Sadly, many of the faithful were being taken in by these earthly leaders. I recently heard that Hitler received over 90% of the vote in one of his elections in Germany. So we see that the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning, when the feast was most needed.
Celebrating Christ the King is still needed today, as these problems have not vanished, but may have worsened. Pope Pius XI hoped the institution of the feast would do three things:
First, he hoped that nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state. The state doesn’t control the Church that Christ the king founded. This should have special meaning for us today as our own religious freedom is being chipped away by immoral government mandates.
Secondly, Pope Pius XI hoped that leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ. St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading that Jesus is ruler of the kings of the earth. The king of kings if you will. The Church has a history of many great and faithful kings who promoted the faith. And there are many bad ones who became drunk with authority.
The third thing Pope Pius XI hoped for was that the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast of Christ the King. Individually, the King of the Universe is our brother. Collectively as a Church, the He is our Spouse. This is cause for great rejoicing. Everything He has is ours. We just have to respond. We are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, in our minds, in our wills, and in our bodies. Either He is King of all, or He is not King at all.
A general distrust of authority still exists today. Individualism has been embraced to such an extreme, that for many, the only authority is the individual self. Our Gospel reading today ends Jesus bringing up “truth” to Pilate. The next verse that we don’t hear today is very famous. Pilate asks Jesus: What is truth? Doesn’t that sound like so many of us today? How convenient it is to make our own truth. And because of this individualism, not even almighty God is a welcomed authority in the lives of many. I can do whatever I want without regard for anyone else. We see many anti-life practices in the world today because of this. It’s also the cause of all sorts of exploitation such as slavery, and whatever else objectifies the human person. The idea of Christ as ruler is rejected in such a strongly individualistic system. That makes us Christians counter-cultural. We acknowledge Christ as our king and ruler. We believe that God the Father and Creator gave him all authority in Heaven and Earth. And he exercises his authority through his Church. He gave his apostles the authority to bind and loose. He gave St. Peter the keys of the kingdom. And just because these apostles died, does not mean that the authority Christ gave them died also? No. It is passed on through the generations to the bishops who are their successors. How sad that many in the world take offense at Christ the king with universal authority. These individuals miss the point: The kingship of Christ is one of humility and service, not oppression and power.
Jesus reminds us today once again that we are pilgrims passing through this world. He tells Pilate, His kingdom is not of this world. Nor are we of this world. Our true homeland is with him in Heaven for eternity. Are we willing to fight for the Kingdom of Christ? Peter and the apostles were. They were all willing to die for Christ. And all but one were killed for following Christ.
Jesus commanded his followers to be humble servants as well. His teachings spell out a kingdom of justice and judgment balanced with radical love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. When we celebrate Christ as King, we are not celebrating an oppressive ruler, but one willing to die for humanity. Christ is the king that gives us true freedom, freedom in Him. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that by calling ourselves Christians, we are calling ourselves followers of the King. It is central to who we are as believers.
Jesus tells Pilate that he came to testify to the Truth. Then we know what happens. He sets out to take his Kingly Throne, the Cross. He offers his life in service to us that we may have life and have it to the fullest.
It is fitting that the feast celebrating the kingship of Christ is observed right before Advent, when we liturgically await the promised Messiah and King. We get a great opportunity this week to make a new year’s resolution. The Church’s liturgical year ends this coming Saturday and new one begins next Sunday with Advent. We can ask ourselves: What will I do to help bring about the kingdom today?