CHRIST THE KING (Dn 7:13-14; Rv 1:5-8; Jn 18:33b-37)
In the 1920s, a totalitarian regime gained control of Mexico and tried to suppress the Church. To resist the regime, many Christians took up the cry, "Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”) They called themselves "Cristeros." The most famous Cristero was a young Jesuit priest named Padre Miguel Pro. Using various disguises, Padre Pro ministered to the people of Mexico City. Finally the government arrested him and sentenced him to public execution on November 23, 1927. The president of Mexico (Plutarco Calles) thought that Padre Pro would beg for mercy, so he invited the press to the execution. Padre Pro did not plead for his life, but instead knelt holding a crucifix. When he finished his prayer, he kissed the crucifix and stood up. Holding the crucifix in his right hand, he extended his arms and shouted, "Viva Cristo Rey!" (“Long live Christ the King!”) At that moment the soldiers fired. The journalists took pictures.
The Church’s liturgical year concludes with this feast of Christ the King, instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, 2 years before Fr.Migual Pro was martyred. This feast was established and proclaimed by the Pope to reassert the sovereignty of Christ and the Church over all forms of government and to remind Christians of the fidelity and loyalty they owed to Christ, who by his Incarnation and sacrificial death on the cross had made them both adopted children of God and future citizens and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ is our spiritual King and Ruler who rules by truth and love.
In thousands of human hearts all over the world, Jesus still reigns as King. The Cross is his throne and the Sermon on the Mount, his rule of law. His citizens need obey only one major law: “Love God with all your being, and love others as I have loved you.” His love is selfless, compassionate, forgiving, and unconditional.
Jesus admits that he is a king but declares that his Kingdom is not of this world. Neither his present nor his future reign operates according to the world’s criteria of power and dominance. Jesus’ Kingdom, the reign of God, is based on the beatitudes, and he rules through service rather than through domination. His authority is rooted in truth, not in physical force. Jesus also claims that he has come to bear witness to the truth about a larger and eternal Kingdom.
In the first part of the trial conducted by Pilate he questions Jesus about his kingship. Jesus boldly affirms to Pilate that He is that Son of Man who will come on the clouds of heaven as a king. In effect, Jesus is saying, "Don't worry, Pilate. I'm not here to take your job, or to dethrone Caesar, for my kingdom is not political but spiritual. It's not on your maps!" When Jesus affirms that His whole purpose is to testify to the truth, Pilate cynically asks, "What is truth?"
In Verse 37 Pilate declares, "You are a king, then!" In some ways, this is another wrong question. Jesus turns it around: "You are saying that I am a king." With that statement Jesus is again putting Pilate on trial: "You have said it, but is it what you believe?"
Here is a story that illustrates what is going on in this dialogue between Jesus and Pilate:
An Amish man was once asked by an enthusiastic young evangelist whether he had been saved, and whether he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior?
The gentleman replied, "Why do you ask me such a thing? I could tell you anything. Here are the names of my banker, my grocer, and my farm hands. Ask them if I've been saved." Jesus could tell Pilate anything. What is important is what Pilate believes.
Do we believe Jesus to be the King by our actions more than our words?
As we celebrate the Kingship of Christ today, let us remember the truth that he is not our King if we do not listen to him, love him, serve him, and follow him. We belong to his Kingdom only when we try to walk with him, when we try to live our lives fully in the spirit of the Gospel and when that Gospel spirit penetrates every facet of our living. We become Christ the King’s subjects when we sincerely respond to his loving invitation: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart" (Matthew 11:29). By cultivating in our lives the gentle and humble mind of Christ, we show others that Jesus Christ is in indeed our King and that he is in charge of our lives.
In every moral decision we face, there’s a choice between Christ the King and Barabbas, and the one who seeks to live in Christ's Kingdom is the one who says, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” On this great Feast of Christ the King, let us resolve to give him the central place in our lives and promise to obey his commandment of love by sharing what we have with all his needy children.