November 26, 2017 —The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
We have previously chronicled the history of this Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, called by most Christ the King. Pope Pius XI established the feast in 1925 as a response to secularism, a way of life that leaves God out of humankind’s thoughts. It is intended to remind us of Christ’s royalty over each of us as individuals, over our families, over our society, and certainly over all governments and nations. Simply put, Christ is God, the Creator of the Universe, and thus the supreme power over all things.
The First Reading from Ezekiel points to what kind of king the Lord is. Ezekiel was both a prophet and a priest. He went into exile in Babylon along with many other Israelites. There are a couple different meanings to the name Ezekiel but one of them is God Strengthens. The parallels between this reading and Christ as the Good Shepherd are clear. As a Good Shepherd Christ was a different kind of king. The recommended Psalm Response for today is the beginning of Psalm 23, one with which most are familiar. “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me.” Note Ezekiel’s exact parallels in this reading as God speaks: “I will feed them in good pasture” and “They shall lie down in a good fold.”
As is normally the case, Ezekiel through God is telling us that we must trust in the Lord. We must serve Him. We must recognize Him as our sovereign. That is what Christ the King is all about. It begins with us accepting Christ as our King and Savior.
St. Paul, in the Second Reading from his First Letter to the Corinthians refers to Jesus as the first fruits, the first fruits of our resurrection. At that time the Feast of the First Fruits was observed on the day after the Sabbath following Passover. We must remember that Saturday was the Sabbath. Significantly, Jesus rose from the dead on that exact day, the Feast of the First Fruits, Sunday after the Sabbath. Clearly He is our King and He is our Savior. The Greek word translated as first fruits is aparche. That word had another meaning in secular usage; that was “entrance fee.” Jesus is our “entrance fee” to resurrection. He paid our admission to resurrection.
Paul directly addresses Christ’s kingship when he writes of the Lord, “When he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.” God has granted a measure of rule and authority to humankind, but Paul is telling us that is merely temporary. Jesus will take His place as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. After His final coming Jesus will resolve all of history and take his rightful role as our King.
Jesus could not be more direct than He is in the Gospel Reading from St. Matthew. The reading opens with “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembles before him’.” He goes on to make a direct reference to the Lord as a Good Shepherd (as in the First Reading from Ezekiel), and then the Lord goes on to say something similar to St. Paul in the Second Reading, which culminates with the statement “so that God may be all in all.”
Three days from the time of this Gospel Reading the Lord would be crucified, and He would indeed come “in His glory.” Perhaps the most poignant part of this particular Gospel is Jesus’ review and repeating of what are in effect the Corporal Works of Mercy: “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; a stranger and you welcomed me; naked and you clothed me; ill and you cared for me; in prison and you visited me.” That is how we truly recognize and participate in the Kingdom of God, by emulating what Christ is talking about. Jesus lived in utter simplicity, almost poverty. He was rejected by all the great and mighty men of His world. Yet He would and does “sit on the throne of His glory,” and we acknowledge Him as our King.