The Solemnity of Christ the King is celebrated on the final Sunday of the Church’s Liturgical year. This is the Sunday before Advent. Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday of Ordinary Time. The weekdays that follow are also a part of Ordinary Time which ends on Saturday afternoon of that week, since the evening Masses of that Saturday signal the beginning of Advent. The feast celebrates the all-embracing authority of Christ as King and Lord over all creations.
The earliest Christians identified Jesus with the predicted Messiah of the Jews. The Jewish word “Messiah” and the Greek word “Christ” both mean “anointed one” and came to refer to the expected king who would deliver Israel from the hands of the Romans. Christians believe that Jesus is the expected Messiah, unlike the Messiah most Jews expected. Jesus came to free all people, Jew and Gentile, and He did not come to free them from the Romans, but from sin and death. Thus the King of the Jews and of all creation does not rule over a kingdom of this world.
Jesus Christ’s reign as King is celebrated to some degree in:
ADVENT – when we wait for His second coming in glory
CHRISTMAS – when “born this day” is the King of the Jews
HOLY WEEK – when Christ is the crucified King
EASTER – when Jesus is resurrected in power and glory. And the
ASCENSION – when Jesus returns to the glory He had with the Father before the world was created.
However, Pope Pius XI wanted specifically to commemorate Christ as King and universally instituted the Feast of Christ the King in the western calendar in 1925 in his encyclical Quas Primas. He hoped that the institution of the feast would have various effects, namely:
• That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom and immunity from the state [Quas Primas, 32]
• That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ [Quas Primas, 31].
• That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast, as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills and bodies [Quas Primas 33].
In this final Sunday, what does the word “King” mean to us? – Men of power and authority who rule over their subjects? Or men who play ceremonial roles with pomp and pageantry?
Today’s gospel celebrates Christ Kingship as an act of “judgement”. Jesus is a special kind of King. His way of judging is very different from what prevails in the world. This is what the feast celebrates – the “good news” for the poor of God’s standards of judgement. It is a call to repentance, since our judgements are often far removed from those of Jesus. It is also a call to surrender for it is through surrender we learn to extend ourselves in love to those who are needy because we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The Son of Man in His glory, escorted by all the angels takes His seat on the throne –a magnificent scene of King of kings, glorious triumphant with all the nations assembled before Him. What does He do? He separates people from one another. He says to them, “Come you whom the Father has blessed.” He calls them to take possession of the Kingdom. Why? – They performed the “Corporal Works of Mercy”.
The Corporal Works of Mercy allow us to become Christ for others because we have caught a glimpse of Christ in them.
Mother Church in her wisdom uses this feast to keep us focussed on the fact that Jesus is Lord of all and the glory of God the Father and that all of us are called to inherit the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world. This place is secured by the kind of relationship we choose to have with Him right NOW. Jesus says, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.”
Earthly kings and shepherds might have a hard time distinguishing the righteous from the unrighteous, but the Son of Man sees the truth where human beings are befuddled… “Lord when did we see you…?”
The King will render a true judgement. Now is a good time to ask ourselves: What are we becoming on this side of eternity, sheep or goat? Are we people who respond to the needs of the least or do we look away?
Sheep of one Shepherd will do God’s will, but those who refuse will do differently.
Today we Catholic Christians proudly celebrate Christ the King Sunday, where the loving and merciful—and just King of the universe is praised and glorified.
1. Practise the Corporal Works of Mercy.
2. Read Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quas Primas – On the Feast of Christ the King, which shows that secularism is the direct denial of Christ’s Kingship. – CERO Central /South for Archdiocesan Catechetical Office