Sunday, November 25, 2018
On this Feast of Christ the King, I wanted to share the homily delivered at my parish, St. Catherine of Siena in Norwood, Massachusetts by our holy and learned parochial vicar, Fr. Thomas Sullivan:
The Feast of Christ the King is of fairly modern origin in the liturgical life of the Church, having been established in only 1925. Pope Pius XI had good reason to remind the world of the Sovereign Kingship of Jesus Christ. For centuries, the united Christendom that grew from the remains of the Roman Empire was fracturing along national lines. Divisions were accelerated terribly by the Protestant Reformation and greedy rulers all too willing to sever ties with Pope and Emperor for their own gain. The following centuries saw bloody wars of religion, violent revolutions hostile to Faith, and the rise of secular and atheistic regimes. Everything came to a head with The Great War, the so-called War to End All Wars, the First World War.
Pope Pius XI witnessed Europe’s near suicide -- nominally Christian nations tearing each other apart in an utter failure of Justice, and Mercy, and Charity. Had these Christian men heeded the Holy Father’s warnings and recalled their baptismal brotherhood, perhaps they could have avoided what was soon to follow in an even more horrifying World War. Instead, godless Communism and National Socialism wrought havoc in the ruins of Christian Civilization.
Ideas have consequences… and those who would impart their own brand of order on the world, disconnected from the Truth about God and the human person, wind up imposing disorder and misery. Our Lord warns us of this in his words to Pilate when he says, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth.”
Pope Pius didn’t establish this great feast only to rebuke world powers. He provided it for the benefit of his spiritual children. The lessons of this feast apply to every human being. Christ’s kingly testimony to the truth is just as relevant to us. And we should listen attentively lest we introduce chaos into our own souls.
The One who comes to testify to the Truth about man is the One who created man. The One who reveals the truth about God, is God himself, incarnate in human flesh. Original sin brought with it the ultimate disorders: body separated from soul in death, and soul separated from God. Christ the King extends the scepter of his clemency to us. The King of the Universe overcomes sin and death as he mounts the throne of his cross. If we submit ourselves to his gentle rule, we will find our way into his heavenly courts.
What does the governance of Christ look like? As Creator he gives order to the whole universe, and everything from the stars in the sky to the smallest seed in the earth follow the course he has set for them. He writes the natural law upon our hearts, inclining man to the good, to life over death, truth over lies, and relationship over isolation.
Christ the King gives us Commandments to obey, laws laid down for our own happiness. Christ the King sits as Judge of the living and the dead, but as King he also extends his mercy towards us. But in his governance, Christ the King is not distant; he doesn’t rule only by dictate. Christ the King has become our exemplar. He willingly submits himself to the same rule.
If we were to describe the ideal earthly king, we’d speak of a man who was of high moral character, not exempting himself from the laws he enforces, just in his decisions and generous to the poor. A man of deep faith who, while occupying a high office, humbles himself before God. In war, we admire the king who leads his men in battle, fighting for a just cause and the protection of the innocent and weak. We want a king who is one of us, so we can aspire to be like him, but also a king who is greater than us, inspiring our confidence and devotion. That’s exactly who Christ is.
Christ the King lives what he commands; he keeps the Commandments without the slightest offense against Charity. Christ the King fights the good fight as one of us, willing to suffer in order to console the sorrowing, even laying down his life for our sake. Though he was the Son of God "he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped," and so in his human nature, Christ the King humbles himself in obeying the will of his heavenly Father. He inspires us to imitate him out of love, and gives us the grace to persevere in that likeness.
By virtue of our baptism, all the faithful share in the Kingship of Christ. How do you exercise that governance? As parents you raise your children to follow the commandments: loving God and giving him due worship, honoring father and mother, and loving your neighbor as your very self. In civil society, you seek to establish an order based on truth, enacting laws in harmony with the order God has put into the world, never violating human dignity. But most fundamentally of all, you exercise your share in Christ’s Kingly office by governing yourselves, by exercising virtue and avoiding sin.
The human soul is a battleground on which occurs a fight for your lives, eternally-speaking. If we allow Christ to rule in our hearts, we will find peace in this life and happiness in the next. If we finally cast down the idols we’ve enthroned in our hearts, then Christ will enter in and never leave us. It’s in the hearts and souls of men that Christ wishes to rule. And when such people come together in Love and Truth, a new Christendom is founded atop the old. The Kingdom of God is at hand.