Today we’re reaching the end of the liturgical year — next week we’ll begin Advent —, and on this final Sunday of Ordinary Time the Church invites us to celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
This beautiful feast is a reminder of what we’re called to do in our lives as Christians, and of our goal in following Christ. We’re called to order our lives so as to build the Kingdom of God in this world, and called to share in the glory of God for eternity in the next. That’s why the Church put this feast on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, because that’s what we’re journeying towards: Christ’s reign. But she’s also placed it just before Advent because that’s the time when we anticipate the Lord’s return.
When he created this feast in 1925, Pope Pius XI spoke of the three powers of a king: to make laws, to judge, and to govern. Christ established the law by commanding us to love God and to love one another as He loved us (cf. Jn 13:34). As today’s second reading implies, when He returns in glory, Jesus will judge all peoples, calling to account each tribe. Then, having completed His Kingdom, Christ will rule for all eternity.
Consequently, then, our duty as His disciples is this: we must be good and faithful citizens of God’s Kingdom, here and now. This is how we build up the Kingdom of God on earth. But if we’re to build up His Kingdom and spread the Gospel, then Christ must first rule in our own lives. As Pope Pius XI said, when establishing the feast:
“He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines
of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should
spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies…, which should serve
as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto
God (Rom 6:13)” (no. 33).
That’s why today’s Gospel Jesus describes His Kingdom as not being from this world (Jn 18:36). Because, as St. Paul tells us, the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). It’s precisely in our loving actions that Christ’s reign is built up in our lives, and it’s in Christ ruling our lives that the Kingdom of God grows in the world.
But by this I don’t mean that faith in Christ, that the rule of Christ, is merely in our hearts. Faith and religion are not purely internal matters. Without expression, faith means nothing. Without action, faith is dead, says St. James (cf. 2:17). Religion is the public expression of faith in and through the community, and the practice of religion impels us to live our public lives in accord with the worship that we profess here at church. If we live differently inside these walls than we do outside, then what meaning does our worship have? What influence does it having in our lives? Doesn’t that just make us hypocrites, actors?
In creating this feast, Pius XI was seeking to help us publicly live our lives in accordance with the faith we profess. He wanted us to follow Christ as our King — ruler not merely of our hearts but also of our nations, so that together with Him, in Him and through Him, we might transform the world and build His Kingdom. This was the whole point of Christendom. And this was the goal of the first settlers who came to Canada: to create a society rooted and built up in Christ. We need only travel throughout Québec and Acadia to see the evidence of this.
Our holy Patron also understood this very well. On the way to his execution, St. Thomas More confidently remained steadfast in the faith and encouraged others to do the same. His last words were: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first”. St. Thomas understood perfectly well that it isn’t good enough to personally confess Christ in private, in the safety of our hearts and homes; we must also confess Jesus in our public and professional lives and in the laws and policies that govern our society.
Muslims understand this concept well, that’s why wherever they go they try to have laws changed to reflect their own. But we’ve lost this sense of building the Kingdom of God, of bringing others to know and understand His rule. And especially in our country, which was founded not on enlightenment principles like the US, but on Catholicism and on Christ.
We have no reason to apologise for our belief in Christ, and even less for trying to uphold His rule in our lives and in our society. Now I’m not saying we need to force our beliefs on others; but if we’re convinced we have the truth, then we have an obligation, a moral obligation, to help others see that truth. We are obliged to help them understand and experience that Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, is the way, and the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through [Him] (Jn 14:6).
This is the feast that we celebrate today; this is the faith that we celebrate each day. By these sacred mysteries, may Christ’s Kingship be increasingly established in our lives, so that we may be strengthened to spread His Kingdom by living according to His commands and teaching others to do the same, [restoring] all things in Christ (Eph 1:10). To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever (Rev 1:6). Amen.
1. When this homily was given, I was Parochial Vicar of St. Thomas More Parish.