The Reign of Christ: Light, Unity, Hope
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Homily, Feast of Jesus Christ King of the Universe, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Woodbridge, VA, November 21, 2021
Christ is King. Today’s feast celebrates him not only as king of each one of us, but also as king of society, king of the cosmos.
But why do we need a king? Today we live in a crisis of authority. The political profession seems discredited. Isn’t government a lesser evil? Aren’t there already enough bosses to have to accept yet another king?
For several reasons we need governing men, and not just as a lesser evil to avoid disorder. In the first place, we come into a world which we did not design, and which we receive from others. We need someone to introduce us to society, to its history and traditions, to give us a name and thus enable us to know ourselves. That is why the first authority is that of father and mother. And those who govern are called to remember what we have received as a society, to bear witness to a history and a shared project, to respect it, to honour it.
But man also needs authority because without it each one would go his own way, seeking his own good, without attending to the common good. Without someone to govern, we would be scattered like sheep that have lost their shepherd. And man needs to live together with others, even more than he needs air to breathe.
Finally, we need someone to govern us because our future is uncertain and unforeseeable. For in order to see the future we must take the whole into account, and this is the proper occupation of the ruler, who cultivates a long-term view. That is why it is so important that the king have successors: “the king is dead, long live the king”.
So, we need a king: to know who we are and what we have received; to live together; to open our future. We also understand that the ultimate answer to these questions can only come from God. Only He knows who we are and who we are called to be. Only He can hold us together. He alone knows our ultimate future and holds it in His hand.
Christ is King, then, because he came to bring us God and thus has the ultimate answer to all these questions.
First, He has come to teach us where we come from, He knows us fully and He knows what our name is and what we are called to. That is why we can trust him.
Today we are used to knowledge being the power of some over others. Whoever has data can manipulate, because they know how we will behave. Truth is confused with the interests and desires of the powerful.
But Jesus does not want our data in order to direct us but wants to reveal to us our name and our deepest identity. That is why, before Pilate, he confesses himself as king precisely because he bears witness to the truth. And the ultimate truth of man is that we are the image of God. The truth that this king reveals to us is that we are children, children of the king, and therefore the authority of this king is the authority of a father who wants to pass on an inheritance to us. His plan is to make us grow so that we may be in his full likeness, so that we may know the truth and the truth may set us free and we may reign with him.
Secondly, we need a King to keep us together, and Christ has come to gather the scattered children of God. It is in the interests of the powerful that we be separated. But not Christ, who has come to gather us together. Moreover, to give us unity he chose to share our life, to become one of us.
The story is told of King Christian X of Denmark who, during World War II, saw a German flag flying in violation of the concordat. When he announced that he would send a soldier to remove it, and the Germans replied that they would shoot the soldier, the king replied that the soldier would be him, the king himself. And he was not shot.
This is what happened with Christ the King, who came to fight as one of us, sharing our labors to give us a share in his glory, as St. Ignatius of Loyola said. The difference is that he did suffer, even unto death. His royal throne is the cross, and only when he approached the cross did he allow himself to be called king and to be conferred the title of king. And this was so because it was not enough for him to become a soldier, but he wanted the soldiers to become kings, so that they might reign with him. Christ is King not only because he is God, but also because he is our brother, and can be King of love, King of our hearts.
Finally, Christ is a king who looks to the future. He is not so much concerned with the short term as with a long view. And Christ’s future is the future that reaches beyond death. Only in the case of Christ has it been said of the same person, “The king is dead. Long live the king!” because he has died and risen, and in union of these two events lies the key to his kingship.
That is why whoever accepts Christ as king counts on the future. It is the future of faithfulness until death and it is the future of fruit. If we place in his hands our love as spouses, we know that this love will last. If we place in his hands our mission as parents, we know that we will be able to pass on the faith to our children, and eternal life.
Christ the King, because He reveals the truth to us, and we can perceive it by faith. Christ the King, because he has become one of us to keep us united, and this is what we practice in love. Christ the King, because he opens a new future to us, which is the future of hope. In faith, love and hope, the reign of Jesus is made effective in our lives.
And let us remember: Christ does not want to be king only of each of us separately, but he wants to be king of our family. We do not give him only our person, but we give him our time together, we give him our work and prayer and rest together.
There is a story of a king who returned to his kingdom after forty years of exile. When he received his servants, who had remained faithful, a very old man came up to him. The king asked him how old he was, and the old man said: forty. It was an improbable figure, so the king smiled and wanted to know how it was so. “I do not count as life,” replied the old man, “the years I could not serve my king.”
This we can say of Jesus the King. There is life only if He is king, because only then do we know the truth of who we are, only then do we understand the truth of our love, only then does a shared future open in hope. If we want all this, let us choose Christ as king. He alone has life because He brings to fulfillment the deepest desires of the heart. And not only that, but He surpasses our desires. “The King is dead, long live the King!”