Solemnity of Christ the King
25 November 2018
Deacon Les Ruhrmund
The Feast of Christ the King is a relatively recent addition to the liturgical calendar established by Pope Pius XI in an encyclical titled Quas Primas published in December 1925.
Originally the feast was celebrated on the last Sunday in October each year just prior to the Feast of All Saints but Paul VI in 1969 moved it to the last Sunday in the liturgical year just prior to Advent lending a stronger emphasis on Christ the King in his Second Coming at the end of time.
The feast was first introduced at a troubled time in the world as an antidote to increasing secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of politics, government and education; basically society governs itself as if God doesn’t exist. In many ways perpetuating humankind’s original sin.
Events happening around 1925 that prompted Pope Pius to institute the Feast of Christ the King included:
- The publication of Adolf Hitler’s personal manifesto Mein Kampf following his release from prison the year before
- Benito Mussolini had established a dictatorship in Italy
- Spain had experienced a coup d’état and a military dictator and seized absolute power (Miguel Primo de Rivera).
- And Joseph Stalin, on the death of Lenin, had begun the purge of his rivals to clear the way for his dictatorship of the Soviet Union
Troubled times indeed; the rise of new dictator kings with little respect or consideration for the sovereignty of God.
In the opening paragraph of Quas Primas, Pius wrote: “These manifold evils in the world are due to the fact that the majority of (people) have thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these have no place either in private affairs or in politics. As long as individuals and states refuse to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there will be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.”
Prophetic words that ring true today in our disordered world that largely excludes and does not acknowledge the authority, often not even the existence, of Christ the King.
A question for each of us on this feast day could be: In our lives, do we submit to the sovereignty of God in our thoughts, words and deeds?
There’s a great difference between believing in God and submitting to God.
If Jesus is king of our lives and really important to us, how often do we think about him? Or talk to him? If we only pay attention to Christ for an hour a week during Mass, we’re just paying lip service in our practice of Christianity and Christ is not our king.
If we keep Jesus out of our homes, work, play and social lives – he’s certainly not our king.
In the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus that we heard in the reading from John’s Gospel we get a glimpse of Pilate’s dilemma in encountering Christ which may well resonate uncomfortably in our own lives.
We know that Pilate was about the same age as Jesus and he must have had mixed feelings about his appointment as Governor of Judea. It was one of the most difficult places to govern in the Roman Empire because of the religious sensitivities of the Jews.
On the other hand, he probably thought that if he did a good job in Judea, it would set him up for greater success in the future.
But from the beginning almost everything went wrong for Pilate. At first he tried the strong-arm approach with the Jewish people who hate the Roman government with a passion. In an attempt to force Rome upon the people he ordered his soldiers to carry images of Caesar into the Jewish Temple.
In retaliation, 2000 praying Jews surrounded Pilate’s palace for 6 days and nights. Pilate threatened to massacre them, and in defiance these Jewish protesters knelt before him, stuck out their necks and dared him to do it. They had called his bluff. Enraged and humiliated, he ordered the images of Caesar in the Temple to be taken down.
Next Pilate tried the benevolent approach. Jerusalem needed a fresh water supply and Pilate agreed to build an aqueduct. But he financed this project with funds from the Temple treasury.
There was a riot, soldiers were called in, people were killed and Pilate received a scathing rebuke from Rome.
The Jews had the measure of Pilate and so when he was confronted with the problem of Jesus he was a little apprehensive, knowing that he couldn’t afford to make another mistake; afraid to prompt another riot.
He wasn’t looking to make the right decision; he wanted to make a decision that would best protect his own interests; not unlike many politicians.
In our lives, do we make decisions based on the integrity of our faith or rather decisions that are most expedient to our personal needs, desires and interests?
Pilate stands face to face with Jesus – but he doesn’t see him for who he is. We come face to face with Jesus in the Eucharist; do we see him as Christ the King of our lives or as an innocuous religious symbol?
Pilate questioned Jesus’s authority; his kingship. When we choose to follow our own road and play by our own rules without deferring to God, we too are questioning his authority.
In the closing paragraph of Quas Primas, Pius XI writes:
“If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all (people), purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all people, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds ….. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts …. (we must) love God above all things.”
That brings us back to today’s question: Do we truly acknowledge and pledge our allegiance to Christ the King in everything we say, think and do?