The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today brings to a close this Year of Faith, which His Holiness Benedict XVI proclaimed as “a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world.” The Holy Father hoped that we would use this year “to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.” He hoped this renewed conversion to the Lord and this renewed enthusiasm for the faith would “arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope.”
Looking back on this Year of Faith, we must ask the obvious questions: Have I used it well? Have I come to a renewed conversion to Jesus Christ? Have I found a renewed joy and enthusiasm for the faith? Does a renewed conviction to profess the love of God now animate me? If the answer to these questions is no, we are not without hope, because our King has made “peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).
It is on the Cross that we see the immeasurable depths of the Lord’s love for each one of us; it was by his cross that he “delivered us from the power of darkness” and enlightened us with his gift of faith, as the baptismal ceremonies so poignantly demonstrate for us (Colossians 1:13). As with every gift, this gift requires a response; we are, of course, free to reject this gift and to live apart from God, but the correct response to this gift of faith is made in faith. What do I mean?
The Catechism of Catholic Church reminds us: “By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God. With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, "the obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5). No other gift demands such a response, but no other is so great or cost so much. As Benedict XVI reminded us, “Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him.”
In the first reading from the Second Book of Samuel, we heard a brief account of the consecration of David, the shepherd who slew Goliath and so defeated the army of the Philistines, as King of Israel (II Samuel 5:3). Many kings would succeed David and sit on his throne, but at the time of our Lord’s birth the throne of David was vacant, awaiting the fulfillment of the ancient promise given through the prophet Isaiah:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and for evermore (4:6-7).
Soon we will enter the season of Advent, when we will reflect on these words in a particular way. In the coming days, we will turn our thoughts to the One of whom the Archangel Gabriel declared: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
It is this Child, this King, whom we see today hanging on the Cross in order to save us from our sins. It is to this King that we must give the obedience of faith. If we hope to find the joy and enthusiasm of a renewed conversion, we must willingly submit to him in all things; we must seek to serve him, and not ourselves.
When Pope Pius XI decreed in 1924 the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, which we celebrate today, he wisely counselled, “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.” His words are true not only for society, but for families and individuals, as well. Do we not long for liberty, for peace, for harmony? Then let us place ourselves of Christ the King!
Pope Pius XI explained, at some length, his motivations for ordering the observance of this solemnity. I think you will find his motives no less true today than they were eighty-nine years ago:
…We shall minister to the need of the present day, and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society. We refer to the plague of anti-clericalism, its errors and impious activities. This evil spirit, as you are well aware, Venerable Brethren, has not come into being in one day; it has long lurked beneath the surface. The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God's religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences. We lamented these in the Encyclical Ubi arcano; we lament them today: the seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin. We firmly hope, however, that the feast of the Kingship of Christ, which in future will be yearly observed, may hasten the return of society to our loving Savior. It would be the duty of Catholics to do all they can to bring about this happy result. Many of these, however, have neither the station in society nor the authority which should belong to those who bear the torch of truth. This state of things may perhaps be attributed to a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict or oppose but a weak resistance; thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks. But if the faithful were generally to understand that it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from him, and would valiantly defend his rights.
What is more, Pius XI placed this Solemnity on a Sunday so that the laity “may in a spirit of holy joy give ample testimony of their obedience and subjection to Christ.”
We know that the obedience we are to give to Christ is, ultimately, the same obedience that led him to the Cross. He makes it clear that if we are to be in his service, we must take up cross each day – without exception – and follow him (cf. Luke 9:23). Yet we also know that to those who pledge their obedience to him and take up their cross, Christ Jesus will say, “Amen, amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
The conversion the Lord desires is full and complete, one that continually calls out for the Lord’s mercy, one by which we allow ourselves to entirely his and his alone. As we look upon Christ our King suspended on the Cross, our questions again return to us: Have I used the Year of Faith well? Have I come to a renewed conversion to Jesus Christ? Have I found a renewed joy and enthusiasm for the faith? Does a renewed conviction to profess the love of God now animate me? If the answer is no, there is still time for us to glory “in obedience to the commands of Christ” and “go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” (Prayer After Communion; Psalm 122:1).