Pope Pius XI inaugurated Christ the King Sunday in 1925, when the authority of the church was evidently waning in the world. Of course nearly ninety years later, the “authority” of the church, or even just the “place” of the church in the world seems to be growing even more irrelevant. Whatever the original intent and motive of Christ the King Sunday, one might be tempted to think that this is the Church’s last effort to stem the tide, and regain a position of power and influence in the world.
However, the Solemnity of Christ the King makes no attempt to do this. The Gospel of the Feast is nothing less than Jesus nailed to the cross. Hardly the choice of a church seeking to reflect earthly power and glory or portraying Jesus as some mighty and all-powerful king.
When we were baptized, we were baptized priest, prophet and king. It’s the last term I want to focus on, king. What does it mean to be “king” or to “reign” with Jesus? What kind of King is He? Jesus didn’t reign from a position of political and military strength. He is King as Servant-King. That’s what it means to be a king with Jesus.
“Jesus summoned them and said: You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.
I know lots of people who are angry at those who write off the Church. There will always be those who attack the Church. Sometimes the Church and her leaders, and even the scandalous behavior of people who claim to be Catholic, have given the media plenty of ammunition to use against us. There are all kinds of venom on social media mocking Christianity. I personally think it’s a waste of time to argue with these folks. What they need is to see the servant-church in action.
We especially see it in this week’s Gospel passage this Sunday, where Jesus responds to Pilate: “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.” Jesus is saying: My kingdom is not from this world, and therefore no one is fighting for me. Because in my kingdom we don’t do that. And, even in the vision of John in Revelation even in victory over the forces of darkness and evil, Christ is still the lamb at the center of the throne, still the sacrificial lamb.
Let’s face it, from the perspective of the world we are powerless. Powerless to raise perfect children, have the perfect home, attain the perfect job, and minister in the perfect church; powerless to impress all the neighbors; powerless to change the past, things done to us, and things done by us. We are powerless to stop death from taking us or our loved ones to the grave. Nothing makes us frustrated than being powerless. Nothing makes us want to point the finger of blame when we are powerless. Nothing makes us sink into a pool of despair and denial than powerlessness, or makes us want to launch a missile and start a war like the reality of our vulnerability staring us in the face.
BUT, the truth is, our power does not stem from worldly power, but from the power of the Cross, the power that comes from being a servant-church. No army has ever defeated the power of darkness and evil. No bomb has ever held off the power of death. But…Jesus did, and He has entrusted the power of His cross and resurrection to us, His Church. Let’s use it…. Let’s be a servant church.
“Then the king will say to those on his right: Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him and say: Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you? And the king will say to them in reply: Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” Matthew 25:24-40
God bless you, Fr. Dennis