On this Sunday, the 20th day of November 2016, the Church all over the world celebrates the great feast of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe. Conciously or unconsciously, Christians and non-Christians acknowledge the historic fact that Christ is King over all creatures. This King, Jesus, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judea two thousand and sixteen years, ten months and twenty days ago. The universal celebration of this quintessential leader of ours points to the fact that Jesus Christ Our Lord is a King like no other.
Today, the entire human world, Christians and non Christians, Catholics and non-Catholics in every corner celebrates this feast of Christ the King. History has it that the feast was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Significantly this annual feast marks the end of one liturgical year and the beginning of another in the annual Catholic liturgical cycle. We should not confuse this Christian festival with “Corpus Christi” – the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The latter is held eleven days after Pentecost which usually falls on a Thursday. But because it comes up during the rainy season, the Eucharistic procession that follows it is often transferred to November and this coincides most of the time with the feast of Christ the King.
It is also important to note that following the modification of the liturgical calendar by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1969, the Solemnity of Christ the King was moved from the last Sunday of October to the last Sunday of the liturgical year which now falls between the 20th and 27th November. The goal was to emphasize the spiritual-strategic importance of this Feast in the life of Christians and humanity at large. On the one hand, this feast marking the end of the Church’s year reminds us of the end of our lives. It also reminds of that time when Christ the King of Truth will appear as the divine and incorruptible Judge over every human in order to overthrow the kings and kingdoms of falsehood, lies corruption and bloodshed that we humans set up against the true kingdom of holiness, justice, love and peace. This Feast also looks forward to the New Spiritual-Calendar year of Advent which gives humanity the sure prospect of the New and everlasting Kingdom. It paints a picture of a new world where God and all his children-saints will dwell forever in glory, joy and peace.
Today, the Church presents to her faithful and to the whole world, Christ – the anointed one, as the King over all that exst, the King who will judge all. The Church further showcases his pattern of leadership. What we celebrate to a reasonable extent in our Liturgy this Sunday is Christ’s kingship as the model which our modern-day Leaders should emulate. The success of Jesus as a leader depended largely on the fact that he understood his mission as a leader. Thus he combined in his person the two essential components of leadership.
In Jesus we notice the various arms of leadership fully and efficiently harnessed. He was a man of power and authority. His hearers often marveled at his power. With this power he relentlessly combated the natural and supernatural forces of his time. In his dealings with fellow men, he stood out authoritatively for the truth, without fear or favour. His encounters with the authorities of his time confirmed this fact. Even before the dreaded Pilate he declared that he was born for kingship, and above all to witness to the truth. Thus, standing for the truth becomes an integral part of the authority of any worthy leader in both the Church and civil society. A leader who compromises the truth is evidently derailing and unworthy of the name.
On the other hand, he was the humble king that rode on mere donkey; the king that stooped to wash the feet of his disciples, and even accepted criticisms on account of his association with ‘sinners’ and the marginalized in the society. Hence the mystery of Christ’s kingship is fully realized within the context of the Cross. The inscription on the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”, bears the reality of truth. The Cross which is the birth place of faith became the throne of Christ’s Kingship. In Jesus, the Kingdom of God enters into human life and history, in as much as it fulfills the promise of salvation made to Israel. He fulfilled the messianic hope of Israel in His passion, death and resurrection. Hence the Kingship of Christ can be properly understood only within the message of the Saving Kingship of the Lord. The Lord is ‘King’ because He saves His people (Ex. 5: 1-18). Because He blesses His people with peace (Ps. 29:10). He delivers His people from every principality, or ruling force or power (I Cor. 15:24). He makes His kingship manifest in all His works.
Even though, he was a man of authority Jesus was a king destined to suffer for his followers. In the discharge of his duty, he often had nowhere to lay his head. Often times he went hungry, misunderstood by kinsmen and finally he poured out his blood for his subjects. He placed the interest of his followers at the fore and led his constituency by his practical examples. Here we consider it pertinent to draw our attention to the exemplary way Christ as King responded to the temporal needs of his followers.
The world today as we know has produced numerous leaders in various nations, both the good and the bad ones. Some secular leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Mahatma Ghand, Nelson Mandela etc were noted for good leadership. Posterity remains thankful to them and their good deeds will never be forgotten. Most importantly, their names have been written in gold and their achievements embossed in diamond. Today, their numerous admirers across the globe celebrate their courage, their boldness, their candour and so many others.
But what legacy had such leaders like Adolphus Hitler, Idi Amin, Mobutu SeseSeko, Sani Abacha and some of our contemporary leaders left behind? Leadership for most of these people is only crown without cross. They fed and some are still feeding on the sheep entrusted to them instead of feeding the sheep. They lived quite alienated from their subjects; they expelled truth and were in constant fear of each other. Posterity frowns and will continue to frown at their remembrance. Their evil deeds will keep living after them and form for generations yet unborn a shimmering image of reflection.
The peculiarity of Christ’s kingship derives from the fact that unlike many of our earthly rulers who lord it over their subjects, Christ does not celebrate power and worldly glory. He and his followers rather celebrate a self-sacrificing kingship. Little wonder then why Christ as king is not out to dominate but to love, not to rule but to serve, not out to order but to seek out and save what is lost. His care for his subjects culminated in his redeeming death on the cross. There he paid the death penalty for his followers by offering his life in their stead.
Therefore, we can always learn from Jesus, the humble king to whom every other leader must be accountable. As we celebrate the kingship of Christ, let us all in our various capacities as leaders of one group or another, large or small, as family heads or as national leaders, know what leadership entails. It has benefits, but there must be the complementary spirit of Sacrifice.
We expect that the attitude of Christ whose kingship we are celebrating today will afford our present day Leaders a deep food for thought with a view to enabling them henceforth to shun all selfishness and morbid craze for the acquisition of lands and properties. They should imitate the example of the “Good Shepherd”, who came to serve, to give his life as a ransom for many and never to exploit the poor masses that voted them into office”. As we draw close to the end of the year, we are called upon to enthrone Christ in our hearts, our minds and wills, both in words and deeds. If we died with Him in baptism, then we must reign with Him as the children of glory (2Tim. 2:11)
Thus as our contemporary kings, leaders and citizens of our common world and of our country Nigeria in arrogance, greed and lust go on hating, corrupting, vilifying, brutalizing and killing one another, the voice of Truth resound loudly. Christ the sole King of Justice, love, joy and peace beckons us all to his side, so that we may be filled with his loving and merciful heart which alone overthrows the kingdoms of hatred, bitterness and mutual extermination.
We should be imitators of Christ, the loving King, the Servant King, the divine King and the King of kings. Christ is the supreme King who reigns yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever”. As we file in procession singing and dancing, Christ stands, knocking at the doors of our hearts; if we hear and open, He will dine with you and me. Let us open the doorsof our hearts to this King by making our various vocations in life meaningful and relevant to others around us. Being strengthened in our faith and bearing witness to Christ, He calls us to come with a repentant heart, so that reigning with Him, we may join the choirs of angels to offer praises to God the Father in this coming year dedicated specially to His mother Mary. May Christ, the Great King, the Lord of life, earth, sky, and sea; the King of love on Calvary; the King of truth and the Most High King hear our prayers today and always as we cry out saying, ” Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine”
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu (PhD, JP)
Director- Communications/Media Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri