Sunday, November 21, 2010

On the Feast of Christ the King

“The rulers sneered at Jesus…” These words open the Gospel reading on this feast of Christ the King. These words do not simply describe the atmosphere of mockery that surrounded our Lord as he hung on the Cross. These words appropriately describe our times. When Pope Pius XI established the Feast of Christ the King in 1925, he described a very alarming image of a world where rulers reject Christ: “The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually, the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them…Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God’s religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and States against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences…the seeds of discord sown far and wide, those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations…; that insatiable greed which is often hidden under a pretense of public spirit and patriotism…; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage…; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society…shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin.” (Pius XI, Quas Primas , Dec. 11, 1925, 24.) We cannot easily brush aside the observations of Pius XI because they are also appropriate descriptions of our own times. Indeed, even today, “the rulers sneer(ed) at Jesus” and such unfortunate state of things persist on account of “a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict or oppose but a weak resistance; thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks.” (Ibid.) And bolder do they become as we refuse to “valiantly defend His rights.” (Ibid.)

But why should we defend the rights of Christ the King? It is because peace and order in society rests upon the truth of Christ’s kingship: “for in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible…all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, AND IN HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER.” Such is the primacy of Christ: in Him all things hold together and when He is eased out of the picture, everything falls apart. It is only when “men recognize. Both in private or in public life, that Christ is King,” that “society will at last receive the great blessing of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony. Our Lord’s regal office invests the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it ennobles the citizens’ duty of obedience…If princes and magistrates duly elected are filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority piously and wisely, and they will make laws and administer them, having in view the common good and also the human dignity of their subjects. The result will be stable peace and tranquility.” (Quas Primas, 19.)

Thus, nations should be reminded “that not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. (They should) call to their minds the thought of the Last Judgment, wherein Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults; for His Kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the Commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws and in administering justice, and also in providing for the young a sound moral education.” (Quas Primas, 32.)

We, the faithful, must likewise be reminded that we must form our lives after the true Christian ideal. “If to Christ our Lord is given all power in Heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by His Precious Blood, are by a new right subjected to His dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that NOT ONE OF OUR FACULTIES IS EXEMPT FROM HIS EMPIRE. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to the revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to Him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls.” (Quas Primas, 33.) It is by submitting our entire persons to Him that we are able to say, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Then, and only then, will we hear from Him those consoling words: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

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