November 20, 2022 –
Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
“The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself ….’”
This Sunday’s feast is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. “King” is the key word. The word “king” distinguishes this Sunday from other Sundays. Every Sunday focuses upon Our Lord Jesus Christ. But this Sunday we focus upon His kingship, and upon the battle that this King engages in. Today’s Gospel Reading describes this battle in progress.
“The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.’ … they called out, ‘If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.’”
These earthly rulers are extremely logical. If Jesus could save others, why would he not save himself? Of course, their sneer shows that they’re not serious in what they say. They don’t believe that Jesus could save himself. They probably don’t believe that Jesus saved others, either. They likely claimed that those people whom Jesus reportedly saved were never really sick or dead in the first place. The claims of Jesus working miracles were mere tricks. So of course, given that Jesus couldn’t really save others, he would not—because he could not—save himself.
What’s clear in their way of thinking—a way of thinking that’s just as prevalent in the twenty-first century as in the first—is that the golden rule of life is “Me first”. No one with power gives up power willingly. No one with power does not use power for the greater glory of the most unholy trinity of “Me, Myself, and I”.
Yet what the logic of this egoism overlooks is what Saint Francis of Assisi sang so ardently about: that “it is in giving that we receive; … in pardoning that we are pardoned; and … in dying that we are born to eternal life.” This is the logic of God. This is the logic that leads to Calvary, from which Divine Mercy flows.
It is for mercy that Christ reigns as King upon the Cross. Why, after all, would the Church proclaim on the feast of Christ the King the Gospel passage describing Jesus in His last moments before death? It’s because the Cross is the earthly throne of Christ the King. Thorns make up His crown.
Christ the King shows us His power not in living for Himself, but in dying for us poor sinners. In this regard, we need to paraphrase the Prayer of St. Francis, because it’s in Christ the King dying that we are born to eternal life. The King has laid down His life for us peasants.
Given all that, why do we Catholics gather each Sunday before an altar on which Christ the King sacrifices His life for us? We do not only assemble there to give thanks for Christ the King’s sacrifice.
We also gather there to share in the sacrifice of Christ the King. At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that you and I would have a means of being transported mystically to the foot of Jesus’ Cross. During Holy Mass we are present on that afternoon of Good Friday in order to enter into His kingly sacrifice: that is, to make His sacrifice our sacrifice. After all, we are members of Christ’s Mystical Body through baptism, and therefore share in his regal vocation.
Christ the King strengthens us not only so that each of us can get to Heaven. He strengthens us through His Body and Blood, soul and divinity so that we might lead our daily lives in Him. We accept the love of God at Holy Mass so that we’ll be strong enough to love everyone in this fallen world with the very love of God.
Of course, love is a notoriously slippery term. Some people just think of love as an emotion or feeling. But Christ the King shows us on the Cross that divine love actually is self-sacrifice. If, when we leave Holy Mass, we wonder about how we can love others better, then we need to remember the ready answer that the Church offers us. The Church points our attention towards the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Christ calls us to leave His Church, filled with the strength of His Body and Blood, soul and divinity, in order to share that love concretely with those in the world.