Christ the King
Year C

Bring Us to the Joy of His Kingdom

"You would have no power over me whatever," Jesus said to Pilate, "were it not given you from above." Even the most powerful kings get their authority from Christ who was designated by His Father to be the "universal king."

Italy's last king, Humbert II, who died in exile on March 18, 1983, learned through bitter experience the transiency of earthly kingship.

Umberto was the son of King Victor Emmanuel III. Victor, who reigned from 1900 to 1946, was largely a figurehead. When Mussolini became Italy's most powerful personage in 1922, Victor weakly named him prime minister. Thus, whether he wanted to or not, he became a partner in the building of Fascism. True, the king took a firmer stand when the Allies invaded Italy in 1943. He dismissed the Duce from office and installed an anti-Fascist as premier. But Victor Emmanuel had already compromised himself, so he abdicated on May 9, 1946, in favor of his son. Prince Umberto accepted the crown but wore it all too briefly. On June 2, 1946, the Italians voted to replace the monarch with a republic, and sentenced the new monarch to perpetual exile. Though Humbert did not abdicate, he resigned himself to exile. Italians nicknamed him "il Re del Maggio" - "the May King": his reign had lasted only one month. Humbert passed the rest of his life in Portugal. He led a decent, humble, non-political life; but he missed his beloved land.

In 1982 the ex-king, now in his seventies, fell ill with a terminal disease. He gently petitioned the Italian government to allow him to visit his homeland for one last time. The government was willing but it would take some time to change the law about his exile. The delay proved too long. When Umberto died in Switzerland, the last word he uttered was "Italia!" Even in death, he could not be buried in Rome. Instead he was interned with his forefathers in mountains of Savoy in southeast France.

Despite his frustration, Umberto made one last kingly gesture. Since 1453 his family had been owners of the Holy Shroud of Turin, the famous linen sheet that seems to have been the burial cloth of Jesus. This he bequeathed to the popes in his will.

It was a high tribute of a suffering earthly monarch to the King of Kings. It was also a meek prayer that He who reigned from the cross might welcome the lesser prince into the only permanent commonwealth - the kingdom of heaven.

-Fr. Robert F. McNamara

Q451: What can I possibly learn from a dying felon who was justly convicted?

2,000 years ago, the mighty pagan Roman Empire ruled a giant portion of the known world, and persecuted the newly emerging Catholics for three hundred years simply because they refused to deny the Truth about Jesus. But today, that pagan empire that was based on power is completely gone. In fact, not a single government that existed 2,000 years remains in operation today. However, the Roman Catholic Church survives in the fullness of His truth! It is based not on power, but on powerlessness.

In our RCIA classes and classes on the Early Church Fathers, the Creed has crucial and central importance. In that Creed, we profess our Faith – the foundation of our Catholicism – that “we believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ…on the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the scriptures…” We are professing that this man called Jesus, who suffered and died on the cross, rose again – is indeed the King of Kings, the Messiah. Somehow he is with us at all times, even in our own suffering; he is still Christ our King.

This is why today’s gospel (Luke 23:35-43) is so ironic. All those who ridiculed and reviled and jeered and sneered at him did not accept him as Messiah; they thought the Messiah would manifest himself in power. Yet here was their King and God right before their eyes, and they did not recognize him because of his powerlessness! But our gospel does indicate that at least one person recognized and accepted Jesus: a criminal! Jesus’ words of forgiveness bring hope to our hearts: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” If a criminal can make a last moment’s conversion, then there is hope for me if I humbly return to him. That is Good News!

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Jesus revealed himself as a King who was a “suffering servant” – a meaning that would only become clear when he was raised high on the cross (CCC #440). Jesus hears the prayers of faith (CCC #2616); make sure those prayers come from your inner heart.

Q607: What is the importance of the Feast of Christ the King?

“Show us the evidence if you are King,” the scoffers said as they mocked Jesus. It seems that every generation throws that taunt into the face of Jesus. In 1925, the pompous Mussolini was the dictator in Facist Italy; Hitler was rapidly headed towards his own dictatorship in Nazi Germany; and Tojo was pursuing the imperialist goals of Japan. Because of the growing threat and dangers from rampant socialism and nationalism, the Church instituted this Feast in 1925. Those threats became an actuality and led to World War II. Today we continue to be faced with regimes (communist, Islamic, nationalist, and/or socialist) where the State’s viewpoint is considered more important than any contrary teaching from Christ the King. Our own country today is in an extremely dangerous situation (both externally and internally) from would-be dictators and/or global government visionaries who always trying to push their own agendas and increase their political control.

I am sure that Mussolini, Hitler, Tojo and today’s would-be dictators would laugh at the idea that someone hanging from the cross was really the King of the world! The folly of the cross has always been a stumbling block to people soaked in pride and power. They do not understand how love and forgiveness can transform the world. Therefore they do not understand Christ the King! The cross is, in fact, the wisdom of God. It was from the cross that salvation was gained for all humanity.

There is a great connection between self-sacrifice, forgiveness and redemption. Jesus is the model we strive to follow, so we are all called to a life of self-sacrifice, forgiveness, and even redemptive suffering at times. Our life must be “the Way of the Cross,” because no other image shows a greater degree of love and victory than the cross of Jesus Christ the King!

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The scriptures give us many examples of Jesus responding favorably to the prayer of faith; they include the prayer that is offered by the good thief on the cross (CCC 2616).

Jesus the Warrior King

Some Americans have a problem with this feast.

Because of our historic experience we have a tendency to think of kings as tyrants to be overthrown or as ceremonial heads of state who have little real power. To understand the kingship of Christ we have top go back to the biblical concept of kingship. The second Book of Samuel describes Israel making a covenant with David, accepting him as their king. His kingship was to be one of "shepherding" his people - defending them against their enemies and leading them in the ways of God. He sometimes fell very short of following the ways of the Lord, but he was the best king Israel ever had.

The kingship which David exercised so imperfectly was completed and perfected by his descendent, Jesus. But Jesus' kingship was not based primarily on hereditary right, whether as son of David or as Son of God. He is king by right of conquest! He is victor and king precisely because of, not in spite of, he accepted degradation, powerlessness and death. He is victor and king precisely because he would not save himself, because he gave himself totally, placing all his trust in God. "Because of this God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2:8-11). Because of this he can save others who follow him in faith and self-giving.

Blessed are You O Lord, our God. You sent Jesus, your son, to be our shepherd and king. Give us the grace to follow him in establishing your kingdom. Like the good thief, may we be one with you on the cross, so that we too may hear the words, "This day you will be with me in paradise."