Today, the universal Church marks 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 society.
The Feast of Christ the King is partially an extension of the Palm Sunday celebrations. On Palm Sunday we commemorated 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.
Today’s Gospel presented us with the Johannine account of the trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate. Pilate asked Jesus, “are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “’Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’” Pilate enquired further, “so you are a king then?” to which Jesus replied, “… I am a king. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth hears my voice.” (Jn 18:37).
The “truth” as proclaimed by Jesus is for one to come to faith that, “God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16). Our faith in Jesus makes us realise that in Jesus, 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; slaves or free born, male or female; for we have become one in Christ Jesus.
After the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, at his commissioning of his disciples, he informed them that he had “been given all authority in heaven and on earth”, (Mt 28:18), thus, Jesus is our Universal King. However, his kingship is neither one that is full of pomp and pageantry nor is it territorial. He reigns in our hearts.
During his temptations in the desert, he vehemently rejects all forms of kingship which are based on materialism, arrogance, intimidation, extortion, greed, manipulation, and vain glory. (Mt 4:1-11). Jesus’ kingship is based on service, for he insisted that he had come that we may have life and have it to the fullest, (Jn 10:10), and again, 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, by 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.
He invites us to emulate his type of kingship by being people of hope and prayer; those who build bridges across cultures and who are not judgemental. He also encourages us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, provide shelter to the homeless, clothe the needy, visit the sick, the imprisoned and the lonely.
May Christ who is our King reign in our hearts now and for ever! Amen.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp