On the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King. This feast expresses the all-embracing authority of Christ as King and Lord of the Universe. This feast helps us to look towards our future and our ultimate future is when Jesus will return in glory for the final judgment.
This Solemnity is a newer feast in the Catholic Church. This feast of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and is observed on the Last Sunday of the liturgical year. The feast helps us to meditate on Christ the King and Lord and also on the Second and Final Coming of Christ, the Last Judgment, and the end of the world.
If you’ve ever had a problem in a store, or had some issue that needed to be resolved on the phone with a customer rep, you know that it can be quite frustrating.
Sometimes things work out exactly as planned, and you walk away from the experience thinking, “That wasn’t so bad.” But often it doesn’t go that way. Things don’t get solved easily. Frustration builds. You feel like you are just repeating yourself over and over, and not getting any satisfaction. Finally you can’t stand it and you tell the person . . .
I need whoever’s in charge.
It’s important to know who’s in charge, right? And not just in minor things like retail transactions and such. Sometimes it is absolutely essential. Militaries can’t function without it. That goes without saying. The government and its various agencies can’t either. Or police activities and investigations. Or large businesses and corporations. Without knowing who’s in charge, chaos and confusion can ensue.
But those are just the really big ones. It applies to smaller things too. Salespeople need to know who’s responsible for which territory. Players in team sports need to know who is calling the shots on the field or on the court. People volunteering for school or church events need to know who to come to with their questions. People working on construction projects need to know who ultimately makes the final decisions. And children need to know which parent is ultimately in charge, which parent calls the shots when it comes to permission and such (so they don’t waste their time asking the wrong person!). Knowing who’s in charge is important, for big things and small things alike.
Today we gather on the last day of the Church Year – the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. And because another Church Year is coming to a close, it’s the perfect time to make an assessment of how we are doing, how we are doing at this thing we call discipleship, this thing we call our journey of faith. And using the image of Jesus as Our King is a really helpful way to do that.
After all, most of our wandering off the path, comes about precisely when we lose track of who’s in charge, lose track of who we can turn to when we are confused or lost or unsure of what to do. And so, when that happens, our lives can become a little unsettled, a little chaotic, a little off-kilter as we struggle to right the ship, as we struggle to get back on track.
I’m not saying that it’s easy to know exactly what God wants us to do or expects us to do in every situation. It isn’t. In fact, it’s impossible. God is not some kind of micro-manager hovering over us forcing us to do what he wants. That’s not the sort of king he is or we have. And that means that he respects our freedom, and doesn’t ever deny it to us. Rather he’s the kind of king (a rare type) who wants to inspire his people, the kind of king who wants the cooperation of his subjects – not their subjugation.
Our king wants to lead us in principally two ways. One – by his example. And so, we look to Jesus to see how to live. We look to Jesus to see what it means to be fully human and fully alive. We look to Jesus to know how we are called to think and act and see. We look to Jesus as someone to imitate as best as we can – imperfectly, yes – but with a sincerity of heart and a deep desire to live as he calls us to live.
But our incredible king also leads us a second way, through his voice, through the Holy Spirit within – our God, continually trying to guide us and motivate us and encourage us and console us and challenge us. That’s how he wants to be “in charge” – through the profound, unlimited love and grace he pours out on us constantly.
So, how are we doing? Is Christ your king? Is Christ our king? Is he in charge?
Or is someone or something else calling the shots? Maybe it’s our egos – leading us to believe that we are the center of the universe. Or maybe it’s our pride – leading us to never admit that we are wrong or that we have weaknesses and faults. Maybe it’s our passions – luring us to give in to desires that we know aren’t at all healthy for us. Or maybe it’s our need for control – that need to always be the decision-maker. Maybe it’s our hardened hearts – keeping us from forgiving those who have wronged us. Or maybe it’s our greed – tempting us to cling to the things of this world as if they were the most important. Or maybe it’s our prejudice – those attitudes that drive us to see others as somehow less than ourselves.
The things we allow to be in charge – the “kings” or if you like the queens in our lives, come in all shapes, forms and or sizes. It’s up to you and me to admit them and revoke our allegiance to them. It’s up to us to keep looking to the life of Jesus as an example to follow. And my dear people of God, it’s up to us to keep listening for the voice of God within, and when we hear it, be ready and willing to let it lead us to where we need to be.
We should be so thankful that we have a king like Jesus, a king unlike any other. May our allegiance to Christ the King not be a “once-in-awhile” sort of thing. Rather let’s make him someone we turn to each and every day asking, “Jesus, what do you need me to do to make your kingdom the beautiful place it can be?”
A True Story
St. Thomas More is the patron saint of lawyers and politicians, among others. He was a brilliant lawyer and diplomat in 16th century England. His patriotism and loyalty to the throne attracted the attention of King Henry VIII who made him Lord Chancellor of England.
What Henry VIII did not know was that Thomas More’s first loyalty was to Christ, the King of kings. When Henry VIII decided to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn and make himself head of the Church of England, More thought this was not right.
Rather than approve what he believed to be against the Divine will, he resigned from his prestigious, wealthy position as Lord Chancellor and lived a life of poverty. Since he would not give his support to the king, Thomas More was arrested, convicted of treason, imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534 and beheaded in July of the following year.
On his way to public execution, More encouraged the people to remain steadfast in the Faith. His last recorded words were: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” For Moore, it was not simply enough to confess Christ privately in the safety of his heart and home; he believed one must also confess Christ in one’s business and professional life as well as in the laws and policies that govern society.