Solemnity of Christ the King, Year C
Today, the Universal Church commemorates the end of the Church’s Liturgical Year with the Solemnity of Christ the King. This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quas Primas issued on 11th December 1925, to be celebrated on the last Sunday in October, before the Solemnity of All Saints, (1st November). However, in 1970, the Church moved this Feast to the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. It is fitting to end the Church’s Liturgical Year with the acknowledgement that Christ is our King. Pope Pius XI decreed this Feast as a way of combating secularism and totalitarianism which were eroding the authority of Christ and the Church in the society.
The Feast of Christ the King is partially an extension of the Palm Sunday celebrations. On Palm Sunday we celebrated the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as a king. Jesus sat on a donkey and the people spread their clothes and tree branches on the road for him as they sang ‘hosanna to the son of David.’ We recall that Archangel Gabriel during the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus, informed Mary that the child to be born will be “great and will rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever” (Lk 1:32). Hence, Jesus was born a king.
The First Reading, (2 Sam 5:1-3), narrated the coronation of David as the king of Israel. The elders of the people of Israel made a pact with David at Hebron and made him their king by anointing him. Similarly, Jesus as the universal king was also anointed, however, not by any human hand, but by the Holy Spirit, (Acts 10:38),for the name ‘Christ’ means the anointed One. Although Jesus has been given “all authority in heaven and on earth”, (Mt 28:18), however, his kingship is not one that is full of pomp and pageantry, but one of self-emptying, (Phil 2:7).
During his temptations in the desert, he vehemently rejected all forms of kingship that are based on materialism, arrogance, intimidation, extortion, greed, manipulation and vain glory, (Mt 4:1-11).
Jesus’ kingship which is not territorial, is based on service, for he said, I have come that you may have life and have it to the fullest, (Jn 10:10), and the son of man came not to be served but to serve and to offer his life and a ransom for many, (Matt 20:28). He exemplified his kingship of service by remaining focused on the mission entrusted to him by the Father; praying in season and out of season, being compassionate, washing the feet of his disciples and dying on the cross for our salvation. Jesus’ enthronement was his hanging on the cross.
In today’s Gospel, we read that while Jesus was hanging upon the cross, he was jeered by the Israelite leaders, mocked by the Roman soldiers and abused by one of the criminals hanging on a cross beside him. None-the-less, amid all these, his bitter experiences, the voice of truth came in an unexpected way. One of the crucified criminals declared that though Jesus had been crucified as a criminal, he had done nothing wrong. The book of Prophet Isaiah had prophesised about Jesus as follows:
He was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it were, we averted our gaze, despised, for whom we had no regard. Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows he was carrying while we thought of him as someone being punished and struck with affliction by God; whereas he was being wounded for our rebellions, crushed because of our guilt; the punishment reconciling us fell on him, and we have been healed by his bruises, (Is 53:3-5).
Jesus made a promise to the repentant thief, that, ‘today’, he would be with him in paradise. We learn from this episode that the grace of God calling us to repentance is with us until we exhale our final breath. Prophet Ezekiel reminds us that the Lord does not take pleasure in the death of a sinner, he prefers him to repent, (Ez 18:23).
Our faith in Jesus our king makes us realise that in him, God has reconciled the world to himself, and has broken down the hostilities that existed between nations by building bridges. Hence there is no longer Jew or Greek; slave or free born, male or female; for we have become one in Christ Jesus. Let us emulate his type of kingship by being people of hope and prayer, those who build bridges across cultures and who are not judgemental. Jesus invites us to stand shoulder to shoulder with him to advance his mission in the world by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, providing shelter to the homeless, clothe the needy, visiting the sick, the imprisoned and the lonely.
May Christ who is our King reign in our hearts now and for ever!
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp