Last Sunday in Ordinary Time
Solemnity of Christ the King
Today’s King had a very unusual enthronement ceremony. A crown of thorns was put on his head, a tattered purple cloak served as a makeshift royal robe, and a reed was put in his hand to make do as a scepter. Above him, says this morning’s Gospel, there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews”.
The inscription at least is accurate, as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. The One on the cross is the universorum Rex, the King of the universe, as the Roman liturgy refers to him in the title of today’s feast. Not only the Jews, his fellow countrymen, are part of his kingdom, but the angels are subject to him, the demons obey him, sickness and death are at his command, and idols get thrown into the Tiber before him. But on the cross he is more real than ever, in the midst of the leaders jeering at him, the soldiers mocking him, and one of the criminals abusing him from the cross beside him.
Raised above the earth, Christ on the cross is the one King who draws people of all ages to himself, so that they will manifest his triumph and the life of his Church. Pilate had asked him, “Are you the ‘King of the Jews’?” But he replied, “It is you who say it.” He’s not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king. His kingdom is not like the kingdom of his ancestor David, who was anointed King of Israel at Hebron, and whose kingdom consisted of what could be seen. David and that kingdom passed away, and David’s tomb was known to the people at the time of Christ. But this King is different.
The kingdom of Christ is the kingdom of the Son whom the Father loves. Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, “all things visible and invisible”, as we sing in the Creed. He is truly the universorum Rex, the King of all creation and of the whole human race.
But on this peculiar throne of Calvary, Christ acquires a new empire and royalty. What he did on the cross is more difficult than curing the sick and raising the dead: he reconciled sinners with the Father, and in union with his resurrection he gave us new birth, so that we could enter eternal life whose source is in him. We give thanks to the Father, who delivered us from the power of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. From now on we belong to the Lord Jesus, not just as creatures but as ransomed slaves.
A day will come when his redeeming Blood will have produced all its fruits. His sovereignty will then have no limit or obstacle, and he will judge each one according to their works. Why does it happen that his kingdom is so often misunderstood, and that part of mankind refuses to submit to it? We are the ones who put so many obstacles to Christ’s reign in our hearts, in spite of the graces he has showered upon us, and upon our community, whose patron is Christ the King. We forget our baptismal promises or monastic vows, we give in when we’re faced with the least difficulty, we always seek the line of least resistance, and all that has its effect on everyone else and delays the coming of the kingdom.
At the close of this liturgical year, we need to pray very hard for those who misunderstand and reject Christ, that they may realize that they have nothing to fear from his reign. Anyone who is devoted to Christ the King wants the whole world in which we live to turn towards him. People who are hideously divided by the wounds of hatred and sin, do not understand that a return to the Gospel is the only way of ensuring peace and unity. The kingdom of God is what we call it in today’s Preface: “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” for families, monasteries, nations and the whole world.
Our own small efforts to be faithful to Christ can bring a little light to those who live in darkness and the culture of death, and help them submit to Christ’s sovereignty, the only source of joy and happiness in this present world and in the world to come. Today’s Communion Antiphon sings of Christ “as King for ever: The Lord will bless his people with peace”. Let us pray that this promise may be at last fulfilled in a renewed and peaceful world, through Jesus Christ, the King of the universe.