by Msgr. Joseph P. Calise
IN 1943, COLUMBIA Records re-introduced a song that was written and first released in 1939. It was composed by Arthur Altman (music) and Jack Lawrence (lyrics). Sung by Frank Sinatra, the song was “All or Nothing at All.”
The opening lyrics were: “All or nothing at all. Half a love, never appealed to me. If your heart, never could yield to me. Then I’d rather (rather) have nothing at all. If it’s love, there is no in between.”
Those who know the song know that it goes on to make it clear that it refers to romantic love, but there is also a sentiment that can be applied to our relationship with Christ. If Christ is our King, as we celebrate today, then our loyalty must be whole-hearted.
In one episode of the television classic, “The Honeymooners,” Ralph Kramden (played by Jackie Gleason) is having one of his temper tantrums and yells at his wife, Alice (Audrey Meadows): “I am the king of the castle. You are nothing.”
Beating his chest, he says, “king,” and pointing at her, “nothing.” Not one to be outdone, Alice simply responds, “That’s right, Ralph. You’re the king of nothing.”
Our loyalty, expressed in how we live from day to day, must attest to His Kingship. Either He’s King of All or we have not yet come to acknowledge His rightful place in our lives.
Acting As Loyal Subjects
The Gospel passage teaches the behavior of loyal subjects. Basically, we are told that those who accept Christ as King will perform the seven corporal works of mercy:
- To feed the hungry
- To give drink to the thirsty
- To clothe the naked
- To shelter the homeless
- To visit the sick
- To visit the imprisoned
- To bury the dead.
Those who do not or are not willing to perform these works when necessary cannot say that they are loyal servants because they are disobedient to His law and because they do not follow his example, so simply described in the first reading from Ezekiel as the shepherd who tends his flock with care.
There are no surprises as to what Christ expects – the surprise is in the reaction of the sheep and the goats on judgment day. As they are being separated and learning their fates, the good and the bad say, “When?” In other words, “When did we do or not do what you expected?”
Acknowledging Christ as King is not an isolated event, but a lifestyle. Accepting Christ as King, our loyalty as His subjects affects how we think, choose and act. It is a daily choice to mold our way of thinking and living into a more accurate reflection of the image and likeness of God with which we were created.
In 1925, Pope Pius XI instituted the feast of Christ the King in the encyclical, “Quas Primas” (“In the First”). Explaining the message he wanted to give the laity, he wrote: “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.”
On the cusp of Advent, we celebrate Christ the King. We are challenged to remember that “thy kingdom come” and “thy will be done” are intrinsically connected.
May we celebrate His kingship by loyal service and anticipate an Advent full of promise.
Readings for the Solemnity Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23: 1-2, 2-3, 5-6
1 Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28
Matthew 25: 31-46
Msgr. Calise is the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka and Transfiguration parish, Maspeth.