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.
Unlike most of our great feasts, Christ the King is not an ancient observance. It was only instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, in response to the growing secularism of the day.
Secularism hasn’t gone anywhere since 1925. If anything, it has taken root more firmly in society. The word “secular” comes from the Latin word saeculum, which means a generation or an age. A secular worldview is one limited to what is immediately before us. Its focus is on the present age only, with no thought as to what might wait for us beyond the boundaries of time. Secularists either don’t believe in an afterlife, or don’t give it much thought.
Since secularists won’t allow themselves to be ruled by God, they end up being ruled by the powers of this age — secular powers. These come in many forms; political powers, economic powers, the powers of celebrity, the power of public opinion, or just the powers of our own passions. The rulers of this age are many, and they don’t like to have their power called into question.
How many of us have been told it is impolite to discuss religion? That it is a sensitive topic? A personal matter? Or been told that you can practice your faith in the privacy of your home or church, but you should keep it out of the public eye?
Secularism forces us to compartmentalize our faith. It tells us that God may reign over certain parts of our lives only, when we are in private, but can have no presence in the public world. Secularism is okay with God, as long as he is kept small and under control, and not allowed to bother anyone. Such a God is no God at all.
Master of the Universe
The full title of this Sunday’s feast reminds us that while Christ should reign in our hearts, he does not reign only in our hearts. He is King of the Universe. He is King of every nation, every tribe, every city and town, every workplace and classroom, every person no matter how old or young. His reign is universal, or to use the Greek term, it is catholic. There is no place in the universe that God is not sovereign over.
It’s important that we realize this, especially as Catholics. God is King of our lives always, regardless of the particular environment in which we find ourselves. This doesn’t mean you have to stand up in the middle of your classroom and interrupt your professor with a public recitation of John’s Gospel. But it does mean you should never feel ashamed of your faith or allow anyone to convince you to leave your beliefs and morals at the door.
Remembering that Christ is the King of the Universe also helps us to keep our attention on what matters the most. The biggest problem with secularism is that it is so limited. It says all that matters is the present age, but the present age is passing away. If all we work toward in our lives — all our measures for success or failure — is tied to the present age, then all our work will pass away with it. By contrast, Christ’s reign is eternal, and gives our work true meaning and everlasting value.
Once and Future King
Christ’s reign, while universal, has not yet been fully realized in the world. We only have to look around to realize that. The devil still holds sway — for now. But he has been defeated. He is in his death throws. His power over this world will pass away because this world is passing away. As Christians, we await the final coming of a new heaven and new earth, where Christ’s reign will be complete.
As Jesus tells Pilate, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here” (Jn 18:36). Christ’s kingdom is not secular. It is not of this world. But it does exist in the world. It exists in the Church. And it exists in the heart of every baptized Christian.
May it exist ever more fully in your heart, and in mine.