Jesus Christ is King

Raising the Cross in Mosul, Iraq. Credit: CNS/EPA

It has been the practice of the Church since 1925 to mark the last Sunday of the Church year by celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King. At the time of the establishment of the feast with his encyclical Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI was concerned with a spreading wave of anti-clericalism and secularism, and with people’s complacency toward the many forms of godlessness in modern culture (24).

Fast-forward 90 years and we know that today’s culture is not only by and large a secular one, but quite antagonistic toward religion in general and Christianity in particular. The 20th and 21st centuries produced more Christian martyrs than during any other period of the Church’s life, and now we are living through a particularly violent period for Christians in the Middle East and Africa.

As a “remedy for the plague which now infects society,” the Feast of Christ the King is not meant to be an excuse to preach doom and gloom, but rather is a day of encouragement and confident hope (Quas Primas, 24). Today, in the context of the New Evangelization, the feast offers us an opportunity to proclaim the Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand.  The sovereignty that this feast speaks of is a spiritual one laying claim to our hearts and offering us the grace to establish a truly good and just society.  It is also a time for us to reaffirm the longstanding recognition in our nation that the realm of faith and religious expression must be free from the interference of state and government intervention.

This year with the Solidarity in Suffering campaign, we recognize that the freedom we take for granted in this country is not always the experience of others around the world.  In a particular way, we need to remember our Christian sisters and brothers who are giving witness to the reign of Christ by their steadfast faith in the face of severe persecution and even martyrdom. They teach us the strength that comes from faith in the reign of God and the promise of eternal life – even in the face of cruelty, war and death. They know that their captors and conquerors cannot take away their future with God. With their lives they are a living testimony that the kingdom of God transcends and is victorious even over the violence of this world.

Today on this Feast of Christ the King, we join Christians across the United States in a day of prayer and solidarity with our persecuted sisters and brothers. This day is followed by striving this week to learn more and raise awareness of the situation of Christians in the land where it all began and elsewhere around the world, and to consider ways we may be able to support them with spiritual and material assistance and by speaking out on their behalf.  Looking forward as well to the beginning of the Advent season, we also pray more fervently to the Lord of all, “Thy Kingdom come.”