Feast of Christ the King ~ 21 November 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Daniel 7: 13-14; Responsorial: Psalm 93; II: Revelation 1: 5-8; Gospel: John 18: 33b-37
The church year draws to a close. We have one week of Ordinary Time left and then Advent, a new year of grace with God, begins. This last Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is a joyful yet solemn reminder that our Creator, our Savior, our King holds all eternity in His care. He who transcends all time reigns over eternity.
Yet, as we witness all that is happening in this world and even in God’s Church or in our lives we may wonder does Jesus truly reign? Is Jesus still on His throne? It is helpful to remember the words of Christ from our Gospel today. “My kingdom does not belong to this world”. Yet our Lord reigns over the heavens and the earth.
To understand this seeming contradiction of the reality we see and the Word of God we need to look and listen to what has been occurring for countless ages. From the earliest time, there have been conflicts and wars over who should reign over a land and over peoples. These wars reflect the heavenly war between Satan and our Lord. There is one rightful King. And there are intended usurpers. The destruction from the powers of darkness is very real. Many would think of Adolf Hitler as the most deadly example with the estimated 17 million victims of the Nazis. Yet history estimates another enemy of God, Mao Zedong of China, is estimated to have killed from 40 to 80 million souls in his reign of terror.
These cruel examples cause us to recognize that while our God reigns the final manifestation of His eternal victory accomplished on the cross and in the tomb is still being revealed. In the horrors of the nazis or communists, there were extraordinary souls who witnessed their faith and love for God. They chose, at great sacrifice to deny the lies and evils of their world and to live as Witnesses for their King. They showed to all the faithful the holy call and joy to witness for our King, our Savior, Jesus.
Whether we look to those who shared their faith under nazi, communist, or any age we see many jeweled lessons of grace in their lives. But today we are reminded that on this earth, amidst the beauty of creation so oppressed, we see real evil and injustice. Many take great pride in their assumed rights and ability to arm their agendas with deadly force. We recognize that we, as God’s Church may be embassies and places of hope, peace, and grace among souls at war with themselves. We, with those who have followed our King before us, are called to be witnesses for our King. But what does that mean? How are we to proclaim Jesus when His Kingdom is still denied by many?
We see and learn what our witness as we behold our King in His holy passion. Many are the jewels that His earthly, thorny crown bore. Humility. Trust. Obedience. Meekness. Peace… and many more eternal graces shine from the crown He wore to conquer our sin and death. But today let us look to just three so needed in our witness for God.
We are called to witness to God’s mercy, by the mercy we share in our lives. We can never truly realize all the mercies God brings to us day by day. Yet, sadly when we sometimes encounter someone who has perhaps wronged us we clench any mercy away in our life in defiance of our King, our Savior. Or perhaps we are seeing souls whose lives are not being lived as we see God would instruct. So we qualify and ration any mercy we might share. Or perhaps we refuse to allow God’s mercy to that soul we know best, ourselves. We feel it is necessary to allow the reign of guilt in place of the forgiveness that our King would grant. In all these examples the witness of the mercy of our King is a light so needed in a world with great darkness.
We are also called to witness for our King of love, by our courage. St. John of the Cross shared “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love”. Many are the souls struggling, often in lives shipwrecked by wounds of great loneliness. These souls may find their lives overwhelmed by waves of self-abuse with substances hoped to quell their pain. Others may invest their longing souls in practices and things the world offers with deceptive beauty and false hope. Our King would call us to, with Him, seek and save that which is lost. St. Francis of Assisi began his conversion reaching out and embracing with genuine help and affection the dreaded lepers. During the 1980’s and 90’s as the AIDS epidemic ravaged many lives a few courageous Catholic nuns, priests and faithful defied the fear, the stigma and often the hate with medical care, empathy and compassion. It is recognized that early on Catholic hospitals and clinics often offered care in the face of many unknowns. One of the great privileges we share as servants of our King is to be witnesses of His love in the face of fear, uncertainty, and even hate.
And we are called to witness of our King of Kings by our surrender. One of the immense lessons the martyrs of Christ have taught us is that they may be called to submit to some earthly prince or popular agenda. The demand of allegiance to someone or something other than our God and Savior is nothing new. In our present era there is the immense idol of Choice. The demand to submit to preferred choice is sadly sacred with some. The same applies on a broader scale on matters of perceived rights. While there are certainly some basic rights of humanity the list has been amplified and arranged for the benefit of some at the detriment of others. It is a worthwhile question to allow our King to ask of us: “What rights does my Word give you?” There is, for many an assumption that to surrender to Jesus is to forfeit our happiness, our free will, our lives for God. In truth the greater our surrender to God the greater our freedom to live.
Today, every day we need to recognize: JESUS is LORD. Christ is the King of Kings. Christ is my King. And we need to hear His call to be Witnesses for The King whose first crown was made of thorns. As His servants and His witnesses, we need to see those to whom He brings us are seeking to see His reign of mercy, love, and redeeming power in our surrender to Him.