Jan van Eyck’s painting “Ghent Altarpiece,” finished in 1432, depicts Christ the King.
Each year the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King and gloriously acknowledges the Kingship of Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ is not just King of the saints or of Catholics. J esus Christ is King of all Creation from eternity to eternity. For not only did He create all that exists, He also redeemed all mankind to restore creation to a greater glory. He deserves all glory, honor, and praise. As we read frequently in the Liturgy of the Hours: "O Lord our God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power" (Revelations 4:11)
Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe, the King of all creation, of all things seen and unseen. Let that thought just sit in your mind. Just take it in and meditate on that statement - Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe. And even though His dominion is the universe, He cares for each of us with a love inconceivable. This love was displayed on the Cross and it continues to be renewed each and every moment that the bread and wine at Mass become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. As Mother Teresa said, "When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now."
In the traditional Gospel passage (1962 Missal) for the Feast of Christ the King (i.e. John 18:33-37), Jesus Christ, the King of kings, is taken before Pilate. And Pilate does not recognize Him as King. Instead he asks Jesus "Are you the King of the Jews?" And Jesus, who humbled Himself even unto death, does not call on the legions of angels ready to help Him. Instead He exclaims, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." I have frequently thought about that verse. No matter how bad life in our current nations and kingdoms gets, I realize that one day I shall enter Jesus Christ's everlasting Kingdom - the kingdom not of this world.
The Israelites, God's chosen people, were given a king over 3,000 years ago. And the Lord warned them that if they were give an earthly king there would be a grave list of problems. But the Israelites demanded one. They didn't just want the Lord God as King, they wanted an earthy one. So Saul was anointed with holy Chrism oil, and from that day, Israel suffered many problems.
Until at last the King of kings, Jesus Christ, came into the midst of the Jewish leaders. But they didn't know Him. Their very creator was not recognized by them. And so they cried out, "We have no king but Ceasar" (John 19:15). What a lie! The Jewish leaders absolutely hated Ceasar and the Roman occupation. They historically despised Caesar. But, they could not carry out an execution without Rome. So they swallow their pride here and exclaimed their king was Ceasar. Now it should be clear how much the Jewish leaders hated Christ - they would rather honor Caesar, who they hated. And the Jewish leaders convinced the crowd to join them, and all of them called out "Crucify Him". What pain must have radiated in the heart of Our Savior as His people rejected Him. They subjected their true king, Jesus Christ, to the worst form of execution at that time, reserved for only the most wretched criminals - crucifixion.
And as the King of Glory mounted His Cross with a crown of thorns, He redeemed the world. And as He hung on that tree, two criminals were crucified with Him - one on his right and one on his left. And one them mocked Jesus. But the other one, obviously a man put to death for his grave sins, begged for mercy. He looked at Jesus and said, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). That thief repented and acknowledged Christ's kingship (this repentant thief is called St. Dismas in the Church’s traditions). And the Lord replies to Him: "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). Remember the thief had a "death bed" conversion. He couldn't do any "works" throughout his life for Jesus Christ. Instead he could only confess Jesus Christ as King. And that confession was a work in and of itself. Remember the words of St. James: “For just as a Body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).
Let us clean our souls in Confession and receive the Eucharist in joy. May Christ the King reign in all of us. For His dominion is not just of the earth, sky, and cosmos. His dominion is also in our souls.
In the first Encyclical Letter which We addressed at the beginning of Our Pontificate to the Bishops of the universal Church, We referred to the chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind was laboring. And We remember saying that these manifold 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: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ; and that We promised to do as far as lay in Our power. In the Kingdom of Christ, that is, it seemed to Us that peace could not be more effectually restored nor fixed upon a firmer basis than through the restoration of the Empire of Our Lord. We were led in the meantime to indulge the hope of a brighter future at the sight of a more widespread and keener interest evinced in Christ and his Church, the one Source of Salvation, a sign that men who had formerly spurned the rule of our Redeemer and had exiled themselves from his kingdom were preparing, and even hastening, to return to the duty of obedience.
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS Xl DECEMBER 11, 1925
Indulgence for Feast of Christ the King:
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King. A plenary indulgence is granted, if it is recite publicly on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ King.
Additional Information for the Feast of Christ the King:
The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of man's thinking and living and organizes his life as if God did not exist. The feast is intended to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ's royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations.
Today's Mass establishes the titles for Christ's royalty over men: 1) Christ is God, the Creator of the universe and hence wields a supreme power over all things; "All things were created by Him"; 2) Christ is our Redeemer, He purchased us by His precious Blood, and made us His property and possession; 3) Christ is Head of the Church, "holding in all things the primacy"; 4) God bestowed upon Christ the nations of the world as his special possession and dominion.
Today's Mass also describes the qualities of Christ's kingdom. This kingdom is: 1) supreme, extending not only to all peoples but also to their princes and kings; 2) universal, extending to all nations and to all places; 3) eternal, for "The Lord shall sit a King forever"; 4) spiritual, Christ's "kingdom is not of this world".
— Rt. Rev. Msgr. Rudolph G. Bandas
Prayers to Christ the King:
O Jesus Christ, I acknowledge Thee as universal King. All that has been made, has been created for Thee. Exercise all Thy rights over me. I renew my baptismal vows, renouncing Satan, his pomps and his works; and I promise to live as a good Christian. In particular do I plege myself to labor, to the best of my ability, for the triumph of the rights of God and Thy Church.
Divine Heart of Jesus, to Thee do I proffer my poor services, laboring that all hearts may acknowledge Thy Sacred Kingship, and that thus the reign of Thy peace be established throughout the whole universe. Amen.
Prayer Source: My Catholic Faith: A Manual of Religion by Most Rev. Louis Laravoire Morrow, S.T.D., My Mission House, 1965