Christ the King [B] 2012

Fr. Charles Irvin

Solemnity of Christ the King [B] 2012
Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33-37
 
I don’t know who first uttered these words but they set forth for us an important bit of wisdom:
 
If there is nothing above us
we will be consumed by all that is around us.
 
Our nation’s Founding Fathers recognized its truth when they wrote:
 
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
 
Our human dignity, rights, and freedoms come to us not from our President, our Congress or our Supreme Court, they come to us from God our Creator. No king, ruler, president or potentate confers them upon us. Perhaps that concept does not seem to be very bold to us today, but it was the foundation of our Declaration of Independence, the beginning of what back then was known as the American Experiment. Experiment? Yes! What our Founding Fathers asserted was radical because the people in the rest of our world were governed back then by kings, dictators, and totalitarians who ruled as if people were their possessions, as if their subjects belonged to them and not to God.
 
“If there is nothing above us
we will be consumed by all that is around us.”
 
The situation in our world was not much better in the early 1900’s, a time when World War I had been fought as well as a time when Communism, Nazism and Secularism were on the rise. And so it was that on December 11, 1925 Pope Pius XI established this Solemnity of Christ the King for the entire Catholic Church to be celebrated at the end of the Church’s liturgical year.
 
The popes in the 1800’s and 1900’s introduced other Church Solemnities with similar origins. When reverence and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament had grown cold, the feast of Corpus Christi was instituted. So, too, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was instituted at a time when men and women were oppressed by the sad and gloomy severity of the Catholic version of Puritanism known as Jansenism.
 
“If there is nothing above us
we will be consumed by all that is around us.”
 
As interesting as history may be, and as interesting as the context may be for the establishment of this liturgical Solemnity, we must pay attention to what is meant by the image of Christ as king. What sort of king are we being asked to recognize? What do we understand to be the kingship of Christ?
The first thing we must put behind us is, of course, our worldly understanding of kings. Christ as king differs from the kingship of human kings. Perhaps it would be better to say that Christ’s kingship transcends all human notions of what it means to be king. But there are similarities.
 
We Americans rebelled against England’s King George III, establishing as we did a democratic republic while rejecting any and all forms of monarchical government. Nevertheless we must recognize that while the subjects of a king owe him allegiance, a king owes duties to the people of his realm. In particular, and of the greatest importance, a king swears to provide his people with peace, security, and justice. It is the duty of a king to protect his people from their enemies. He has obligations toward his people. It is also the duty of a king to provide justice for his people. The social contract between a monarch and his or her subjects requires duties upon a king or queen. But in order for that to happen, the king or queen must rely upon the energy, resources and allegiance of his or her subjects. Unless his people give the king the needed wherewithal, he cannot discharge his duties.
 
As Christians we claim Jesus Christ to be our King. We find ourselves under His kingship. He will establish His justice and peace among us. But in order to do so, He relies on our allegiance, He relies on our cooperation, and He relies on the gift of our very lives and souls, in order to reveal His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
 
We have often heard words that challenge us to be “in the world but not of the world.” At first this sounds like a paradox but as Christians they call us to deeply and lovingly engage our surrounding world. Our Catholic faith calls us not to escape our world but rather to bring forth holiness amidst all that is unholy. Christ’s kingdom of priests (and that means you and I) are, in God’s power, to consecrate and sanctify it by bringing out our world’s original holiness, the holiness in which God created it. After all, “God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)
 
A few moments from now in our Eucharistic Prayer we will pray: “You are indeed holy, O Lord, and all you have created rightly gives you praise, for through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power and working of the Holy Spirit, you give life to all things and make them holy…” The world is your altar and mine, and down upon it we call a God-given empowerment to overcome consumerism, sexism, exploitation, injustice, and secularism. Far from fleeing this world we are to enter into it, all the while praying to our Father: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
 
This is the way it is in Christ’s kingdom. If Christ’s kingdom is to be revealed here on earth, made real in our world as it is in heaven, we must work to make it so. Do we expect God to be a “Big Daddy” God and give it all to us without any effort on our part, in spite of our indifference, our neglect, and even our rejection of Him? Such would be childish nonsense. Such would be foolish presumption. Such would be arrogance on our part, namely the expectation that God will do it all for us anyway, even though we pay scant attention to Him and give Him little, if anything, of our hearts and souls.
 
If there is nothing above us
we will be consumed by all that is around us.
 
If Christ is not our king then the principalities and powers of this world will rule us. We will have sold out to them, sold out our hearts and souls for the cheap glitz and glitter of fool’s gold. If God is not our Father and Christ is not our king then we shall have our own gods and goddesses, and they will give us nothing. In the end we will have betrayed ourselves and lost our citizenship in the everlasting kingdom of God.
 
Christ is our King so that the powers of this world cannot hold us in their grip. Our freedom is found in “the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God.” If Christ is not our king then we will be consumed by all that is around us.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”