Viva Cristo Rei !
As a child you may have scampered up a dirt mound or snow pile, staked your claim at the top, and shouted, “I’m King of the mountain!” or “I’m King of the castle and you’re a dirty rascal !” Friends would try to push you down from your perch to make themselves “king”. It was all in fun. My grandfather’s property had a large sand hill with a steep drop off on one side. The bigger family kids reigned supreme, but we all took our turns being “king” as we got older. Besides, it was a thrill to jump off the top into the soft sand below.
On this, the Solemnity of Christ the King, we call to mind our good shepherd and just judge. This Feast Day was proclaimed by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in his encyclical, Quos Primas, meaning, “In the first”. Pope Pius drew from the Nicaean Council’s Creed the angel Gabriel’s words at the Annunciation, "of whose kingdom there shall be no end," thereby establishing the title and kingly dignity of Jesus Christ.
And what does it mean to be “king”? Far removed from a childhood sand hill, a king is a sovereign ruler, the head monarch of a people or nation. The first kings in Israel had an interesting history. Samuel was a judge and prophet for the people of Israel. His sons became corrupt judges. Driven by fear, the elders of Israel demanded to be ruled by a king, like many secular nations at that time. The covenant people rejected God as their king.
God told Samuel to listen to them and allow them to appoint a king. As God foresaw, their kings became corrupt by taking men to fight battles, taking crops, taking animals and taking anything to fulfill their lust for power and wealth. After proving his point and allowing Israel to suffer through their fallible kings, God sent the King of Kings, his Son. It is a tenet of our faith that Jesus Christ was given to man, not only as our Redeemer, but also as a law-giver, our King, to whom obedience is due.
And how was Christ treated? He was mocked and falsely adored as King of the Jews with a crown of thorns and a wooden cross for a throne! A righteous king reigns with authority, this is true, but he is also a God-fearing man, a servant of his subjects, a shepherd to reign with mercy, compassion, justice, and love. These are the qualities of Jesus Christ the Son of God, our true King, our loving and just shepherd.
In our readings from Ezekiel and Psalm 23 we can certainly relate to the imagery of the sheep, goats, and shepherd. We are all like wandering sheep in our pilgrim journey through life. We choose to hear and follow the shepherd’s voice or we choose to stray from the fold in pursuit of other false shepherds. Compared to our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, we are the least in every way, yet we are loved and provided for far beyond our understanding, “… there is nothing I shall want”.
Unlike being judged by unsound human bias, prejudice, and favoritism, the judgement of the true shepherd is righteous and just. The Shepherd knows our mind, soul, heart, and will to remain obedient to his word with trust and perseverance to the end of our lives. Peter Kreeft explains: A repentant sinner, a friend of the Shepherd, who dies in a state of grace, will be judged to inherit new life in heaven; the unrepentant sinner does not know the Shepherd and the Shepherd does not know him. A wandering and lost soul, he wills to be separated from the Father for eternity by his own choosing.
We hear our shepherd’s voice through his Word, the Holy Scriptures, and through his Church via doctrines, encyclicals, the Catechism, homilies, and catechists. We are guided to our salvation by following the Good Shepherd and his Church.
The Kingship of Christ sets the crowning glory upon the mysteries of the life of Christ already celebrated throughout this past liturgical year. More than a Church doctrine, this Feast Day liturgy affects both mind and heart with its beauty and grace that we may recall and internalize, as a part of ourselves, the benevolent King of our spiritual life.
The Solemnity of Christ the King is not just the conclusion of the Church year, it is also a summary of our lives as Christians. We hear and follow our Good Shepherd through his calling in the Gospel. We strive for obedience to his precepts to live a life of holiness. Our celebration of Christ the King serves as a reminder of the different kingdom our Lord has
established; not a kingdom of this world, temporal and imperfect, but the Kingdom of God in eternal royal splendor. On this great Feast, let us resolve to give Christ the central place in our lives through reception of the Holy Eucharist at Mass and worship in Adoration. May we obey His commandment of love by sharing our blessings with the least of our brothers and sisters, who are coheirs in the Kingdom and in whom Christ lives and reigns as King. Ask yourself, “How can I make my life a gift for others in charity?”
Lastly, Fr. Mark Goring, a popular YouTube evangelist priest, ends his podcasts with the shout from Blessed Martyr Miguel Pro, “Viva Cristo Rei”, meaning, “Long live Christ the King”, as a reminder and proclamation of Christ’s Kingship in our lives. May we too keep this simple yet profound adage in our prayers and as a resounding testament of our faith to others.
For the glory of God, Viva Cristo Rei !