The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, commonly referred to as the Feast of Christ the King, is a relatively recent addition to the Western liturgical calendar, having been instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI for the Roman Catholic Church. In 1970 its Roman Catholic observance was moved to the final Sunday of Ordinary Time. Therefore, the earliest date on which it can occur is 20 November and the latest is 27 November. The Anglican, Lutheran, and many other Protestant churches adopted it along with the Revised Common Lectionary. It is also observed on the same computed date as the final Sunday of the ecclesiastical year, the Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent, by Western rite parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Roman Catholics adhering to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite as permitted under the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum use the General Roman Calendar of 1960, and as such continue to observe the Solemnity on its original date of the final Sunday of October.
In those days, all the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said: “Here we are, your bone and your flesh. In days past, when Saul was our king, it was you who led the Israelites out and brought them back. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.'” When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD, and they anointed him king of Israel.
SECOND READING Colossians 1:12-20
Brothers and sisters: Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.
GOSPEL Luke 23:35-43
The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
In the Church there is only one kind of authority and that is service, and only one kind of power and that is the Cross. (Pope Francis)
(Abbot Philip of “Christ in the Desert”)
My sisters and brothers,
Christ the King! So many of us no longer have any sense of what it means to have a king over us, a ruler who makes all of the important decisions, a ruler who truly cares of us and seeks the good of the people. The readings today are based on an understanding of kingship that no longer exists in our world, for the most part.
Yet we are invited to consider how Christ is our King and how He comes into our lives as a king, but as a servant king. Jesus Christ is a king who seeks only our good and the good of all. Jesus is a king who guides us from humility, not from power. Jesus has all power and all might and all majesty, but willingly puts all of that aside to become one of us and to sacrifice His life for us.
The first reading today is from the Second Book of Samuel and recounts how David became King of Israel. David became king because the people wanted a king other than the God of Heaven. Nevertheless, the great God of Heaven allowed the people to have a king. David was truly a wonderful king, even in his sinfulness. What was most important was his love for the God of Heaven.
Our King is the God of Heaven and yet this great God of Heaven has come to us as a human, yet without sin. God humbles Himself to save us.
The second reading is from the Letter to the Colossians. This passage describes exactly how Jesus is King of all—again by humbling Himself. This one phrase expresses the whole of the mystery: “For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him.” Jesus is all and yet allows Himself to be killed for us so that we might live. This is a king willing to give His life for His people.
The Gospel of Luke today gives us the account of the crucifixion of Jesus. This is true kingship: dying for the people. So many still do not recognize that leadership, kingship, can be expressed in humility. Power comes in weakness. The true leader dies for his people. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”