Today, Catholics around the world celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, and also mark the closing of the “Year of Faith.” What does the celebration of Christ the King mean?
When someone is a “king”, he is a male sovereign; he is especially the hereditary ruler of an independent state. If we remark that so-and-so is “king” at home, or in the office, or ministry, we are saying that the person has a strong and domineering power in his home, office or ministry respectively.
But, when someone’s home is “enthroned to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” we are immediately referring to a different “King” altogether. We are saying that the Sacred Heart of Jesus, (the heart being the symbol of Jesus’ compassionate love) is welcomed as its head, centre and source of love, compassion and peace in the home. This is far from Jesus asserting a strong and domineering power over our lives and obliging us to obey a set of rules and regulations that He taught during His public ministries.
Clearly, when we are celebrating the Feast of Christ the King, we are renewing our allegiance, faith, hope and love for Christ who is our Lord, Saviour and King of our lives; a King of all kings who offers eternal life and happiness; a King of all kings, who in today’s Gospel reveals His infinite Love for all peoples by His total self-giving of dying on the Cross in great humiliation for our sake and Salvation.
Once upon a time, there was a good prince who loved his country very much, but unfortunately he died when he was only 33 years of age. The King, his father was deeply saddened and erected a statue of his son in the main square of the city. This statue is made of pure gold leaves and precious gem stones.
One day a little migrating swallow who was left behind by his main flock, took shelter at this statue. As he was about to fall asleep, drops of water fell onto him. When he looked up, he realised that these were drops of tears from the prince.
“Why are you weeping?” asked the little swallow.
“I am crying because so many people are suffering and in misery. Would you stay back for a day or so to be my messenger to these people in need?” The swallow, who was himself desperate from being left behind by his flock reluctantly agreed. So, the prince told him, “When the sun rises, pluck one of my gem stones and give it to the mother who is caring for her sick and dying child; she is too poor to send her child to the doctor. The mother who received the surprise gift, immediately brought her sick child to the doctor.
Then, the prince persuaded the swallow to stay back for a few more days . . . so, each day the swallow would pluck one gem stone and gold leaf after another to help the different people in need . . . the swallow, allowed prince to persuade him to reach out to all the different people in need. This went on and on until one day the swallow had spent all his energy and was found dead at the foot of the statue of the prince who by now had also been stripped away of all his precious possessions.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, clearly, the prince in the story symbolises Christ our King and the swallow is a symbol of how each of us are called to live our life of service to the prince. The prince is filled with riches, but he is weeping daily because the world around is filled with people who are suffering and in need. However, as the prince needs the swallow, so also does Christ our King needs us to be His messenger to bring His consolation and blessings to those who are suffering in today’s world. Would we be like the swallow who was willing to give up his life and serve the prince or will we reject the prince’s request to be His messenger of compassion, peace and hope to those who are suffering in the world?
Fr Anthony Hutjes, shares, “‘When I was a boy of eighteen or so, I was very critical about the way things were done in the church and society. Like all the peers of my age, we criticised sermons for being so long and so dull, Masses for having no meaning, the priests being so uninspiring and out of touch, and our parents so stale and old-fashioned, our teachers, so rigid, harsh and fierce. We, the youth of the 1950s had our judgement on practically everything . . . I was part of all these criticism until one day someone said to me, “And you, Anthony, what are you doing about it?’ That question shook me and stayed with me until I began to change my entire outlook on things and finally even decided to become a priest.”
Blessed Mother Teresa’s paraphrasing the Gospel St Matthew 25:31-46 says, “At the end of life, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry and you gave me to eat . . . I was naked and you clothed me . . . I was homeless and you took me in.” Hungry not only for bread – but, hungry for love; naked not only for clothing – but, naked of human dignity and respect; homeless not only for want of a room of bricks – but, homeless because of rejection. This is Christ in distressing disguise.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the Kingship of Jesus is not symbolised in the crown of gold that He wears, but the crown of thorns that pierces His head. Jesus our King is not a king with political power, military might, financial wealth, social influence, glory and glamour. No, Jesus our Lord and King not only wears a crown of thorns; He is crucified on the Cross as His throne, offered vinegar when thirsty, jeered by the crowds, leaders, Roman soldiers and even mocked by the thief on His left in the last moments of His death. Jesus our Lord and King of all kings of the world, tells Pontius Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36) . . . “And when I am lifted from the earth, I will draw everyone to Myself” (Jn 12:32).
As we close the “Year of Faith” let us also remind ourselves that when our retired Pope Benedict XVI instituted the Year of Faith during his pontificate, he did so with the aim of fostering a fresh momentum in the New Evangelization.
His Grace, Archbishop William Goh, in his message to our archdiocese, on the close the Year of Faith in this week’s Catholic News publication, rightly contends that we are living in very challenging times. He asserts that we are “encountering the twin scourges of this century of: secularism and relativism, which have changed the moral climate of our country. God is no longer recognised as the absolute and the ultimate reality, as humanity has supplanted the place of God.”
Archbishop Rino Fisichella a Vatican official announced that to close the Year of Faith, the relics of St Peter, the apostle and first Bishop of Rome will be exposed with the aim of re-awakening the faith of the first Christians. This is because the enthusiasm of the first believers is a path that the Christians of today know they need to pursue untiringly . . . The faith of Peter therefore will confirm once again that the door for encounter with Christ is always open and waits to be crossed with the same enthusiasm and conviction of the first believers.”
To conclude, I would like to reaffirm the core meaning of our celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King, allow me to end with a poem entitled,
“Death – harvest time of the spirit”
On an autumn day
I took up a handful of grain
and let it slip slowly through my fingers.
And I said to myself:
‘This is what it’s all about.
There is no longer any room for pretense.
At harvest time the essence is revealed.
The straw and the chaff are set aside.
They have done their job.
The grain alone matters – sacks of pure gold.
So, it is when a person dies.
The essence of that person is revealed.
At the moment of death a person’s character stands out.
Happy for the person, if he has forged it well over the years.
Then, it will not be the great achievements that will matter;
Not how much money or possessions a person has amassed.
These, like the straw and the chaff, will be left behind.
It is what he has made of himself that will matter.
Death can take away from us what we have,
but, it cannot rob us of what we are.
We are children of our Heavenly Father,
and coheirs with Christ to the Kingdom of heaven.
(cf: Sunday Homily and Holy Days Liturgies, Year C, by Flor McCarthy,SDB. Dominican Pub:1994: pg.248-251)
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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