34TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C (SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING)
By: Rev. Fr. Ameh Sylvanus
Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43
Theme: The Saviour King
- Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King, a feast which celebrates the Lordship and Kingship of Jesus Christ over the whole universe, of all things, “visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities…” (Col 1:16). This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in his encyclical, Quas Primas, issued to commemorate the 1600th anniversary of the Council of Nicea (325AD), which, among other things, condemned the heresy of Arianism (Arianism denies the divinity of Jesus). Quas Primas was the Pope’s response to the increasing secularism and nationalism in the world, which he identified as a major cause of the conflicts in the world. In the opening paragraph of this encyclical, the Holy Father noted that the many “evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics…” He hoped therefore, that with the institution of the Feast of Christ the King,
- Christians will let Christ reign in their hearts, minds, wills and bodies
- Leaders of the nations of the world would see the need to respect Christ and submit to his guidance
- Nations would realize and respect the Church’s right to freedom and her immunity from the State.
All three readings of today’s Mass speak about kingship. The first reading recounts the choice of David as king of Israel and the second reading affirms the sovereignty of Jesus over all peoples and things, declaring that Jesus reigns in heaven, on earth and under the earth and even the forces of darkness are in subjection to him. In the gospel reading, the Kingship of Jesus was given as the crime for which he was executed and right from the throne of the cross, he granted a repentant criminal visa free entry into his kingdom.
What lessons can we draw from today’s readings and the Feast we celebrate? How do they speak directly to us? Is this feast, established 94 years ago, still relevant for Christians of today? For the purpose of our reflection, we shall consider only two lessons which are contrasts, one to the other.
Saint Paul tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God and he is first in all things – he is before all things, he is the beginning, the first born of all creation, the first born from the dead, and the head of the body, the Church – and all these, so that he might be pre-eminent. The concept of kingship naturally implies being the head, being the first, being paramount. Jesus himself says he is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Rev 22:13). If we are declaring today that Jesus is our king, then we are in other words saying that Jesus is our head, Jesus is first in our lives and we shall hold Jesus paramount in all of our affairs. This is not something we declare simply by word of mouth, but more by our way of life. The world ought to see and know that indeed, it is Jesus who is reigning in our lives, in our homes, in our schools, in our work places, in our shops and everywhere. The second reading tells us that there is great gain in having Jesus as our Head and King, for when we do, there is deliverance from the reign of darkness in all that pertains to us, there is redemption and the forgiveness of sins, and very importantly, the blood of his cross shall release peace unto us. So as Christians and more so as Catholics who today celebrate the universal Kingship of Jesus, let us ask ourselves if Jesus is still the reigning King in our lives; let us ask ourselves if he is still the Head of our families; let us ask ourselves if we still put him first in all that we do; let us ask ourselves if we still have space for God or we have kicked him out of our lives.
In 1925, Pope Pius XI was worried that the world was increasingly becoming secular, that people were excluding God from their lives and families. Today, we most probably have more “Christians” in the world than there were back in 1925, but the rise in the number of Christians has not brought about a decline in the growth of secularism. If anything, the world appears to be even more unchristian. This is because many people in the church are simply comfortable with the appellation of “Christian” but do nothing to show the world what it truly means to be one. Many Christians today have thrown God out of their lives and belittled sacred things, persons and spaces, and one consequence of all these is that the world sees less, the need for God in their lives. But the hard truth which shall confront us if we continue in this attitude is that we shall come to the realization of what Jesus says in John 15:5 – “without me, you can do nothing.” Our second lesson therefore is that if by our way of life, we exclude Jesus from our lives or we deny him space in our lives such that he is not the one sitting on the throne of our hearts, of our families, of our schools, of our Church, of our work and business places, then we stand the risk of losing not just the blessings that come with his presence, but our very souls.
It is a sad thing to see that in the world today, we are getting more and more comfortable with talking and doing things about every other thing except about God. Churches do not talk about God as much as they should anymore; many sermons spewing from the pulpits today are nothing but motivational and financial speeches. More painfully is that families which are supposed to be the foundation of sound moral lives do not talk about God anymore; parents do not teach their children the truths of scripture anymore. In the name of not wanting to stress their children, parents indulge them in everything they should ordinarily keep them away from. Videos on bible stories have been replaced by Africa Magic and Zee World and Telemundo and such children grow not having any real relationship with Jesus. How then can you tell them when they have grown that Jesus is meant to be their king? But the word of God enjoins us not to be conformed to the standards of this world (Rom 12:2) and that we ought to train children in the way they should go (Prov 22:6). And when some of such parents are confronted with the implications of what they are doing, they will say “that is what the children like” and they do not want any headache from any child. Parents, hear me and hear me well: It is either your children give you HEADache today or they will give you HEARTache tomorrow. So, choose your ache wisely!
In the gospel reading, one thief accepted Jesus as king and got visa free entry to heaven; another rejected Jesus as king and ended up eternally condemned. Again, we ask ourselves today: Who is the king in my life? Who is the king in my home? Who is the king in our Church? It is either we accept Jesus as our king, live our lives accordingly and be saved or we reject him as our king, live our lives accordingly and be damned. But like Moses said to the people of Israel, today, you have a choice between life and death and I admonish you to choose life. Choose Jesus as your King and it shall be well with you and yours. Amen