Christ the King A 2023: November 26, 2023

John 18:33b-37

Fr. John Tran

This feast of Christ the King is a relatively modern feast. By the 1920s, Pope Pius XI (eleventh) saw that more and more the western world was becoming secularistic, that is, that the values which society believed in and lived by were not based on religious faith, but on purely worldly values. For instance, value was placed on power, wealth, and domination, rather than on peace, valuing the individual, or spiritual realities. In a few short years governments in Europe, especially Italy with Mussolini and Germany with Hitler, would become interested only in economic success, racial superiority and world domination. In 1925 Pope Pius XI instituted a new feast, that of Christ the King, to call people back to the values of Christian belief. He wanted people of good will to remember that what was of lasting value was not here on earth, but in God who is in heaven. Therefore, the feast of Christ the King called to mind that our leader is Jesus Christ, God and Man, who is the goal of our life, and that one day we would continue life, not here in this world, but in heaven with God, in a kingdom not of this world.

The first reading from the Book of Daniel sets the scene for Christ the King. The title ‘Son of Man’ had come by Daniel’s time to refer to the Messiah. So the “one like a Son of Man” is a way of speaking of the Anointed One who would bring salvation to Israel. Daniel lives in a particularly harsh time when Israel was under the domination of the Persians. The Persian king was doing everything he could to wipe out Israel’s allegiance to God. They wanted the Jewish people to be just like the Greek culture popular at that time. So, Daniel, through his visions and dreams, reminds the Jews that the Lord God has not forgotten them and will come to save them. For us Christians, Daniel reminds us that this world is not the end of it all, not the purpose for which we live. We live for Jesus Christ to come again to perfect our world; in fact, this has already begun with Jesus time among us, and our meeting with him when we pass out of this world.

And this message and good news is continued in the second reading from the Book of Revelation. This book is the same kind of writing as the Book of Daniel in which future realities are presented as a dream of vision. Jesus is our faithful witness to the reality which has taken place already due to his life, death, and resurrection among us. He is for us “the Alpha and the Omega...the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.”

The realities spoken of in visions in the first two reading begin with the dialogue we hear in today’s Gospel from St. John. Here is Jesus before Pilate when the Jews are asking for him to be crucified. The Roman governor wants to make sure that the Jews are not just using him to solve some religious dispute because claiming to be a king is a crime against Caesar and punishable by death. Pilate does not want to be used, so he questions Jesus himself in private. He asks Jesus if he really is a king. And in the end, Jesus tells him that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world; if it were, them none of this would be happening because his attendants would be fighting for him. Jesus says, “As it is, my kingdom is not here.” Then Jesus gives his purpose, “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”’

St. Augustine has Jesus as saying: ‘Listen, all you kingdoms of the earth! I am not competing with your dominions in this world. Don’t be afraid like Herod and be pushed into killing children.’ The thing is, that if Jesus’ Kingdom does not belong to this world, then those who follow him do not belong to this world either. They are in the world in this existence, but not of it. We, his followers, do make his kingdom present in this world. This is our mission, our life as the Body of Christ. We are his kingdom here until the end of time. Then the angels will harvest the wheat and the weeds, and we of his kingdom, will join him in that kingdom not of this world. This is the reality which Pope Pius XI wanted us to celebrate with this feast of Christ the King, that our goal in not here, but in making present in a limited way the Kingdom that is not of this world. We take with us now the truth and reality of God’s presence as expressed by St. Patrick:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom...

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.