"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Feast of Christ the King (Year A)

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“We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.”

In every Mass, at the most sacred moment – after the Consecration – the priest invites us to proclaim our faith. In that proclamation we declare that Jesus Christ died and rose again and that the Lord Jesus will come again in glory.

This is the heart of our Catholic faith. Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, died to save us. He rose triumphant from the grave; death could not contain him and it will not contain us. Now on our pilgrimage of faith in this world, we live in the expectation of His final coming in glory.

Jesus, Son of God, came once and entered our history, born of the Virgin Mary. He came among us humbly – born in a stable. He lived among us and shared our human condition. He revealed the compassion and mercy of God. He revealed the nature of God to us and showed us the way to salvation.

He humbled himself to the extent of dying on the cross (Phil 2:8). In his Resurrection he is proclaimed Lord. He has ascended to the heavens in triumph and now sits at the right hand of the Father. He will return at the end of time in splendor and glory, surrounded by the angels. All creation will witness the power and glory of the Lord.

He came first as Saviour. In taking on our human condition he revealed the intention of God to save. He will come at the end as Judge “to judge the living and the dead”. Today’s Gospel parable presents this.

In a scene easy to imagine and its meaning to contemplate, the Son of Man will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him. He will make the definitive separation: characterized by the sheep and goats.

The criteria of judgement is whether our life’s actions reveal love – love for the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, and the sick. St John declared: “God is love and he who lives in love lives in God and God in him.” The defining quality of God is love. So the defining quality of our lives – as sons and daughters of God – must thus be love. The Lord will come again in glory and each of us must render an account of our lives.

The Feast of Christ the King is a relatively new feast in the Church’s liturgical calendar. It was introduced by Pope Pius XI in 1925. It was introduced at a time when the forces of secularism were rising up and directly attacking the Church. One very evident example was the fierce persecution of the Church in Mexico. Freedom of religion was being denied to the Catholic people. Priests were jailed and shot. A similar thing would occur later in Spain in the 1930s. It happened particularly in nations where atheistic Communism rose to power. The Church suffered terribly as the Polish people know only too well.

Pope Pius XI declared that Christ, as our redeemer, is king and all angels and men are subject to him. The Pope also referred to the fact that God bestowed upon Christ the nations of the world as His special possession and dominion, and he quoted from St Matthew’s Gospel, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Mt 28:18)
The Pope had his eyes on governments who were demanding that the highest allegiance had to be to them and that religion at best must be private and, at worst, driven from people’s lives. So the Pope stated,
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. (Quas Primas, 33)

Pope Pius taught that nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the control of the state (Quas Primas, 32). He further urged leaders of nations that they are bound to give respect to Christ (Quas Primas, 31). He hoped that the Catholic people, especially those suffering persecution, would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast, as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas, 33).

At the present time this feast and its meaning has particular relevance. In the flow-on from the marriage postal vote, there are people in government wanting to rush through a bill which will grant the status of marriage to same-sex couples and provide little or no protection for those who hold to the view that marriage is between a man and a woman.

What is at stake here is that people who conscientiously believe in traditional marriage may be under threat in their employment, that Christian schools and social services will be targeted and forced to comply with new regulations or lose funding, and that parents’ rights to form their children in Christian teaching will be denied.

We are entering a situation where Christians will come under persecution for their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

This feast today reminds us that Christ is king, and He will finally triumph when He comes again in glory. It encourages us to be faithful to Christ now and always, and, if necessary, to choose Christ and not the ideology of the age.

Viva Cristo Rey.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Friday, 24 November 2017