By Father John P. Cush
With this solemnity of the Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we come on this Sunday to the end of the Year of Grace 2019. In order to understand this great feast, we need to put it into the proper context.
Pope Pius XI instituted the solemnity in reaction to the state of the world after the First World War, the “war to end all wars.” The war had seen the end of the reigns of many of the noble families of Europe and Asia from Russia to Turkey to Germany to Austria, and even Great Britain, on whose empire “the sun never sets,” was beginning to show the cracks in the foundation that would visibly crumble after the Second World War.
Communism as seen in Stalin and fascism as demonstrated by Mussolini and other radical ideologies were rising throughout the world. Nazism was just around the corner. And soon, the United States would experience the Great Depression.
The Vatican itself would soon lose more temporal power with the Lateran Treaty. The world as it was known was suddenly changing. Who was in charge?
Pope Pius XI, in an earlier encyclical, “Ubi arcano,” recognized this reality:
“…manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.”
Who is in charge? Ultimately, it is Christ who reigns. Pope Pius XI, in 1925 in his encyclical, “Quas primas,” wrote:
“He is said to reign ‘in the hearts of men,’ both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind … He is King of hearts, too, by reason of his ‘charity which exceedeth all knowledge’.”
So, a question for us then, as we examine our lives, our souls, our consciences, at the conclusion of this Year of Grace 2019 and prepare next Sunday to begin a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent: Have we allowed Our Lord Jesus Christ to be king of our hearts, our minds, our wills, indeed our very soul?
As Christians, we are incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ, and as such, we have to make decisions, for Christ and his church or against Christ and his church.
St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, in his Spiritual Exercises speaks of “The Two Standards:” the way of the Lord Jesus or the way of the world. By his use of the term, “standard,” St. Ignatius means a banner under which a regiment marches. We as Christians have to make a choice. And what better day to make that choice than on this feast of Our Lord Jesus, Christ King of the Universe.
Once we choose God over mammon, once we pick the things of the Lord over the things of his world, the haze of self-deception is lifted. And as Christ did, we recognize that we live not for ourselves, but for Christ and for others. Our response to the gratuitous gift of God that is our very existence is not a concern for “What’s in it for me”? but a call to see God in all things.
Having become able to see Christ in all things, we then recognize that we are to be the heart, the hands and the voice of Christ in the world, especially to the poor, the weak, the forgotten and the oppressed. We are commissioned as the standard-bearers of Christ Jesus to become men and women for others.
Readings for the 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
Father Cush, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, serves as Academic Dean of the Pontifical North American College, Rome.