On this final Sunday of the Church's Year, we celebrate with great joy the Feast of Christ the King. And as always, we look to the future; the ultimate future when Jesus will return in glory for the final judgment. On this feast we celebrate God’s Kingdom – God’s Rule.
Pope Pius XI established this Feast in 1925 at a time when fascism was on the rise and the world was about to experience Hitler and Mussolini. How different Christ’s rule is from the ruthless governance of these men. Although these tyrants were not Kings, they reigned in ruthlessness and cruelty. And, even in death, still have the power to make the world shudder in fear. Will it happen again – to us, we hear ourselves asking?
Listen to what Jesus said regarding his Kingdom::
“My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over…but as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Then Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” And the truth that Jesus came to testify to was God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness, and God’s call to repentance.
Jesus’ Kingdom is not about ruthless power, or royal attendants, or all those things we think of when thinking of kings. Lumen Gentium describes Christ’s Kingship in these few words, “to reign is to serve.” Matthew's Gospel sums it up best, when it says: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, to give his life as a ransom for the many."
So what kind of king do we have anyway? The one who thinks of the other first even as He draws his final breaths. The one who dies for the other. The one to whom the criminal on the right asks, “Jesus remember me.”
That same king hears us today as we plead with Him. When we are facing a long illness. When someone close to us dies. When cancer returns after being in remission for years. When we regret the way we have lived our life and don’t know where to turn for forgiveness. “Jesus remember me.” He who mercifully extended forgiveness in the last moments of his life . . . remembers us.
This is our king and we are his subjects. So how will we serve him? I am the hungry person in the street weary and underfed; I am the waiting and the anxious friend; I am the resident in the nursing home, wheelchair-bound and alone; I am the confused and abused freshman; I am the teenager whose parents just divorced; I am the convicted man isolated in a prison cell. I am the least significant human person in need. These are the faces we are to serve . . .