The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 20, 2022 — Year C
Readings: 2 Sm 5:1-3 / Ps 122 / Col 1:12-20 / Lk 23:35-43
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. Why is this Feast Day of Christ the King placed at the end of the liturgical season? Today we finish with the Liturgical Year C, reading from the Gospel of Luke. We begin Year A next Sunday with the first Sunday of Advent and will switch to the Gospel of Matthew. Why Christ the King today?
Some background thoughts on the reasons for and need for this Feast:
Godless, atheistic nations and states rising in power, threatening their neighbors. God and Jesus forced out of the public forum and leadership, forced out of politics. Society and culture diminishing God. It’s not safe in some places to talk about Jesus. He’s kept in a small box at church or in your living room.
I’m not talking about society and the world today. I’m talking about 1925. In 1925, Pope Pius XI was looking out over the world in a post-World War I environment, and these are the evils that he saw. He, along with the Church, decided to create a Feast, a Feast to remind the faithful and the world where true power resides, where to place our allegiance and devotion. As we’re ending this cycle, this Liturgical Year, we’re punctuating this ending and transition time with this Feast of Christ the King.
But why not Christ the Risen or Christ Ascended or Christ the Shepherd? Christ the King is what the Church chose. It makes the point Pope Pius wanted to precisely make. Jesus is Christ the King, and He supersedes all worldly views of power and influence.
But He doesn’t look like a king. Imagine this scene from the gospels. There are people gathered around. Rulers were there, as were soldiers. Jesus was hanging there on the cross with criminals. The inscription above His head was, “This is the King of the Jews.” Almost all of these people were deriding Him, poking fun at Him. They were taunting Him with, “If you are the Christ, if you are the Chosen One, if you are the King of the Jews.” These three taunts mirror the three temptations that the devil gave to Jesus in the desert. (“If you are the Son of God, save yourself by turning these stones into bread, etc.”).
Remember also that the people of the Roman government of that day thought their methods were good, noble, kind, advanced, progressive, and fair. Jesus didn’t look like a king. He was a criminal, actually a slave. At that time, if you were not a Roman citizen and you did something against the state, you became a slave. He had no rights. Convicted slaves, for a crime that warranted it, were subject to the painful and humiliating death by crucifixion. (On the other hand, Roman citizens like the Apostle Paul were given a more humane sentence of beheading.)
Jesus was there on the cross as a slave with the criminals. He was poor, beaten, humiliated, crushed. He did not look like a king. He did not act like a king either.
We know that God is all-powerful. We know that Jesus is God. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians that we heard today, he describes Jesus: “He is…the firstborn of all creation. For in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”
Do you think He was scared to death of Pilate? Do you think He worried at all about what the emperor of that day might do? He is all powerful. Everything that exists, exists because of Him. He could care less about the emperor, or the governor, or the president, or the czar, as these are merely a speck of dust in time.
Jesus had and has infinite power. He could have annihilated everything in existence in the flick of a second while He was there on that cross. He could have called a host of angels to save Him and everyone that was hanging there. But He chose not to exercise that power. We think that kings portray force, power, superiority, dominance, and violence. But Jesus didn’t choose to lord power over us.
Even His closest disciple, Peter, did not comprehend what was going to happen. Jesus told His disciples that He was going to go to Jerusalem, going to suffer and die, going to rise again. Peter pulled Him aside and started to rebuke Him, saying that he would allow no such thing to happen. Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking as humans do, not as God does.”
Jesus did not choose power, but rather mercy. He allowed Himself to become powerless, to become a slave. He allowed Himself to become the sacrificial lamb. Why? To atone for our sins and to save all of us. His mercy is unbounded. The good thief, the one who recognized what was happening, only asked to be remembered: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” In His unbounded mercy, Jesus granted that thief eternal paradise with Him right then. His mercy is far beyond anything that we could comprehend.
Jesus did not act like any other ruler or king. But He’s the king I choose to follow: a king that loved me so much that He gave up everything. He suffered for me. He took all those insults and humiliation for me. He died, just for me and for you. That is my king and yours. Live that. Be His living example in a fallen world. Our society, our governments, think they are good, noble, kind, advanced, progressive, and fair, just like the Roman empire did. They are far from it, and they need our help.
Go in peace, glorifying God by your life. Serve our King in this world. Our baptism demands it. Jesus won’t be kept in a box, or here at church, or just in our living room. As if He could be. He can’t be contained.
This is the end of the Liturgical Year. I am here on Pope Pius’s behalf, to give an annual reminder that Jesus Christ is King. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.