Master of the Universe

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (B)

The great Solemnity of Christ the King is celebrated on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, before we begin a new liturgical year with the start of Advent. It is fitting that we end the year with a triumphant reminder that the Christ whose coming we await during Advent already reigns supreme over the entire Universe.

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Remembering the Kingdom

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (C)

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One of the things I’ve always appreciated about the Catholic Church is her universality. The Church knows no borders. She is bigger than our national, ethnic and political divides. It is good to be reminded of this always, especially during times of division in our society.

This is why the Church was able to become such a powerful force in Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire. It was the only institution that transcended the boundaries of every kingdom. And it kept the kings in check. No matter how powerful or ambitious any human ruler became, there was always the Church to remind them that there was something more powerful yet.

It’s common these days for folks to look back on the past and denounce the Church of that era for being too involved in government and the politics of secular society. And that criticism is not without historical foundation.

But when we evict the Church from the secular world, what do we leave in its place? When we no longer accept God as our Master, we don’t become free. We become slaves to other, smaller masters. When we no longer recognize Jesus as Savior, we look for salvation in other, smaller saviors.

One of the things that bothered me the most in the 2008 presidential election was the near-Messianic status that Barack Obama’s supporters endowed him with. He promised Change. He offered Hope. He was going to be the magic pill that united our nation. He was going to make everyone’s lives better. His supporters seemed almost cult-like in their following, and that worried me. I recalled Psalm 146, which warns us to “put no trust in princes.”

Fast forward to 2016. If there was one silver lining to this presidential election, it was that no one (or very few at least) was tempted to make either candidate into a Messiah.

Our campus ministry volunteers every Tuesday afternoon at the Community Table. One of the things I like about going there is that it puts me in contact with people from all sorts of backgrounds — and I don’t just mean the people that we serve. The other volunteers we work with run the gambit from staunch conservatives to far-left liberals, with plenty of apolicital unaffiliateds. As we served meals to the hungry on Tuesday Nov. 8, all of us shared the same concerns about the election: we were afraid that someone might win.

Someone did win. Now a significant number of our population thinks it was the wrong person. There are protests and demonstrations. There has been violence. Rightly or wrongly, people belonging to certain demographics are afraid. Some of that fear may be warranted; some is no doubt overblown. But it is real fear, nonetheless. We, as Christians, do not have the luxury of belittling the fears of others. We are called to be a healing balm, to offer hope and peace.

I think one cause of our national angst is a tendency we have developed of making our political candidate into a savior and turning the opposing candidate into a demon. When this is how we practice politics, it is no wonder people despair when their party loses. We like to think of our country as paradise. Maybe we think it is paradise already or maybe we want to change it into a paradise. Either way, we don’t like trouble in our paradise.

What can we do as a Church to sooth people’s fears and work toward healing in our nation? The only answer is to look beyond our nation, to direct our gaze to something — to Someone — who is greater than our fears. We need to remember that God is bigger than the Republican Party, God is bigger than the Democratic Party, God is bigger than America, and indeed the whole world. As St. Paul puts it in his letter to the Colossians, “For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:16-17).

We may be members of a political party; we may be citizens of our country. We may be members of an ethnic class. But beyond all of that, we are citizens of a kingdom. And unlike the mighty Roman Empire, which fell, and even our great nation of America, which will also one day fall, Christ’s kingdom is everlasting. It will not fade away. Is our place in that kingdom secure? If so, then we have nothing to fear.

America may be many good things, but she is not heaven. And no politician is Jesus Christ. The best thing I think we, as a Church, can offer people in this time of turmoil is a heavenly perspective; a perspective that recognizes, as we do today, that Christ is King. We should work, first and foremost, to be faithful citizens of His kingdom. Only then we will have peace, knowing that we will never be lost.

So let our prayer today and every day be that of the good thief on the cross, who recognizing his own sins and inability to save himself, called out to Christ in faith, hope and love, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Lk 23:42).
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Gospel for Today: Christ the King

REMINDER:  In place of our normal Credo discussion after Mass today (4:00pm) we will instead car pool over to St. Mary’s to hear a special presentation on Byzantine Advent traditions by Fr. Deacon Matthew Hanes, a visiting Ukrainian Catholic deacon from the St. Basil the Great Greek-Catholic mission in Charlotte, from 5:30-6:30.


THE SOLEMNITY OF JESUS CHRIST KING OF THE UNIVERSE (A)


Today the Church celebrates the great Solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe, often called simply “Christ the King.”  This solemnity was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to the secularism that he saw rampant in the world during his time.  He believed the world needed a reminder of Who was really in authority (a reminder which is still needed today).

It is fitting that this great feast falls on the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, before we begin our Advent season of preparation in anticipation of the birth of a newborn King in Bethlehem.  Jesus Christ was King of the Universe already at His humble birth, but very few recognized Him as such at the time.  When Christ comes again in glory at the end of time, His authority will be universally recognized.  All will live in the light of His reign.
Today in our gospel we are given a preview of that that day will be like (Mt 25:31-46).  Jesus speaks of the Son of Man (one of His many titles) coming in glory and sitting upon His throne, with all the nations assembled before Him.  We tend to think of kings and other powerful figures of basking in the limelight.  But not in this case.  Christ the King is the light, and He shines His light upon us.  This is why so much attention is given in today’s gospel reading not to Christ, but to you and I.  We see all peoples from every nation, every last one of us, being judged.  The King will separate us out, the sheep from the goats.  The sheep will go to His right, into eternal life, while the goats will go to the left, into eternal punishment.  
How will the King determine who is a sheep and who is a goat?  He will judge us according to the love we have shown our neighbors during our lives — specifically, the least of our neighbors.  Have we clothed the naked?  Have we fed the hungry?  Have we visited the sick and those in prison?  Have we ministered to their needs?  For, as Christ tells us, whatever we do for the least of His people, thus we do (or do not do) for Him.  We will be judged according to how we loved.
Most Christians know this gospel passage.  It is a poignant reminder for us to love our neighbors.  But why does the Church present it to us here, on the Solemnity of Christ the King?  Shouldn’t the readings be something about Christ’s glory and might and power and divinity?  Where is the triumph?  Where is the kingship?  This gospel reading seems to be more about us and how we ought to behave.  And that is rather the point.
Pope Pius XI established this feast to combat secularism.  Secularism is a way of life that leaves God out of man’s thinking.  The secular person organizes his or her life as if God did not exist.  Christ makes no difference to his or her actions.  Today’s celebration reminds us that we cannot allow our lives to become secularized.  We must always and everywhere remember that Jesus Christ always was, is now, and ever shall be King of all Creation.  He is ruler over all, and that makes a difference as to how we live our lives.
Living our lives as subjects of Christ the King means ever striving to be a sheep in His flock (not a goat).  Living in the light of Christ means seeing Jesus in the least of our brethren and treating them with the love that Christ has for them.  It makes a difference in our behaviors and actions, in how we relate to others, each and every day.
We become different when we acknowledge Christ as our King. We treat others differently.  We love differently.  Today, let us renew our commitment to serving the King of the Universe, the King of us all.  
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King. A plenary indulgence is granted, if it is recited publicly on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ King.
Prayer:
Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.
Prayer Source: Enchiridion of Indulgences , June 29, 1968

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

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