By Msgr. Joseph P. Calise
There is a very comfortable two-and-a-half mile hiking trail on the Muttontown Preserve in Nassau County. One of the most interesting sites on the trail is what remains of King Zog’s palace. Zog was born Ahmet Zogolli in 1895. He was the youngest man ever elected as King of Albania (he was 27 at the time).
When Albania became a kingdom, he named himself the king and used a shortened version of his last name, becoming King Zog. His biography lists several good acts, some bad political decisions and fifty-five assassination attempts. Some believed he was a very good king and obviously many others believed otherwise.
History books are filled with stories about kings and queens — some lovable and others not so lovable. History tells us that Nebuchadnezzar, Ivan the Terrible and Caligula were evil men as were Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan. But Kings David, Solomon, George III (of England) and Louis XVI (of France) all have the reputation of being good men and, therefore, rather popular. You seldom hear a bad word about Princess Grace of Monaco or Princess Diana.
So, why is a king (or queen) remembered as good or bad? The most obvious answer to the question is how they treated their people. That, however, has to be understood as more than just being a nice guy. A king is responsible for the wellbeing of his kingdom. That means not only doing good things for his people but also challenging them when they are wrong.
It means sacrificing for them but also teaching them to sacrifice for others. It means rewarding their good deeds but also punishing fairly their misdeeds. To be a good king one has to balance authority and justice within his kingdom while protecting it from enemies seeking to do it harm. In short, to be a good king one has to love his subjects and be willing to do whatever it takes to keep them safe from enemies, reasonably happy and at peace with one another.
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King. Prayerfully reading the Scriptures reveals God’s love for us, His willingness to not only be born for us but to die and rise from the dead for us, and to prepare for each of us a place in the kingdom. The goodness of Christ as King cannot be denied but it is also not the end of the meaning of this day. The Gospel teaches that when all are assembled before His throne, He will separate the sheep from the goats, the loyal subjects from the disobedient ones. To call Christ the “King” acknowledges His dominion but also our place as His subjects.
In the Encyclical “Quas Primas,” in which Pius XI established this Feast in 1925, the rule of Christ over all creation is, of course, affirmed, but the encyclical also says, “If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire.
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 and in our members, 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.”
So, how does one celebrate the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe? By acknowledging His love for us and doing our best to be grateful servants. Happy Thanksgiving!
Readings for the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
1 Corinthians:20-26, 28
Msgr. Calise is the pastor of Transfiguration-St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Maspeth.