Happy Feast of Christ the King! This feast was initiated in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. He was reportedly walking in the Papal Gardens with a cardinal, who noted how dejected the pontiff seemed. In the conversation that ensued, the Holy Father discussed his frustration with the flood of –isms that were spreading darkness throughout the world. He detailed the ramifications of: Mussolini’s Fascism, Hitler’s Nazism, Stalin’s Communism, Freud’s psychological determinism, and the American materialism that was manifest in the roaring twenties. Pope Pius XI explained that Christ and His dominion remain the solitary answer to humanity’s deepest longing. These other false doctrines fail to satisfy our longing and need for Christ and His Kingship. It is only in submission to Christ as our Sovereign, that the human soul finds fulfillment and peace.
This conversation prompted Pope Pius XI to write the encyclical Quas Primas, and initiate the Feast of Christ the King in 1925. The Holy Father envisioned that this Feast could have multiple effects. First, He hoped that that rulers of this world would understand that they are bound to respect Christ (Quas Primas 31). Pope Pius XI also hoped that the nations of the world would accept that the Church has a right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas, 32). Similarly, the Pontiff hoped that The Feast of Christ the King would empower Christians with courage and strength, as we are reminded that Jesus Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, bodies and wills (Quas Primas, 33).
As contemporary Americans, the concept of kingship seems a bit foreign to us. Didn’t we throw that off in 1776? That staunchly independent streak of ours seems to balk at the slightest hint of subservience to royalty. We like to think of Jesus as our friend and brother (as indeed He is), and even accept Him as our Merciful Savior; however, when it comes to acknowledging Jesus as our Sovereign King, and submitting ourselves to His Reign, there we find difficulty.
I’ll admit that I often feel empathy with Job, in just wanting to have God come on down and “talk things over like reasonable adults”. As Job’s companions wag their fingers and add to his grief, Job laments: “But I would speak with the Almighty; I wish to reason with God (Job 13:3).” In my arrogance, like Job, how often have I thought, “O.K., we must just have a misunderstanding here- Lord, let me just restate my position, my plan, my perspective, and I’m sure You will agree…” I really hope God has a sense of humor at such moments.
Without that sense of awe, the gift of the Holy Spirit that is Fear of the Lord, it is easy to forget that Jesus is enthroned at the Right hand of God the Father. In His humility, He meets us where we are- on our level. Yet, even so He remains our God and King. We owe Him that homage and respect.
When Pilate asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth (John 18:33b, 36-37).”
Scripture clearly identifies Jesus Christ as our king. Again in Revelation we read: “Out of His mouth shall come a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod…. He has a name written on His cloak and on His thigh, ‘King of Kings, and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:15-16).”
How marvelous of our Holy Mother Church to give us this Feast of Christ the King, this solemnity, to remind us of our need to submit to the Kingship of Christ Jesus. For it is only in the act of viewing ourselves rightly- seeing our insignificience against His Magnificence- and placing our trust in Him that we achieve our true destiny. Our ultimate happiness lies in the freedom to truly pray: “Lord, Thy Kingdom Come!”
Blessing, Ad Jesum per Mariam,