Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

The celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King marks the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year.  Although being one of the newest feast days on the Church calendar, having been established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, its importance in the life of Christians should not be overlooked nor taken lightly.  While this may be a relatively new solemnity for the Church, it’s roots run quite deep, as our readings will show:

Daniel 7:13-14
Psalm 93:1, 1-2, 5
Revelation 1:5-8
John 18:33b-37

Our first reading comes from the Book of Daniel.  As I wrote last week, the Book of Daniel is to the Hebrew Scriptures what the Book of Revelation is to the Christian scriptures.  Our passage this week sounds as if it could be coming from Revelation, as we hear about Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man, being received by God and being granted dominion over all creation.  Whether you read this from a Jewish perspective or from a Christian perspective, the meaning is the same:  All creation belongs to God alone, and no matter how much we squabble over the things of this world, only God can grant dominion over it.  If that message isn’t clear enough, our Psalm spells it out for us as we sing “The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.”

Our second reading comes from the Book of Revelation, with a passage that is a reflection of what we heard in our first reading from Daniel.  Here we hear John’s vision of Jesus coming amid the clouds, ruler of all the kings of earth, coming for all to see, even those who persecuted him.  Yet even Jesus, king of kings, is only granted his authority from God, his father, who in turn takes it only in service to his father.

Our Gospel this week comes from John, where we revisit the scene where Jesus is being questioned by Pontius Pilot.  Pilate asks “Are you the King of the Jews?”  The banter that follows is both comical and quizzical, obfuscating yet revealing.  Pilot is trying to get to the truth, but it’s a truth that he can’t quite understand, because for Jesus, to be a king means to be of service to us and to the God the Father.  Born to testify to the truth.  Not a ruler who takes, but a ruler who gives.

Final Thoughts:
For most Americans as well as most modern democratic societies, the meaning and importance of this Feast can easily be lost without understanding the context from which it originated.  The early 20th century not only saw the Great War sweeping Europe and the world into economic and political turmoil, but long established monarchies and governing structures from Europe through the Far East, and through the colonies of the New World being challenged by popular uprisings, only to be replaced by equally dangerous movements fueled by nationalism and fascism.  Even the Church herself was being challenged as these new governments established laws against religion, and in particular against the Catholic Church.  Many of these revolutions saw priests and bishops being arrested, imprisoned, and executed, while demanding citizens to give their allegiance to their new countries and their new leaders.

Amid this turmoil and persecution the Holy See saw the need to remind the greater Church, and the world, that as Christians we owe our allegiance not to any temporal or political authority, but only to Christ.  This idea of Christ as king of all, having been well established in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, serves to remind the world that we are all bound to a higher authority.

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