TEXT: Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 26, 2023

November 26, 2023 Father De Celles Homily

Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

November 26, 2023

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

What is a king?

In its purest form we can probably say a king is an absolute ruler of a people.

What he says is law and must be obeyed always and everywhere in his kingdom.

But that is also very similar to the definition of a dictator.

He is also an absolute ruler and what he says is absolute law.

The word “dictator” comes from the Latin dictare, “to say”.

What he says goes.

Then what’s the difference between a king and dictator?

In the West, especially in those countries formed by Christian histories,

         a king is not only an absolute ruler,

but he is invested with that authority only for the good of his people.

So he can never do simply as he pleases,

and he can never even do what simply pleases others;

he must always act for what is truly the common good of his people.

So, he’s not just a benevolent or kindly dictator

who rules for the common good only by accident, but because he wants to.

A king rules for the common good by definition.

In the western understanding, even from ancient times,

a king who does not rule for the good is not a legitimate king,

but a tyrant, and can be rightly opposed and deposed.

But that highlights the problem with kings: There is no perfectly good king;

no king who is always wise, knowledgeable, just and, above all, unselfish;

who always places the good of each and all of his subjects

above his own good and whims.

We can look to the first human king to see this, Adam.

Okay, he only had Eve and then his sons and daughters, and their offspring,

but he and his queen ruled the whole world.

But they also eventually sinned and ruined everything for the rest of us.


Kings always fall short.

Except the King of the Universe, God.

He is the source of all kingship and is the perfect and ideal king.

His model of kingship is explained both as a type of fatherhood

And, as He reveals Himself, as a shepherd.

As we read in today’s first reading,

“As a shepherd tends his flock…so will I tend my sheep.

I will rescue them…I myself will give them rest…

The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back,

the injured I will bind up…the sick I will heal.”

And so, as father and shepherd, Scripture tells us that God ruled Israel as king

for over two centuries before they had a human king.

Moses wasn’t a king, nor Joshua.

There were judges, but no kings.

“I myself,” God said, “will look after and tend My sheep.”

Until about the year 1020 BC, when God condescended

to give the people the human king they begged for.

He warned them that a human king would wind up virtually enslaving them:

taking their money in taxes, taking their sons in war, and ruling to his own desires.

Unlike their divine King, a human king would sin.

But, He gave them King Saul, and everything God had told them happened.

Saul started out great, but then sin got the better of him.

So God replaced him with King David.

And David was a great king, as kings go, but even he sinned

—remember the story of his adultery with Bathsheba

and how he had her husband, one of his most loyal soldiers, killed.

Even his son, King Solomon, the wisest of kings,

repeatedly sinned and so failed to be a completely good king.

Then, one bad or imperfect king after another for 1000 years,

         until about the year 1AD, when King Herod murdered innocent babies

because he was afraid of losing his throne to a baby born in Bethlehem.


Throughout history it’s always been the same,

in every time and place in the world.

America and Virginia trace their origins to England, so let’s consider our history.

Back in 1215 the English nobles rose up against the abuses of King John,

forcing him to sign the Magan Carta,

the landmark guarantee of rights of the people the king ruled.

Then, in 1642 there was a civil war in England,

and the tyrannical King Charles was deposed, beheaded,

and replaced with one failing government after another

until, finally, the violently anti-Catholic Oliver Cromwell

forcibly took control as Lord Protector

until his death,  and another imperfect King Charles II took the throne.

Then, in 1776 there was the American Revolution against King George,

resulting in the subsequent establishment of our republic and

beginning the end of kingship as the dominant form of government

in the world.


But even republics, and especially democracies, are imperfect.

Look at the state of government right now in DC;

look at Congress and the presidency.

And not just now, but look at it over the years.

We needed our own civil war to end the enslavement of human beings.

And look at some of our presidents…even the ones you may like.

None of them were anywhere near perfect,

and some of the best in some ways,

were, in other ways, some of the worst.

Kingship is not a bad idea—with the right king.

But because of sin, we will never have the right king chosen from men (or women).

And Republics are great, but only to the extent the sovereign people are good.


The fact is, the only government that is truly good and truly just,

is one that acknowledges the sovereignty, the kingship, of God,

Christ the King.

Not a theocracy where priests are in charge,

pretending to know God’s will in every situation.

But a government and society

that looks to Christ as the truly just lawgiver and ruler.

And for that to happen, it must begin with each one of us

—every citizen or subject.

As Pope Pius XI wrote in his 1925 Encyclical Quas Primas,

which established this Feast of Christ the King,

         “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life,

that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings

of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.”

Pope Pius was writing just after the end of the First World War,

when Europe was plagued by failing governments

and all sorts of anti-Christian and authoritarian movements,

from communism and socialism to fascism and nationalism,

that claimed to know the perfect form of government.

But they all failed, and World War II happened.

Followed by the Cold War.

And now…the rise of Islam and of Chinese Communism.

And a world in steadily growing chaos and violence and fear…


No one listens.

Christ is the answer.

Again, no one wants a theocracy–least of all the Catholic Church.

Even in the Middle Ages when the Pope had real secular power

and was generally deferred to by the kings of Europe,

no one allowed him to be in charge of their secular affairs.

And when a few popes tried that sort of thing,

their attempts were roundly and even forcefully rejected

not only by the kings but by the bishops and people.

No, Christ’s kingship is in the world but not of the world.

It is the Kingship that enforces not with a sword but with a cross.

A kingship whose fundamental rules are to love God above all things,

including above the whims and rules of man,

and to love your neighbor as yourself.

And from this come the basic laws of the governance of the kingdom:

the ten principal laws or commandments of how to love in a just society.

These include, for example, “Do not kill”

—or more specifically, biblically speaking–

do not kill innocent human beings.

And from those ten basic laws come the other rules

governing more mundane day to day living like,

“You shall not call your neighbor a fool,”

and, “When your neighbor is hungry, you shall feed him.”

Notice that these laws begin with individuals, not governments or kings:

         “YOU shall Love YOUR neighbor as YOURself.”

“YOU shall not kill…”

         “When I was hungry, YOU gave me no food.”

The Kingdom of God and the kingship of Christ

must begin and rule in the hearts of individuals

before it can have any effect on the rest of the world.

In fact, by His cross, Christ made us individually sharers

in His very own kingship.

St. Paul tells us,

“If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him;

if we endure, we will also reign with Him”

St. Peter says that in Christ, we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood…”
And St. John says,

“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,

and they will reign on earth.”

God created us and freed us from sin, through Jesus Christ,

to be kings: to rule ourselves, to have self-control,

and so, to be free to choose to live with Him and in His love.

And so, to be ruled only by God Who is love.


So think about that: If every American did that,

truly recognized Christ as King in their lives,

what kind of nation would we have?

What kind of government would we have?

Not one that lies to us or embraces evil.

Not one that favors the rich and powerful,

or even one that favors the poor or the anyone else,

but one seeking the true good for all and each

—what the Church calls the common good.


Of course, we don’t have that in our country, or in any country on earth.

I mean, look at the mess in even the smallest country on earth,

the Vatican City State, where the Pope is effectively the secular king,

Even so, this is what we must work for and pray for.

Never setting our hopes on the kings or rulers of this world,

but always setting our hopes on the King of the Universe

and His Kingdom of heaven.

Seeking to allow Christ the King to rule in our hearts and lives,

         and sharing in his Kingship by loving as He loves,

and ruling ourselves in His love.


What is a king?

He is an absolute ruler who rules only and completely for the good of his people.

All human rulers fail in light of this truth.

So let us look to Jesus Christ for the answer—He is the only true king.

Praised be Jesus Christ the King….