“The throne of this king whom we worship is the cross, and his triumph is the victory of love, an almighty love that from the cross pours out his gifts upon humanity of all times and places.” ~ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
On this the day our Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King, our Gospel Reading reminds us that worldly kingship and the heavenly kingship of our Lord Jesus stand in stark contrast to each other.
After passages from the apocalyptic books of Daniel (7:13-14) and Revelation (1:5-8) wherein we are reminded that our Lord Jesus’ dominion “is an everlasting dominion,” that he is “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty” we make our way to the Gospel (John 18:33-37) where we suddenly find Jesus, having just been handed over, standing before Pilate.
"Are you the King of the Jews?" Pilate asks.
Jesus answers, "Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?" In taunting fashion, Pilate responds “Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.” To which Jesus quickly responds “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." Pilate, seemingly still confused, replies, "Then you are a king?" It is at this point that Jesus attempts to explain to Pilate that his kingship has little to do with crowns, pageantry, prestige or opulence. “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”
The kingship that Jesus represents is rooted in the truth. Its sole purpose is to guide his people to the truth, to His Father. Ours is not a King of the Napoleon variety, certainly not of the Herod variety. Instead ours is a King who lays his life down for his subjects, a far cry from any King before him or any that is to rise from the secular world in which we currently reside.
In a homily he gave to commemorate the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe on November 22nd, 1970, Saint Josemaria Escriva explained that “The Kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of freedom. In it the only slaves are those who freely bind themselves, out of love of God. What a blessed slavery of love, that sets us free! Without freedom, we cannot respond to grace. Without freedom, we cannot give ourselves freely to our Lord, for the most supernatural of reasons....because we want to.”
In this day and age of rampant political upheaval and vitriol, I think it’s also important to point out Saint Josemaria’s remarks relative to this topic later on in his homily. He would go on to say “I know that it is not proper for me to discuss secular and current topics which belong to the temporal and civil sphere - subjects which our Lord has left to the free and calm discussion of men. I also know that a priest’s lips must avoid all human, partisan controversy. He has to open them only to lead souls to God, to his saving doctrine and to the sacraments which Jesus Christ established, to the interior life which brings us closer to God, so that we see we are his children and therefore brothers to all men without exception. We are celebrating today the feast of Christ the King. And I do not go outside my role as a priest when I say that if anyone saw Christ’s Kingdom in terms of a political program he would not have understood the supernatural purpose of the faith, and he would risk burdening consciences with weights which have nothing to do with Jesus, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Let us really love all men; let us love Christ above all; and then we cannot avoid loving the rightful freedom of others, living in harmony with them.“
This call to harmonious civility that hinges strictly on the cultivation of the interior life, one rooted in the pursuit of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, is a message that those who seek life in the spirit over life in the flesh, a topic that Paul brilliantly discussed in his letter to the Romans (Chapters 6-8), must heed and aspire to. Alas, those who wallow in the flesh, sadly the vast majority of those among us, will insure that the Twitter Wars, false narratives, name calling, non-sequiturs, diversion tactics, divisiveness and other weapons of discourse remain sharpened and at the ready. These are not the tactics of one who seeks to partake in the dominion of Jesus’ Kingship. For through it all, there is but one true voice that calls out. His sheep listen to his voice. He knows them. They follow him. For He is not your typical Monarch.
“Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." ~ John 18:37
“Christ Jesus, I acknowledge you King of the universe. All that has been created has been made for You. Make full use of your rights over me. Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer you my efforts in order to obtain that all hearts may acknowledge your Sacred Royalty, and that thus the Kingdom of your peace may be established throughout the universe” ~ Amen