promised the good thief that he would be with Him that day in Paradise. Tradition remembers the criminal on Jesus’ right side as “the good thief” who repented of his sins at the last moment, though Mark and Matthew call him a “revolutionary.” Although the Romans intended the inscription on the cross, “This is the King of the Jews,” to be ironicit reflected the popular Jewish speculations about Jesus’ possible identity as the Messiah of Israel. For Luke and other early Christians that title was correct, since the Kingship of Jesus was made manifest most perfectly in his suffering and death on the cross, followed by His Resurrection on the third day, as He had foretold.

The Biblical basis of the feast: A) Old Testament texts: The title "Christ the King" has its roots both in Scripture and in the whole theology of the Kingdom of God.   In most of the Messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament books of Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel, Christ the Messiah is represented as a King.  B) New Testament texts: a) In the Annunciation, recorded in Lk 13:2-33, we read: “The Lord God will make him a King, as his ancestor David was, and He will be the King of the descendants of Jacob forever and His Kingdom will never end."  In fact, the Kingdom of God is the center of Jesus’ teaching and the phrase "Kingdom of God" occurs in the Gospels 122 times, of which 90 instances are uses by Jesus. b) The Magi from the Far East came to Jerusalem and asked the question: (Mt. 2:2) “Where is the baby born to be the King of the Jews? We saw his star… and we have come to worship him."  c) During the royal reception given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted: (Lk 19:38) “God bless the King, who comes in the name of the Lord."  d) During the trial of Jesus described in today’s Gospel, Pilate asked the question: (Jn 18:33): “Are you the king of the Jews?"  Jesus replied: “You say that I am a king.  I was born and came into this world for this one purpose, to bear witness to the Truth."   e) Today’s Gospel tells us that the board hung over Jesus’ head on the cross read: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews,” (Lk 23:36; see also, Mt 27:37; Mk 15:26; John 19:19-20), and that, to the repentant thief on the cross who made the request: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,”   Jesus promised Paradise with Him that very day. (Luke 19:39-43).   f) Before his Ascension into Heaven, Jesus declared: (Mt. 28:18): “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.”  g) Finally, in Matthew 25:31, we read that Christ the King will come in glory to judge us on the day of the Last Judgment.

What is the Kingdom of God? What is the Kingdom of Christ the KingHere is a beautiful explanation given by Gerald Darring (St. Louis University: Center for Liturgy): The Kingdom of God is a space. It exists in every home where parents and children love each other. It exists in every region and country that cares for its weak and vulnerable. It exists in every parish that reaches out to the needy. The Kingdom of God is a time. It happens whenever someone feeds a hungry person, or shelters a homeless person, or shows care to a neglected person. It happens whenever we overturn an unjust law, or correct an injustice, or avert a war. It happens whenever people join in the struggle to overcome poverty, to erase ignorance, to pass on the Faith. The Kingdom of God is in the past (in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth); it is in the present (in the work of the Church and in the efforts of many others to create a world of goodness and justice); it is in the future (reaching its completion in the age to come). The Kingdom of God is a condition. Its symptoms are love, justice, and peace. Jesus Christ is king! We pray today that God may free all the world to rejoice in his peace, to glory in his justice, to live in his love.

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 he is not our King if we do not listen to him, love him, serve him, and follow him. We belong to his Kingdom only when we try to walk with him, 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, he must be King of every part of my life, and I must let him reign in all parts of my life. We become Christ the King’s subjects when we sincerely respond to his 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 in 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 him sovereign power over our bodies, our thoughts, our heart and our will. In every moral decision we face, there’s a choice between Christ the King and Barabbas, and the one who seeks to live in Christ's Kingdom is the one who says, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Let us ask ourselves the question, "What does Jesus, my King, want me to do or say in this situation?"  Are we praying each day that our King will give us the right words to say to the people we meet that day, words that will make us true ambassadors of Jesus? Does our home life as well as the way we conduct ourselves with our friends come under the Kingship of Jesus?  Or do we try to please ourselves rather than him?

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 his service - service to the truth.  In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus saying that the reason for his coming – the reason that he was born – was to “bear witness” to the truth.  The truth to which Jesus bears witness by His Life and which he 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, and our sisters and brothers, we do for Him.  So we are called to be a people who reach out to embrace the enemy and the stranger, a people who are called to glory in diversity, a people who will endlessly forgive, a people who will reach out in compassion to the poor and to the marginalized sectors of our society, a people who will support one another in prayer, a people who will 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 neighbor 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 him the central place in our lives and promise to obey his commandment of love by sharing what we have with all his needy children.  (Fr. Antony Kadavil)

21 November 2019, 13:28