Our hearts are filled with inestimable joy as we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. It was Pope Pius XI who instituted this feast in 1925 in his encyclical QuasPrimas as an antidote to secularism, the rise of dictatorship and the people’s lack of respect for Christ’s reign and kingship. Thus, in the encyclical the Pope teaches that: leaders and nations are bound to give respect to Christ (QuasPrimas, 31), nations must see that the Church has the right to freedom and immunity from the state (QuasPrimas, 32), the faithful must gain strength and courage from this celebration as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (QuasPrimas, 33). Above all these, the Holy Father teaches that the feast of Christ the King proclaims in a striking and effective manner Christ’s royalty over the whole universe. This royalty of Christ, so proclaimed, stems from the truth that he is God, the creator of the universe and wields a supreme power over all things since in him all things were created ( Col 1:6).
He is our redeemer, who purchased us by his precious blood and made us his property and possession –we all belong to him and not to the devil or the world. God has bestowed upon him the nations of the world as his possession – hence, He is King and Lord of All. In addition to all these, the feast proclaims that Christ’s kingdom is supreme, universal, eternal and spiritual. The supremacy of Christ’s kingdom implies that it extends not only to peoples but also to their kings and queens, princes and princesses because he is King of kings and Lord of lords. The universality of his kingdom means that it extends to all nations and to all places because the Lord’s is the earth and the fullness therein (Psalm 24:1), his kingdom is eternal- for the Lord shall sit as King forever because, in the words of the angel Gabriel “his kingdom will have no end” (Lk 1:32-33)), and his kingdom is spiritualbecause he himself said “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36).
In the knowledge of this, we call out to the whole world in this celebration to proclaim glory, praise and honour be to thee, ‘Christ our King.’ My dear brothers and sisters, looking at the happenings around us today, we observe the obvious coronation of secularism, dictatorship by world leaders, gay culture, apparent death of the marriage institution, and complete loss of the sense of the sacred. In some countries of the world, Churches, monasteries, seminaries and convents have been leased or sold out while others have been converted to cinemas. While the casinos, pubs, clubs, stadiums and beaches are crowded to a point of stampede, many churches are empty and are closing down.
This leaves us with one striking question: Is Christ still the King of the universe? Is Christ’s Kingship still universal? Dear friends, let us not be overwhelmed by these confusing realities. Amidst of this chaos Christ is still the King; the one who reigns over us all. It is very true that he respects our freedom and free wills, but in the end, our God will be all in all (1Cor. 15:28). That is what this feast reminds us of. It will be wise of us, therefore, to submit ourselves to his rule and constantly affirm his kingship in our souls, in our bodies, in our families, in our country. We must do this by forming our lives after the true Christian ideal. This is possible because to Christ our King is given all power in heaven and on earth, and we all have been purchased by his precious blood, and thus subjected to his dominion (cf. 1Cor. 6:20; Acts 17:11)).
So “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. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls” (QuasPrimas 33). Christ’s kingship is one of humility and service. Jesus said: “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to become great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45). It is clear that Jesus knew the oppressive nature of secular kings, and in contrast to them, he connected his role as king to humble service, and commanded his followers to be servants as well. As his subjects we must imbibe the virtue of humility and service to one another.
Then we would have shown he is truly our King and we, his faithful followers. Finally, at the heart of this feast is the Church’s call for a deeper, faithful acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as our King. This acknowledgement must be followed by a firm decision to stand for Christ before the world and not deny him before men. So, wherever we are, not minding those around us or the threats to our lives, let us bear witness to Jesus our King. And as Christ taught us, let us pray for the kingdom of God to come with its peace and overshadow the warfare ravaging our world, its love to dispel the shadow of selfishness and hatred, its justice against those who seek to destroy us, its holiness to overshadow our sinfulness, its truth to cast off our falsehood. And its culture of life to put an end to the culture of death that seem to have taken over our world today. I wish you all a happy celebration and pray for God’s grace upon our lives. May his reign over the universe remain eternal. Amen.
• Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins is the Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos.