By Father Pete Iorio
A phrase first uttered by a Harvard professor is: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I am reminded of it because the feast that we celebrate today, Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is new in the history of the Church. Pope Pius XI began it in 1925, during the moment in history when nationalism, secularism and fascism were growing in Europe. The Pope wanted to underline the victory of Christ over evil and the Reign of Jesus established with the resurrection of the Lord. He wanted to remind Catholics that the Reign of God is distinct from any other reign that politics can establish.
It is important to hear well the words of Christ in the Gospel when Pilate asked Jesus: are you the king of the Jews? Jesus answered: “You say I am a king.” Just imagine Jesus who was a prisoner, before Pilate who has the power over his life, and Jesus answered yes, that it is true that he is king. It would have seemed ridiculous to Pilate. Nevertheless, Jesus insists that he is king, but he makes it clear that his reign is distinct. He says: My reign is not of this world. It means that his reign is not based on the power of weapons and armies, nor in the conquest of territory and the collection of taxes. His reign does not function according to the criteria of domination and of control.
Jesus says that his role as king is to testify to the truth and everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. Here the truth indicates the wisdom of God and his plan for the salvation for the world. The word of Jesus is sure; it is the message of God for the liberation of humanity. The word of Jesus does not depend on human power. It does not force itself on anyone. Those who hear are free to accept it or reject it. Jesus comes with an invitation to know the way towards God. Each person can accept his invitation or not. The distinctive mark of Jesus’ reign is love, compassion, forgiveness and non-violence.
To accept Christ as King is to enter the profound mystery of the faith. Pilate is a symbol of an Emperor who can decide whether other human beings live or die; Christ is a king who extends eternal life to all who hear his voice. Pilate is a symbol of power that depends on the force of weapons. Christ is a king who suffers, until death, but does not depend on violence to establish his victory. Pilate is the symbol of those who order others around. Christ is a God who expresses the will of God in service to others. Pilate is the symbol of human ambition which demands loyalty and whose leaders need to win. Christ is He who by means of his fidelity to the Father, invites all to live according to the compassion of God.
When Christ says: My reign is not of this world,” it does not mean that he does not live in this world. Jesus always called his disciples to live now with justice and compassion. He wanted his followers to extend the generosity of what they had received from God. His reign is based primarily on the Beatitudes, not on the commandments. His reign is founded on the same compassion of God, not in a version of the law established by the powerful of this world. His reign is based on forgiveness and the prodigal love of God, not as the concept of control and oppression and fear.
The Church invites us today, at the end of the liturgical year, not only to accept Christ as King, but to commit ourselves to live according to the precepts of his Reign. We are invited to accept Christ: who suffered, as a servant, faithful, compassionate full of love and compassion, as a model of our life. The Risen Christ has already won the victory over all the forces of evil. In Him, we share the victory. We can live in confidence with Christ as King of Our Life.
Most all the kings and queens I have known in history sent their people out to die for them. I know one King who decided to die for his people out of love for them. Those of us who have Jesus, the King of the Universe reign in our hearts, are willing to do the same because as Scripture says: Perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)