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Christ the King

by Jeremy Hiers, OSA

Once a priest was giving a homily that was a little longer than it should have been.  Yet as he went on, he became more animated.  At one point he made a sweeping gesture and knocked his papers from the ambo.  As he scrambled to pick them up, he asked “where was I?” A voice from the congregation shouted, “near the end!”[1]

We are at the end of the liturgical year.  As we approach the end and prepare for a new beginning with Advent, Jesus is shuffling some things up as he comes into direct contact with the powers of the world.  As he undergoes his trial, many who believe in him are expecting him to finally unveil himself as a powerful king who overthrows the dark powers that confront him and which also oppress his people.  

Yet, Jesus simply “shuffles” all expectations through a simple, yet eternally powerful proclamation that his kingdom is elsewhere.

The feast of Christ the King was first introduced by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in a time when the world was going through tremendous difficulty as Mussolini and Hitler were rising in power. During this time, many were losing their faith and direction as these powers came to influence the world. Perhaps many during this time were also expecting God to unveil himself in a way different from how God was working among them.

The feast was intended to bring us back to the basic question we must ask ourselves (with Christ) each and every day: to whom do we truly belong?

The Church knows two lives … One is in faith, the other in vision; one belongs to the time of pilgrimage, the other to the eternal dwelling-place; one is in exertion, the other in rest; one finds itself along the way, the other in the homeland; one is in the work of action, the other in the prize of contemplation.

On the Gospel of John 124, 5.

As Christians we know we don’t belong to a political party, or to a Government, to an employer, or to any other person.  We belong first to Christ. We are but passing through this world on a pilgrimage to heaven.  However, are we passing through or are we trying to make our home here?  

For our true identity and our true citizenship is elsewhere.  No human power can take that from us.  This gives us hope as we observe the power dynamics of today rapidly changing on a local, national, and international level.  As we see injustice continue to reign in the world, as we face fear of who is elected, as we face fear about rising gun violence or global climate change we too are invited to recall and proclaim who it is that we belong to. 

I implore you to love with me and, by believing, to run with me; let us long for our heavenly country, let us sigh for our heavenly home, let us truly feel that here we are strangers.

Saint Augustine (Treatise on John 35, 8-9)

By continuing to fix our gaze on where we are headed (a Kingdom not of this world and its present power figures), we too can find hope and consolation as Paul XI invited the Church to discover in the dark and scary time this feast was originally given to us.  We find hope as we rediscover time and again our true identity that no power figure can take from us and the grace filled freedom that Saint Augustine invites us to.  

From there we too, with Christ, can “shuffle” things up by running together to proclaim and work to build the Kingdom to which we are headed through a way of life that enables us each day to peacefully protest the injustices we observe among those who have power and work to alleviate the suffering of those they oppress.

Click here to learn how the Augustinians are working for justice and peace in our world today

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. It is by me that you come; it is I that you come to, and in me you remain. How do you wish to go? I am the way. Where do you wish to go? I am the truth. Where do you wish to remain? I am the life. Christ as God is the fatherland and where we are going; Christ as man is the way we must travel.”

Saint Augustine

On Christian Doctrine, 1, 34


[1] Adapted from Homilies from the Heart:  Stories to Live, Love, and Serve One Another by Father George Rink, Kindle Edition, location 4221.

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