Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, 2021
“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father,
to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.”
“To him who loves us, and has freed us…who has made us into a kingdom.” These words describe with powerful precision whom and what and why we are celebrating this day.
Whom are we celebrating? The one who loves us, our King. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, who in Mary took to himself our human nature, body and soul. And so, because he is one of us, and by nature the greatest of us, he is also by nature our King: the best, the most kind, the most beautiful, and the wisest of men, the One whose glorious face and form all desire to see unveiled in his kingly splendor on high, just as they long for him now, veiled on the altar here below.
What are we celebrating? His kingdom. Christ is King not only as a title: no, he has a real domain, a real territory, a real jurisdiction. It is found wherever human selves, souls, and bodies are found: “on the earth, in the heavens, and under the earth,” that is, here, and in heaven, and in purgatory, and yes, even in hell.
No human being is excluded from his rule. All submit to it, whether willingly, as a sweet yoke and a marvelous, merciful citizenship, or unwillingly, as he converts, corrects and punishes them in his justice. He taught us his subjects this prayer: “Thy kingdom come!” And come it must, and we pray that all enter into it willingly and happily and not under constraint. This kingdom was his constant teaching, the object of every parable and work of mercy, and the pretext for his death, so that even his enemies could not attack him without acknowledging it. And this kingdom is ours, and so we can see…
…why we are celebrating! One word expresses why we rejoice in common on this day: love. Divine charity is the surname the apostle gives to the divine Son. He calls Christ the King the “Son of the Father’s Love!” Conceived by the Holy Spirit, his and the Father’s consubstantial love, born of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Love.
Love lays hold of what is good, and divine love possesses all good, indeed, is Goodness itself. This goodness is the source of Christ’s kingship, for he holds it not for himself, but solely for us, his brethren and subjects. For it is the nature of the good to give itself. He exists as our King only to pour out on us the gifts of his love. His cross reveals to us that he will even seem to be despoiled of his power in order to inundate us with a shower of charity, as he surrounds us with the mighty arms of his powerful love stretched out from his blood-red throne.
This is so consoling a truth that it is easy to miss its point, for there is more. Our King, by loving us beyond measure, thereby gives us, each of us, a share in his kingship. We too have the power to pour out his love on everyone, “on earth, in heaven, and under the earth.” By the life of charity, we are united, really, personally, actively to the saints of heaven, to the just and to the poor sinners of earth, and to the holy souls who are being purified in the world to come. At every moment we can exercise this power of the kingdom of the Son of the Father’s Love by a loving thought, word, or deed for one of the saints, for our neighbor here below who is in even the slightest need of anything, and for the souls of the departed who can do nothing to help themselves.
By love, we are the officers, the representatives of our King. But what is more, his apostle calls us coheirs with him, that is, we inherit his kingdom by our works of love, as truly as if we had the same title as he to a throne and a kingdom!
Christ our King, the Son of the Love of the Father, and his kingdom of which we are both subjects and heirs: these are all mighty motives for the most refined and confident kingly desires and loving resolutions in each of our hearts.
But there is one loving resolution I ask of all of you to make today. You see, I, like you, have a share in his kingship, but as your share fills you with hope and expectation, mine fills me with fear, even as I give thanks for it. My share is to be able to act not only with the power of the King of love, but to act in his very person as I do on the altar.
What will be the recompense for using so great a gift? That is a joyful thought! But what will the judgment be for the unworthy one who received it?
Pray for me, that I may receive for the rest of my days a continuous infusion of love proportionate to the gift of my priesthood, and so atone, as the liturgy says ,“for my innumerable sins, offences, and negligences.”
Thus shall I be able to stand before his throne of justice and mercy at the last, and enter in with all of you, beloved coheirs, into the pure bliss and all-pervasive love of that kingdom where the son of Mary lives and reigns, with his Father and their Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen!