A beginner must look on himself as one setting out to make a garden for his Lord’s pleasure, on most unfruitful soil which abounds in weeds. His Majesty roots up the weeds and will put in good plants instead. Let us reckon that this is already done when the soul decides to practice prayer and has begun to do so. — St Teresa of Avila
Christ as King of the universe may seem a bit odd when we consider how he lived and died and how he lives and moves today in apparent un-kingly silence. We may be lulled into thinking he is not involved much in the current global chaos if prayer hasn’t been our first work, and if silence hasn’t been our place of refuge and intimacy with him.
The feast of Christ the King suddenly closes the liturgical year in which we’ve listened to Scripture tell us of his birth in a stable and his hidden life with Joseph and Mary in Nazareth for thirty years. Although he shows infinite power and authority over disease, demons, the sea and wind he conversely shows complete submission to political and religious authority yielding to death on a cross. Kings don’t let that happen to them. Resistance to external power is the way of a political king.
Days before the feast we hear at Mass from the book of Maccabees how the Hebrews are brutally treated for their customs and practices under the Hellenist empire kings. But in those readings, we also encounter unwavering fidelity to God in the face of oppression. The martyrdom of a mother and her seven sons is a beautiful example setting us up for Christ the King whose kingdom is about fidelity to truth.
“Son, have pity on me who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years…I beg you, child to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things, and in the same way, the human race did not come into existence. Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them.” (2Mc 7: 1-41)
We may not be able to relate to Jesus as our King and Sovereign Lord as Teresa of Avila did in often calling her beloved Jesus “His Majesty”, but in the Gospels, Jesus frequently spoke about the kingdom of God and makes it clear to Pilate that he indeed is a king.
Pilate was very concerned about Christ’s accusers saying he wanted to make himself king, so he questioned Jesus about it: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus in his trademark style never answers questions directly, instead implies that he is when he says, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” He leads Pilate’s mind away from narrow thinking toward mystery saying he rules a kingdom that is not governed by violence or aggression in which his subjects intervene to stop his arrest.
Jesus leads Pilate to an encounter with truth, saying that the reason for his existence is “to testify to the truth”. This point frustrates Pilate, causing him to see that Jesus is a king with no real threat to his authority. However, Jesus is actually Pilate’s greatest threat because He is the Truth and anyone who seeks and embraces it “hears my voice”. Jesus has shown for all to see that He the Son of Man is Truth, and Life and the Way destined to rule all nations eternally not by threats or forced worship.
With no interest in any kind of political power in Israel, or anywhere else Jesus, nonetheless, has come to establish a kingdom that has begun on earth with his presence and destined to reach every corner, race and nation. The power with which such a takeover is launched comes from the Father who gave the world his only begotten Son. His power is paradoxically gentle. Anyone in any age who encounters him will abandon everything to belong to Him and love Him because He fulfills our craving to be loved.
When Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit and bare a son he also told her of her son’s role as a king: “The Lord will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his reign will be without end.” (Luke 1: 32-33)
To enter Christ’s kingdom we need only respond to his call that constantly echoes in our hearts. He pursues us in our constant desire for love, our restless longing for peace, and our endless pursuit of happiness which cannot be found in anything in this world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The desire for God is written in the human heart because man is created by God and for God, and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the happiness he never stops searching for.” (CCC: I. 27)
Christ pursues us to show his mercy since it is through Adam’s sin that we suffer and constantly bear the burden of our crippling sins which lead us to misery, decay and death. “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam that gave us so great a Redeemer” the exultet proclaims at every Easter Vigil.
When we meet him or even hear of him our hearts are moved to open wide into a posture of sorrow and repentance, the threshold of eternal union with the merciful king of the universe.
This king willingly turned to the cross out of love for all, because all have gone astray, Isaiah announces. “He was pierced for our offences, crushed for our sins” so that we might enter his eternal kingdom.
Pope Benedict XVI:
“By his sacrifice, Jesus has opened for us the path to a profound relationship with God: in him, we have become true adopted children and thus sharers in his kingship over the world. To be disciples of Jesus, then, means not letting ourselves be allured by the worldly logic of power, but bringing into the world the light of truth and God’s love.” (Holy Mass, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, 2012)
An unusual and beautiful event of the passion is lived and presented to us by a thief who, while hanging next to Jesus on a cross, sees in Jesus a king who can save him:
One of the criminals hanging there abused him: ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well’. But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all’, he said. You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it; we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He answered him, ‘In truth, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ (Luke23: 39-43)
John Paul II in his 1998 Christ the King homily suggests that the thief may have heard the dialogue between Christ and Pilate. This thief encountered our Lord and in his longing poured out his desire for mercy, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Lk 23:42)
John Paul II: On Calvary Jesus had a rather unusual companion in his passion, a thief. For this unhappy man, the way of the cross became, infallibly, the way to paradise, the way to truth and life, the way to the kingdom. (Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the universe, November 22, 1998)
.Arriving at the Solemnity of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ the King of the universe we can move toward Advent and Christmas with certainty, joy and confidence because by turning to him even with our weak gaze and sorrow for our sinful habits he will welcome us into his Kingdom of everlasting peace all the while inspiring in us a greater love for him and willingness to give him our all.
He is the image of the invisible God, the ﬁrstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the ﬁrstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or in heaven. (Colossians 1. 15-20)