This final Sunday of the Liturgical Year we celebrate the Kingship of Christ. The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI during the Jubilee Year 1925. I decided to study his Encyclical Letter that established the Feast.
As Pope Pius points out in his Encyclical, whenever the Church establishes a new Feast, it is in order to kindle the fire of devotion of the Faithful. In the case of this Feast, the Pope looked around the world of his day, 1925, and saw a problem. In his words,
The majority of men [have] thrust Jesus Christ and His holy law out of their lives; that these have no place in either private affairs or in politics….as long as individuals and state refuse to submit to the rule of Our Savior, there will be no really hopeful prospect of lasting peace among nations.
The world of his day had just been through the First World War, which had a carnage which has perhaps not yet been surpassed. In Russia, the Bolsheviks – the Communists – had executed the Czar and his family and declared an atheistic state. Imagine – a country that was pretty much totally Orthodox Christian officially cast believe in God out of her borders nearly overnight.
The treaty of Versailles for the end of the war had crippled Germany and crushed the last Catholic Monarchy in the world. In bitterness, the rise of National Socialism – the Nazi Party came about in Germany. As early of 1920, Hitler was calling for the rejection of the peace treaty and the seizing of more lands for the German People. It was becoming clear that the peace of Versailles was not going to last.
Why did the peace of Versailles fail? Why did the peace after the Second World War not last? Because Christ and His Law have been thrust out! Pope Pius XI hopes that the establishment of this Feast will rekindle the love of Christ in the Christian People.
The earliest Crucifixes showed Christ in Priestly Vestments, wearing a crown. As Priest he offered his life on the altar of the Cross – our Preface will say in a few moments – and he redeemed the whole human race by this one perfect Sacrifice of Praise. Christ has purchased us by His Blood, enabling us to be part of His Kingdom which has no end.
We enter Christ’s Kingdom through Baptism. By our Penance, united with the Christ Crucified, we act as subjects of our King. Pope Pius reminds us that the Kingdom of Christ is opposed to none other than that of Satan. In other words, our loyalty to Christ does not interfere with out citizenship – on the contrary, it enhances it. This is because The Kingdom of Christ demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things and a spirit of gentleness. Citizens of Christ’s Kingdom must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, we must deny ourselves and carry the Cross.
If we are truly detached from riches and earthly things, we will support of brothers and sisters in need. We will hunger and thirst for justice. In denying ourselves and taking up the Cross, we become model citizens.
It is undue attachment to material and earthly things that leads to many wars. War can only be prevented when we work for justice. As individuals and nations come to embrace Christ as their king, they will desire true peace and justice. It is when Christ is King of all that true lasting peace can come about. Then can we enter that kingdom of justice love and peace.
It struck me as a read this Encyclical,that much of the things that Pope Pius describes in 1925 could just as well have been written this morning. He speaks of
The seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under the pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making people seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace at home because people neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined.
The Holy Father, Pope Pius XI sees in the Feast of Christ the King a remedy for all of this. He links the celebration of this Feast to Eucharistic Adoration and to consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As individuals and families begin to consecrate themselves to Jesus Christ there will be a revival of the Faith. When people spend more time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, adoring Our Lord and King, healing of society will begin.
Pope Pius hopes that members of the Church will consecrate themselves and their families to the Sacred Heart. He hopes that they will allow Jesus Christ to reign as their King, in all areas of their lives. It is then that the Faithful can become a leaven to society. It is then that we, as the Body of Christ can truly begin to transform the world.
We cannot transform the world if Christ is our Lord and King only on Sunday. The reign of Christ is not something that we can place in one compartment of our lives. We have been purchased by His Blood, so he has dominion over us by right. He must reign in every part of us.
In our minds, Christ reigns when we believe all that He teaches through His Church. This is not always easy. The wisdom of God, St Paul says, is foolishness to men. The world thinks that the Church’s teaching is out-dated. The world has never liked Christ’s teaching because it counters the insatiable greed of the world.
Christ reigns in our wills when we give assent and obedience to the laws of God. This happens when we follow Christ’s moral teachings, as revealed by the Church. How sad it is that many ignore the Church’s teaching on contraception and abortion. They have, by their actions, said that a child – created in the Image and Likeness of God – is something to be avoided. Mother Teresa once said, “How can you say there are too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.” Society disagrees, and we are reaping the consequences all over the world.
Christ reigns in our hearts when we follow the two Great Commandments – You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole mind and with your whole soul; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Christ tells us that the whole of the Law and the Prophets are summed up in these two. If each and every one of us can learn – and it takes much practice – to love God above all else, and to love others out of love for God, the world will be a better place. Others will see that we have peace in our lives, and they will come to desire it.
Christ reigns in our bodies when we use them to help sanctify ourselves and the world around us. By doing acts of self-denial or penance, we begin to help our souls to become detached from worldly goods. The world, along with many other Christians, denies the essential connection of our bodies and our souls. As Catholics, we understand that we are composed of body and soul. When we discipline our bodies, we also strengthen our souls.
Christ desires to reign in every sphere of our lives. Not just in our relations among ourselves, but in how we go about our day at home and at work. He desires that we bring Him into the political sphere – in a democratic system like our own, we have the power to shape the country. This means that voting is not just a right of citizenship, but a sacred duty. How sad that a nation that enjoys a vast majority that call themselves Christians – that is followers of Christ – still has laws that do not defend the right to life from conception to natural death! Can you image what this nation would be like if all the Christian voters allowed Christ to be their King when it came time to vote? What if all the politicians who profess to be Christians allowed Him to be their King? If all Christians brought Christ into their every-day life, we would not have abortion, euthanasia, poverty or hunger. Instead, we would be caring for one-another.
If we all rededicate ourselves to Christ the King, allowing Him to reign in our minds, in our wills, in our hearts and in our bodies, we will improve the world around us. If we allow Christ to rule in our lives – in every part – we will fulfill our vocation of building up the Kingdom of Christ. Then we can have hope for a genuine and lasting peace.