Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 with a call on humanity to submit once more to the authority of Christ. The Pope remarked that the multiple evils in the world were due to humanity’s rejection of the reign of Christ and that so long as this remained the case, there was no hope of a lasting peace on earth. The last time God was formally regarded as King by his people was about the year 1049 BC (over 3000 years ago), when Israel chose Saul as their king (1 Sam. 8:6). Choosing their own king meant a rejection of God’s sovereignty, and this came at a price. They were warned that the king would exploit them and live in luxury and their expense, but they would not listen. Today, as in those days, rulers still live in luxury at the expense of the people.
Every king has a throne, symbolizing his power and authority. From there he administers justice, conducts diplomatic relations, receives petitions, and issues his executive orders. The throne reminds the people that the king is not just another citizen; he is the supreme authority. The throne is the symbol of this unique royal identity. As the eternal King of the universe has, our Lord Jesus Christ a throne too, but his throne is of a radically different kind.While the presidents of the world rule from thrones of great power and influence, Jesus’ own throne is a lowly one where he lies down in weakness, in a position of surrender to those who nailed him to a cross. The cross is a rough, plain piece of wood; its only decoration is the blood of the king who gave up his life for the salvation of his people. The Emperor Charlemagne’s throne, for example, which is still survives, is a marble throne placed on the last of seven massive marble stairs. When petitioners approached Charlemagne, their heads would be even with his feet as he sat down comfortably and imposingly, in his full majestic regalia. Today Charlemagne is no more but our lowly King endures forever.
The rulers of the world provide the best meat and the choicest drinks to entertain their guests, but this our lowly King gives his own body as food and his own blood as drink. The kings and queens of the world, when they are about to die, divide their kingdoms amongst their relatives and cronies, but this king, with no estates to share, offers his subjects a single event – his own brutal execution – as a memorial: “Do this in memory of me!” he says, and then gives away his own mother to one of his followers.
The kings of the earth maintain magnificent palaces – Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, The Lodge, The Kremlin, The White House, Aso Rock, etc., but this one reigns from the top of two wooden planks meant for condemned criminals. And for a dwelling, “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). At death, the rulers of the world get vested in their most regal attires for burial, but this one, even before death, gets stripped of his own garments, and for burial he only gets only a linen shroud for dressing. The kings of the world get their subjects to die for them in the warfront, but this one chooses to give his life for his subjects, dying that they might have the fullness of life.
In the kingdoms of the world, everything is done to exclude strangers and foreigners, to keep them “offshore”. But in the Kingdom of Christ, everything is done to welcome strangers, even many servants of the kingdom shed their blood to facilitate the inclusion of “outsiders”, because in his Father’s house “are many mansions” (John 14:2). This is the distinctive and inimitable character of Jesus our Lord and King, whom we celebrate today.His kingdom is not of this world but of heaven, where he wears a crown not of gold but of glory and honour, and where he receives tributes not in taxes but in worship and fidelity to the truth. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus did not come to conquer peoples and nations but to liberate them from sin and reunite them with his Father.
Jesus’ kingship is not one of opulence and showiness, or of sirens and long motorcades, but rather a kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. It is not a kingdom of envy, hatred or division, but rather of right relations with God, neighbour and oneself a kingdom of total joy, fullness, vitality and love. The Kingdom of Christ is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb at which everyone gets the gift divinization – total transformation into God. By sharing in our own suffering, Jesus opens the way for us to share in his kingship. We only need to unite our sufferings to his, bringing our own crosses to his throne of mercy. In Christ, we are not only subjects of the King, but fellow rulers with the King. We all are royal sons and daughters of heaven, called by our share in the cross to conquer evil and to extend the frontiers of mercy, justice, and the Kingdom of God.
Dear friends, Jesus remains the only path to the fullness of life and only through him, with him, and in him can we achieve supreme happiness. As the Second Vatican Council tells us, Jesus is “the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the centre of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings” (Gaudium et Spes #45).Therefore, as we renew our gratitude and confidence in this Christ the King today, let us ask him for the grace to never be corrupted by earthly power, or be seduced by earthly riches.
And so, we pray: Christ, King of glory, do not let evil defeat us today, but may we, armed with your goodness, defeat evil ourselves – Amen!