RECOGNIZING THE KINGSHIP OF CHRIST IN OUR LIVES BY LIVING A LIFE OF LOVE
The Thirty Fourth Sunday in ordinary time marks the end of every liturgical year. Most importantly, it is the Solemnity of Christ the King. Global Alzheimer’s disease is the reason behind the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King. It was Pope Pius XI who instituted this feast in his encyclical “Quas Primas” written on December 11,1925. He brought the Feast of Christ the King into the liturgy in 1925 to bring Christ, his rule and Christian values back into lives of Christians, into society and into politics.
We may recall that at this time, the world was still recovering from the devastation caused by the First World War. Everywhere the Pope looked, he saw human societies abandoning Christian values as they try to build a world independent from God and based solely on human powers and resources. With this dark backdrop in mind, he instituted this feast to remind the world that Jesus is the true King, and he is the only hope for the salvation of the world. The Feast was to serve as a reminder to the totalitarian governments of Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin that Jesus Christ is the only Sovereign King.
THE FIRST READING from Ezekiel introduces God as a Shepherd reminding us of Christ’s claim that he is the good-shepherd-king, leading, feeding and protecting his sheep. The prophet Ezekiel was consoling the Jews exiled in Babylonia, explaining that their exile had been caused by infidelity and disloyalty to God on the part of their Kings and leaders. The Lord through prophet Ezekiel reassures us of his continuous care for us: “I am going to look after my flock myself… I shall be a true shepherd to them…” One remarkable thing about this reading is that for nine times, the personal pronoun “I” was employed. First, this is to convey God’s personal interest in his flock. Second, this was to prove his promises already fulfilled in Jesus Christ in our time.
IN THE SECOND READING, St. Paul presents Christ as the all-powerful ruler-king who raises the dead and to whom every form of power and authority must eventually give way. The reading speaks about the true goal of life is living in Christ and sharing the Resurrection of Christ. In the end, everything will according to the will of God and living according to God’s plans. So why do we have freedom? So that we can freely give ourselves to the Lord and to the following of the Lord’s ways. God is so patient with us and so willing to keep working with us, even when that work means destroying the parts of us that resist His will and His plans for us.
GOSPEL - Nowadays, Alzheimer’s disease has become so common. Many people are becoming forgetful about so many things, particularly about God. How many of us still remember the truth that “the earth is the Lord’s and all it holds, the world and those who dwell in it” (Ps 24:1)? Everything comes from God, even the dirt that we stand on. The Psalmist says “The earth is the Lord’s and its fullness thereof”. As the first Book of Chronicles said, “Yours, O Lord, are greatness and might, majesty, victory and splendor. For all in heaven and on earth is yours; yours, Lord, is kingship; you are exalted as head over all. Riches and glory are from you, and you have dominion over all” (1Chro 29:11-12). It would mean very little, however, if we believed Jesus was King of the universe, but did not make him Lord of our lives: all this is empty if we do not personally accept Jesus and if we do not also accept his way of being King. And His way is the way of LOVE!!!
The proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom dominated the preaching and teaching of Jesus and also of his apostles. Now the proclamation of the Gospel has been passed on to us. And we proclaim the coming of the Kingdom not so much in words as in our lives. We proclaim it by our peace, love and joy. We express our gratitude for being called to be a citizen of this Kingdom by being happy, happy to be me. We proclaim the coming of the Kingdom by “earthy mysticism,” by living an ordinary earthly existence while “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”
As Pope Pius XI wrote: “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… That these blessings may be abundant and lasting in Christian society, it is necessary that the kingship of our Savior should be as widely as possible recognized and understood, and to that end nothing would serve better than the institution of a special feast in honor of the Kingship of Christ.” (Quas primas, #19, 21) This feast is all the more necessary in our time. The world has grown from bad to worse. It is said that when you reject someone, at least you still consider him as an existent being. But when you ignore him, it simply means he does not anymore exist in your life. This is what is happening in the world nowadays. People do not anymore reject God; they simply ignore Him. They have all the time to have fun, watch television and indulge in all sorts of worldly activities and vices, but they do not have a minute to spare for God. In today’s world, it is our indifference that is hurting Jesus the most.
Today’s Gospel from Saint Matthew tells us that the way that we treat others is the way that we treat Jesus Christ Himself. We know that intellectually but oftentimes pay no attention to it in our daily lives. We are challenged to see Christ in each other person, especially those who most irritate us and cause us negative feelings and reactions. That is why Jesus always tells us to love our enemies. It is easy to love our friends.
“Pope Francis told Poland’s Catholic clergy [in July 2016] that the key challenge of the Gospel is that it remains unfinished—that Jesus looks to us to ‘take concrete care’ of his wounds by serving our brothers and sisters, ‘those close at hand and those far away, the sick and the migrant. [The Gospel] remains an open book that we are called to write by the works of mercy we practice. By serving those who suffer, we honor the flesh of Christ,’ Francis exhorted. How do we treat the downtrodden and the helpless in our midst?
Unfortunately, we live in a world that is gradually becoming alien to the command of Love given to us by Jesus. We love things and use people! We tend to take advantage of other people’s misfortune and conditions to exploit them. We need to ask ourselves how then do we wish to make an impact with the faith we profess? How do people belong to this kingdom? In answering this, Jesus said that it is not like membership to a group or clan, nor is it by appointment, family lineage or inheritance. It is not something easily recognizable and quantifiable: “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Lk 17:20-25). Membership in God’s kingdom is open to all people, but with one condition: obedience to the will of God.
In other words, the first one to be born into the kingdom of God is Jesus Christ himself, true God and true man, mainly because of his total and unconditional love and obedience to the will of the Father. After Christ, we, too, can be members of this kingdom if we just obey God’s will in our lives and love as He loves. Jesus summarized God’s will by saying: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” The only formula to gain entrance into God’s kingdom is love. To belong to the kingdom of God, to become true and loyal subjects of Christ the King, there is no need for any other ID or external sign or membership badge. The only mark that will give us admittance to His Kingdom is love. Jesus said: “By this shall all men know you as my disciples: your love for one another.”
On the other hand, those who are condemned to everlasting fire are those who do not follow the will of God, which is basically obedience to the command of love. This is mainly due to selfishness, pride, arrogance and unbridled materialism. These are the direct enemies of love.
We honor Christ as the King of the Universe by enthroning him in our hearts and allowing him to take control of our lives. This feast challenges us to see Christ the King in everyone, especially those whom our society considers the least important, and to treat each person with love, mercy and compassion as Jesus did. The Solemnity of Christ the King is not just the conclusion of the Church year. It is also a summary of our lives as Christians. On this great Feast, let us resolve to give Christ the central place in our lives and to obey His commandment of love by sharing our blessings with all his needy children.
Let us conclude the Church year by asking the Lord to help us serve the King of Kings as He presents Himself in those reaching out to us. "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His Blood and made us a Kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 1:5b-6). Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat! Christ conquers! Christ rules! Christ reigns!
Let us pray in this Mass that the Lord may grant us all the graces we need to become true and loyal followers and servants of Jesus, the Eternal King.