Sunday’s great feast of Christ the King is the last Sunday in the Church Year! Next Sunday the Church New Year begins.
In the First Reading, the prophet Ezekial criticised the kings of Israel for not being good shepherds of the people. He tells the Israelites that the Lord Himself will shepherd them. When He is amongst them, He will ensure that they are fed on good pasture and the sick and injured healed. This is a prophecy of the coming Messiah who will establish His Kingdom and feed the people with the Gospel and Sacraments. He will be the Good Shepherd who will look after the sheep. The Lord will punish the bad kings who grew strong at the expense of their flocks. Most of the Jewish kings, were in fact bad kings.
St Paul in the Second Reading explains the importance of the Resurrection; because Christ is risen we also will rise one day. Through the Redemption Jesus undid the sin of Adam and Heaven, shut through Original Sin, was opened once again and Sanctifying Grace restored.
With the establishment of the Church and under the power of the Holy Spirit, the pagan world of old was changed. Western culture was formed by Christianity. This culture recognized the evil of war, racism, abortion, infanticide, and slavery. In some non-Christian nations, slavery still persists, even to this day. The Catholic Church established the first hospitals and universities. It recognized and protected the dignity of every person, and the Common Law was based on the Ten Commandments.
In the 20th Century however, leaders were beginning to exclude Christ and Christian values from the public life. The rise of Communism under Josef Stalin who came to power in 1924 saw this escalate. From 1928 until World War II, this totalitarian dictator shuttered churches and ordered the killing and imprisonment of thousands of religious leaders, in an effort to eliminate even the concept of God. In Italy, the fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, became Prime Minister in 1922 until his deposition in 1943. In Germany, fascism was also on the rise and in 1933 fascist dictator Hitler came to power, until his suicide in 1945.
Feast of Christ the King of the Universe
It was due to the rise of these anti-Christian ideologies and the rejection of the empire of Christ, that Pope Pius XI wrote the encyclical letter in 1925 establishing the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe. Anti-Christian leaders were treating the one Church established by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as just one of many different religions. Some nations thought that they could dispense with God and that religion should be under the power of the State. Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 had warned the world about the spread of atheism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies atheism as a violation of the First Commandment, calling it “a sin against the virtue of religion”(ccc.2125).
The Feast of Christ the King reminds us that Christ is the King of Kings, our only Saviour. His is a Spiritual Kingdom and He wishes His Will to reign in us. The only crown he wore was crown of thorns, the only throne he sat on was the Cross, the only sceptre He held in His hand, was the reed put there by the soldiers who mocked Him. The only robes were the ones put on Him by the Roman soldiers who struck Him and spat on Him. But the Crucified Jesus is the fulfilment of the first reading.
Our time on earth is a preparation for our definitive encounter with the Christ as Judge and Heaven which awaits the good. Human pride is abhorrent before God. Someone who came to understand this is St Francis of Assisi in Italy, who was born around 1181 and died in 1226. He grew up in a wealthy family, but he was very worldly in his youth and was the leader of young people who would spend their nights in wild parties. St Francis would say later that at that time of his life, he was living in sin. He had a dream of becoming a knight, so he enlisted in the war between Assisi and the neighbouring Perugia. He has a suit of armour made which was decorated in gold. Due to his lavish armour, he was immediately recognized as a target to be captured for ransom by the enemy. This happened and he was held prisoner for almost twelve months until his father paid his ransom. During this time, St Francis has a dream where Jesus taught him that he had his priorities all wrong. He turned to prayer and grew greatly in his faith. Upon his return to Assisi, Francis renounced his wealth and embraced poverty. He experienced very stiff opposition from his father, who ended by disinheriting and disowning him. However, Francis was undeterred; he wore a rough habit and lived a life of prayer, poverty and self-denial. Many young men joined him in the new life of renunciation. It was not long before he died at the age of 45, that Francis received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ. By then the Franciscan Order was established and there were thousands of members. Francis introduced the tradition of the Christmas Crib and also the Angelus. St Francis of Assisi started off badly, but through the power of God’s grace and by his total self-renunciation became one of the greatest saints of the Church. The Franciscans claim that St Francis now sits on the vacated throne of Lucifer. If we remove the pebble of our own will and allow Christ the King to reign in us, with His Will, we also can become great saints. Praise be Jesus Christ, King of the universe!
Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever!