Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 25, 2018
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.
In today’s Gospel when Pontius Pilate recognizes Jesus’ claim to kingship,
Jesus responds: “for this I was born and came into the world:
to bear witness to the truth.”
What, then, is the truth about Jesus’ Kingship?
First we can say, as Scripture reveals, that Jesus Christ,
the Son of God and God the Son,
is eternal absolute royal monarchial creator,
sustainer and ruler of the entire Universe,
heaven and earth, visible and invisible.
And given that, the truth is that as He rules over everything and everyone,
also everything and everyone must serve him:
He rules and we serve.
But there is more to the truth about His kingship than that.
As we read in today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals His kingship to the world
just a few minutes after He has been scourged at the pillar,
and crowned with a crown of thorns,
and just a couple of hours before He is nailed to the cross.
Because, as He revealed elsewhere in scripture,
“the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,
and to give His life a ransom for many.”
And so we see, the incredible truth that
Jesus is a king who His subjects must serve as king,
but a king who also comes to serve and even to die for his subjects.
Which only makes him all the more worthy of our service and worship.
This is the truth about Christ the King.
But, again, that’s not all.
Scripture tells us that in baptism Christ sends His Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us,
and in that we come to share in the very life of Christ Himself.
And by sharing in the life of Christ we share in everything He has.
So, for example, even though Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father,
and we are merely His creatures,
since we share in the Son’s life we share in His Sonship,
and can call God our Father; as St. John tells us elsewhere:
“we are called children of God, for so indeed we are.”
And perhaps even more amazingly,
given a share in the life of Jesus Christ the King,
we also share in his Kingship.
Now, how do we share in His Kingship?
Clearly you and I are not sovereign Lords of the Universe.
But rather we share in His kingship in that, in the end,
we answer to no one but to the King Himself.
By our baptism we are set free from world:
we are not subjects of the devil, or sinful men, or any sin, ideology or vice.
You say, but Father, don’t we still have to obey other human beings
—our parents, our teachers, the laws of our governments.
That’s true: in God’s plan He places us under obedience to others
either for our own good or the common good
—so we can learn and grow and live in peace with others.
But on the other hand, it’s also true that
we never have to obey anyone who leads us away
from what is truly good and right, away from Christ.
So even though He commands us: “honor your mother and father”
he also warns us that for some Christians:
“they will be divided, father against son and son against father,
mother against daughter and daughter against her mother..”
And even though, He commands us “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s,”
He goes on to command us to render “to God what belongs to God.”
And as He says to Pilate:
“You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above;”
The bottom line is that our kingship in Christ
frees us to choose what Christ wants us to do,
to live under His kingship and in His kingdom:
So that even as we justly obeying our parents, teachers and governments,
we are free to choose between good and evil in our day to day life:
by the power of Christ and with His grace
no evil can lay claim to our allegiance,
no vice can claim us as its vassal.
Now some might say, but Father, doesn’t that make us dependent on Christ,
do we really share in His kingship, or are we simply slaves to Christ
Friends, the truth is, He did create us, and He does sustain us.
Without Him we perish, both in this world and in the next.
He, and He alone is the King of heaven and earth.
But like a bride who marries a king, and shares in his royal life and power,
we can choose to really share in Christ’s kingship by sharing His life,
or we can choose to reject Him.
Of course, human beings have been rejecting Him ever since the beginning: Adam and Eve challenged God’s unique authority,
and so they rejected His kingdom.
And when Christ the King finally entered the world, in the flesh,
His own people rejected Him, as did the Roman Pontius Pilate.
And it continues to this day.
We are all sinners, which means every day, in small ways or large,
we choose to reject his kingship and go our own way
But by rejecting His rule and His grace to help us govern our lives,
we inevitably become enslaved by something, or many things:
by our emotions or weaknesses,
by alcohol, drugs, porn, anger, lust, greed or envy,
or even by our work, our lifestyles, our government, our friends
or even our families.
Since the beginning of the Church Christians have been persecuted for our faith,
sometimes in subtle ways, but many times in publicly violent ways.
Some, including myself, say we are beginning to live through
a similar time of persecution of the Church in our own country.
But as terrible as that might be, before we address that threat,
we have to face an even more basic, and more terrible, threat.
And that is the threat that comes from us—Catholics and all Christians.
The truth is that we have rejected, in whole or in part,
the kingship of Christ for ourselves.
Even those of us who go to Mass,
how many of us really embrace the Kingship of Christ?
How many of us live our lives obedient to his laws?
How many allow Him to serve us,
by accepting his grace that gives us the strength to rule over ourselves,
and so to live in freedom from sin?
To think and choose for ourselves, and to live as we were created:
in true love for God and neighbor.
Over the centuries untold thousands of Christians have been killed or tortured
for their faith in Jesus Christ.
From St. Stephen, the first martyr in the year 33AD,
to martyrs of the 21st century, like
Fr. Ragheed Ganni, executed after saying Mass in Mosul, Iraq, in 2007,
or Pakistani Catholic cabinet minister Shahbaz Bhatti
assassinated in Islamabad in 2011,
or the 21 Coptic Christian construction workers beheaded in 2015
on a beach in Libya as they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus.
In a particular way, I think of the young 13 Mexican boy,
Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio,
who fought against the persecution of Catholics in Mexico in the 1920’s,
in what became known as the Cristero Rebellion.
He became a hero to his fellow Catholics,
but not for his fighting prowess, or the number of enemies he had defeated.
In fact, he was never allowed to even carry a gun.
No, he became beloved for his unwavering faith in Christ as his king.
The way he truly accepted the kingship of Christ, not as a dictator,
but as a beloved father.
And not out of cowering fear, but out of joyful love.
The way he lived his life in the freedom and grace of Christ,
rejecting all sin and living an exemplary life of holiness
in the midst of so much deprivation and violence.
And finally because, standing like Christ Himself before Pilate,
bloodied and broken after endless torture by the Mexican soldiers,
who offered him his freedom if only he would renounce
the kingship of Christ,
he would only smile and look to heaven say: “que Vivo Cristo Rey,”
“long live Christ the King.”
And so they killed him… and today the Church calls him “Saint Jose Luis.”
Think of all these who have suffered for Christ’s Kingship,
and think of how many of us deny the that kingship every single day?
And not after being tortured, or with the threat of execution.
But only because we’d simply rather do things our own way, than Christ’s.
Or because we’d rather be slaves to the opinion of our peers or family.
We’d rather be slaves to sin or to other people,
than be servants of the one who created us and sustains us,
the King who is our servant.
My friends, today Jesus tells us:
“for this I was born and came into the world: to bear witness to the truth.”
And the truth is that Our Lord Jesus Christ is King of the Universe,
and that in His kingship alone do we find true freedom.
What were born for—for the truth, or a lie?
To live as slaves, or to live as kings?
Will we follow the example of our peers and the secular culture all around us,
or the example of the St. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio?
Will we cower under yoke of slavery in sin,
or in freedom bear witness to the truth of the Kingship of Christ?
Que Viva Cristo Rey!
Praised by Jesus Christ the King—now and forever!