5/91.1 A Reign of Justice and Love.
The Lord will reign for ever and will give his people the gift of peace. These are the words of today’s Communion Antiphon.
The Solemnity of Christ the King is as it were a synthesis of the entire salvific mystery. This feast brings the liturgical year to a close. Over the past months we have celebrated the mysteries of the life of the Lord. Now we contemplate Christ in his glorified state as King of all Creation and of our souls. The feasts of the Epiphany, Easter and the Ascension also relate to Christ as King and Lord of the Universe, but the Church has wanted to have this feast as a special remembrance to modern man, who seems somewhat indifferent to his supernatural destiny.
The texts of Sunday's Mass emphasize the love of Christ the King. He did not come to establish his kingdom by force. His ‘weapons’ are goodness and a shepherd’s solicitude: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. The Lord tends to his lost sheep, to those men and women who have gone astray through sin. He takes care to heal their wounds. He goes so far as to die for his sheep. As King, He came to reveal God’s love, to be the Mediator of the new Covenant, the Redeemer of mankind. The kingdom which Jesus initiated works in its interior dynamism as ‘leaven’ and a ‘sign of salvation’ to build a more just, more fraternal world, one with more solidarity, inspired by the evangelic values of hope and of the future happiness to which all are called. Therefore, the Preface of today’s Eucharistic celebration speaks of Jesus who has offered to the Father ‘a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace’. This is what the Kingdom of Christ is all about. Each one of us is called to participate in this kingdom and expand it through our apostolate. The Lord should be present in our families, among our friends, neighbours and colleagues at work ... Against those who reduce religion to a set of negative statements, or are happy to settle for a watered-down Catholicism; against those who wish to see the Lord with his face against the wall, or to put him in a corner of their souls, we have to affirm, with our words and with our deeds, that we aspire to make Christ the King reign indeed over all hearts, theirs included.
5/91.2 Christ must reign in our mind, our will and our actions.
Oportet autem illum regnare ... For he must reign ...
St Paul teaches us that while Christ’s Kingdom is achieved in time and space, it will attain its definitive fulness at the Last Judgment. The Apostle depicts this epochal event as a rite of homage to the Father: Christ will present all Creation to him as an offering. Then all things will be subjected to his rule. His Second Coming will establish a new heaven and a new earth. He will thereupon vanquish the devil, sin, pain and death.
Meanwhile, we Christians cannot be passively waiting for these momentous events to unfold. We have to desire ardently the establishment of his kingdom: Oportet illum regnare! First of all, the Lord must reign in our mind, in our will and in our actions. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls. Our Lord and our God: how great you are! It is you who give our life supernatural meaning and divine vitality. For love of your Son, you cause us to say with all our being, with our body and soul: ‘He must reign!’ And this we do against the background of our weakness, for you know that we are creatures made of clay.
Today’s feast is an anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ in power and majesty. His glorious return will fill the hearts of his faithful with joy and wipe away every tear. This feast is also a summons for us to impregnate with the spirit of Christ all temporal realities. The Second Vatican Council has declared: The expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age.
Hence, while earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ’s kingdom, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God.
For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in his Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed from stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: ‘a kingdom eternal and universal ... ‘ On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower. We collaborate in the expansion of this kingdom whenever we make our ordinary world more human and more divine.
5/91.3 Extending the Reign of Christ.
Jesus replied to Pilate’s questioning: My kingship is not of this world ... At a later stage in the interview Jesus tells the Roman Procurator: I am a king. For this I was born ... Although the Reign of Christ is not of this world, it has its beginnings here. The Reign of Christ extends so far as there are men and women who know themselves to be children of God, who are nourished by him, who live for him. Christ is a King who has been given all power in Heaven and on earth, but He governs like one gentle and lowly of heart. His rule is to serve others. The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. His throne was a manger in Bethlehem and then was a Cross on Calvary. He is the ruler of kings on earthwhose tribute is the proof of our faith and love.
The first person formally to recognize Christ as king was a condemned criminal. He captured the Lord’s Heart with that humble request: Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power. This man was able to grasp the real meaning of Christ’s kingship even though it was the object of merciless ridicule from the clamouring throng. His faith deepened as Christ’s divinity became increasingly obscured. The Lord always grants us more than what we ask for. The thief merely asked to be remembered, but the Lord said: ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’. The essence of life is to live with Jesus Christ. And where Jesus Christ is, there is his Reign to be found.
Jesus speaks to us on the occasion of this solemn feast: For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Let us resolve to make our hearts conform to the Will of God. Let us ask his blessing on our efforts to extend his kingdom through our apostolate of friendship and confidence. This is the calling of Christians, that is our apostolic task, the desire which should consume our soul: to make this kingdom of Christ a reality, to eliminate hatred and cruelty, to spread throughout the earth the strong and soothing balm of love.
If we are to make these ideals into reality we must turn once again to Our Lady. Mary, the holy Mother of our king, the queen of our heart, looks after us as only she knows how. Mother of mercy, throne of grace: we ask you to help us compose, verse by verse, the simple poem of charity in our own life and the lives of the people around us; it is ‘like a river of peace’ (Is 66:12). For you are a sea of inexhaustible mercy.