Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Christ%20King[1] In 1925 Pope Pius XI instituted the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. It is celebrated in our modern calendar on the last Sunday of ordinary time.

Pope Pius XI wished to give honor and glory to Our Lord and King as a means of overcoming problems and difficulties in both private affairs and public and political life. This feast touches on the part of life which is unique to the lay person, the world of temporal affairs. There is nothing new about the call to live our faith through our work and our ordinary life. As our Lord Jesus Christ taught us to pray to our Heavenly Father, we say, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom is his reign and rule, or God’s divine activity on this earth. In the second reading from Colossians we read that by virtue of our Baptism we have been transferred into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son. By the blood of the cross Jesus Christ has reconciled all things to himself, “whether those on earth or those in heaven.”

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading we are struck by the dramatic irony of the crucifixion and death of our Lord on the cross. A sign was posted over Christ’s head declaring him to be the King of the Jews. The rulers and soldiers derided him in his apparent weakness. Only the “Good Thief,” whom tradition remembers as Saint Dismas, recognizes Jesus as the Christ who will reign from the cross. It is through the cross that the eyes of many will be opened to see not a man dying but the cosmic reality of the Word of God. Christ is the “image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation” (Colossian 1:15). In him “all things are held together.” He is preeminent and “the head of the body, which is the Church” (Colossian 1:18).

This past week Pope Benedict XVI gave an inspiring gift to the Church in the form of an Apostolic Exhortation entitled, Verbum Domini, On the Word of God in the Life and Ministry of the Church. Pope Benedict points out that any use of human language to describe God must be seen as a type of analogy or symphony of voices, which attempts to apprehend the vastness of the Word of God. The Word of God is the Logos, the Eternal Word. He is the “image of the invisible God,” from this Sunday’s second reading. We also recognized the Word is the person of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father who became flesh through the Virgin Mary. Although the Christ event is the heart of divine revelation we can also see the Word in creation, in God’s word spoken in salvation history, in the preaching of the Apostles, and handed on in the living Tradition of the Church (Verbum Domini 7). Echoing St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Pope Benedict reminds us, “while in the Church we greatly venerate the sacred Scriptures, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”: Christianity is the “religion of the word of God”, not of “a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word” (VD 7).

In speaking of the Eternal Word we must understand that, “everything that exists does not exist by chance but is willed by God and part of his plan, at whose center is the invitation to partake, in Christ, in the divine life” (VD 8). The Word of is the foundation of all things and the answer to the deepest longings of the human heart (VD 10). After giving us advice on how to properly understand and interpret Sacred Scriptures, Pope Benedict reminds all the faithful, “The most profound interpretation of Scripture comes precisely from those who let themselves be shaped by the word of God through listening, reading and assiduous meditation” (VD 48). After discussing the role of the Word of God in the liturgy and Sacraments, Pope Benedict calls for a greater “biblical apostolate,” but he insists “not alongside other forms of pastoral work, but as a means of letting the Bible inspire all pastoral work” (VD 73). The Bible should be the “inspiration of every ordinary and extraordinary pastoral outreach” (VD 73). The acceptance of the word leads to the mission of proclaiming the word, which for the laity involves bearing “witness to the Gospel in their daily life, wherever they find themselves” (VD 94). In 1925, Pope Pius XI envisioned the Solemnity of Christ the King as means of bring Christ’s kingship to bear on the problems and difficulties of the temporal order and on political life. This calling is directly related to our living the Word in daily life. Quoting Matthew 25, Pope Benedict reminds each of us, “The word of God itself emphasizes the need for our engagement in the world and our responsibility before Christ, the Lord of history. As we proclaim the Gospel, let us encourage one another to do good and to commit ourselves to justice, reconciliation and peace” (DV 99). Pope Benedict also reminds us, “For every member of the faithful Mary is the model of docile acceptance of God’s word, for she “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19; cf. 2:51) (VD 87). Let us turn then to our Lady asking her to help us receive the Word as she did ready to do the Lord’s will.



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