Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
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Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

In 325, the First Ecumenical Council took place in the city of Nicea in Asia Minor. During that Council, the dogma regarding Christ’s divinity was defined to counteract the Arian heresy: “Christ is God, light from light, true God from true God”. 1600 years later, in 1925, Pope Pius XI proclaimed that the best way to defeat injustice was by acknowledging the kingship of Christ. “For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year - in fact, forever. The church's teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man's nature” (Encyclical Quas primas, 11 December 1925).

The original date this feast was celebrated was the Sunday prior to All Saints Day (the last Sunday of October). But with the liturgical reform of 1969, it was moved to the last Sunday of the liturgical year, thus highlighting that Jesus Christ, the King, is the destination of our earthly pilgrimage. There are Biblical texts specific to all three years of the liturgical cycle which help us fully grasp the person of Jesus.

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”. (Jn. 18:33b-37)

The final stage

Today we celebrate the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, known as the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. We began moving toward this goal with the First Sunday of Advent. Today we have reached it. Given the fact that the Liturgical Year represents our own life in miniature, this experience reminds us, and even more educates us, that we are on a journey toward an encounter with Jesus, the Spouse, when He will come as the King and Lord of life and of history. The coming we are now awaiting is His second coming. His first coming was in the humility of a Child laid in a manger (cf. Lk. 2:7); His second coming will be when He returns in glory at the end of time which we liturgically celebrate today.
But there is also an intermediate coming – we are living it today – in which Jesus is present in us through the Grace we receive in the Sacraments and in the face of every “least one” the Gospel speaks of (“Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven”. Mt. 18:3). We are invited to recognize Jesus in the face of each brother and sister. Along this journey, the liturgy offers us a school of life to instruct us how to recognize the Lord present in everyday life and to prepare us for His final coming.

A feast that reveals the way to go

The Liturgical Year is a symbol of our journey of life. It has a beginning and an end in the encounter with the Lord Jesus, King and Lord, in the kingdom of heaven which we will enter through the narrow door opened by our “sister death” (Saint Francis). At the beginning of the Liturgical Year (First Sunday of Advent) we were shown beforehand the destination toward which we have been moving. It’s like we have been given the responses a year beforehand to the questions we would be asked on an exam! If it were an exam, that would have been cheating. But in the liturgy, instead, it is Jesus the Teacher’s gift to us, because it tells which path to take (Jesus the Way), what thoughts to entertain (Jesus the Truth), and what hope we should allow to move us (Jesus the Life; cf. Jn. 14:6).

The joy of a dream

In the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel (7:13-14), we read about the vision of the Son of Man who will eventually take the place of all those people throughout history who made others serve them instead of being at their service. It is clear, therefore, in this vision that there will be an end to those who have exploited others and profited from them. The day will come when a just and merciful “King” will take the reins of history in His hands.

The awaited King

Within this hopeful frame, we can read the Gospel text that today’s liturgy proposes – the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus. Jesus is presented as a King whose reign is not here on earth. In fact, Jesus is not trying to survive considering that His life is superior to the mission He received from the Father. The text states it simply: He is the King and has come into the world to manifest His kingship which consists in giving testimony to the Father, giving His life in service to the Father, the Truth of life.

Kingship and truth

The subject of “truth”, of such importance to Pilate, yet not important enough to make him halt Jesus’ execution, requires adherence: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice”. This is where Pilate stops, incapable of embracing the truth because he allows himself to be manipulated by the will of the crowd, to whom he would one day pay a very high price politically. Pilate’s choice demonstrates who he really is and what he is really allowing to guide him. Jesus, however, manifests till the end the One to Whom He belongs and the One He serves. This gives Him the right to declare that He “is the Way, the Truth, the Life” (Jn. 14:6).

Truth and lies

Today’s Solemnity is not only an opportunity to discover who Pilate is, but it also offers each of us the opportunity to understand who we are truly serving. At the end of this Liturgical Year, it is important to understand to whom or towards what our hearts are inclined, because where our treasure is, there also is our heart (cf. Lk. 12:34). This is a question that can help us put our lives and our affections in order so that we don’t go where our hearts want to take us, but that we bring our hearts where we truly want to go. This, however, requires that we accept Jesus as our King, the One who serves the truth with truth alone.

21 November
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