Jesus is a shock to the senses. One doesn’t have to read the gospels long to find Him challenging existing authorities, breaking social norms, and generally turning convention upside down. The last shall be first; one must lose his life to save it; etc. This past Sunday, just as He did nearly 2000 years, Jesus hung on a cross, flipped our notion of what it means to be a king on its head, and destroyed death itself by dying.
A King Like David. Perhaps the greatest king of the Old Testament, called a man after God’s own heart, David is anointed king of Israel in the first reading. He rises to power as a natural leader of men and goes on to be a great military commander. This is who the Jews expected Jesus to be. Even John the Baptist had his doubts. “John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” (Luke 7:18-19). Jesus wasn’t at all what they expected.
He’s a Joke. Naked, beaten, mocked, and abandoned, Jesus hangs on the cruelest and most humiliating of torture devices between two common criminals in a garbage dump. Some king, huh? But in the gospel reading, Jesus offers a glimpse into this most active part of His ministry, the salvation of all mankind. In response to a simple profession of faith, Jesus replies (to us all), “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). However, to onlookers it must have sounded like the delusional utterance of a dying lunatic. Little did they know…
He’s Who?! Imagine actually witnessing the events in the gospel reading, or perhaps hearing them for the first time. What would you think? How would you react? One might find it all a bit hard to believe. In the second reading, St. Paul uses perhaps the strongest and clearest language in all the epistles to explain to the Colossians exactly who Jesus is. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. In him all the fullness was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:15, 18, 19). Do we get that today? Do we really know who Jesus is?
Catholicism 101. Pope Pius XI universally instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 in his encyclical Quas Primas. Pope Pius connected the denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism. At the time, secularism was on the rise, and many Christians, even Catholics, were doubting Christ’s authority, as well as the Church’s, and even doubting Christ’s existence. Pius XI, and the rest of the Christian world, witnessed the rise of dictatorships in Europe, and saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders. Just as the Feast of Corpus Christi was instituted when devotion to the Eucharist was at a low point, the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning, when the feast was most needed. In fact, it is still needed today, evidenced by its institution in many other Christian denominations.
Pius hoped the institution of the feast would have various effects. They were:
- 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).