Feast of Christ the King
Rome, Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims Church, October 25, 2015
Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Christ is victorious, Christ reigns, Christ commands.” Would not the Carolingian acclamations make too big a claim on our faith?
In 1935, Stalin answered the French Premier Pierre Laval, who had asked him to respect religious freedom: “The Pope! How many divisions has he got?” Many statesmen today make implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, the same comment. Whereas in most nations throughout the world, religious freedom, the family, the right to life for unborn children or for elderly, are beset, the feast of Christ the King demands of us an act of faith, when we might be tempted to despair.
The Gospel tells us the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate, a dialogue between him who deems to have a plenary power, and a man mocked, derided, scourged: “Art thou the king of the Jews?… Art thou a king then?” Jesus’ answer reveals a kingship ignored by men, a king who is a witness to truth:
Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice. (Jn 18:37)
For 2000 years, many are there, either surprised, or scoffing, or provocative, or men of compromise, or scheming, or merely doubting, who have asked Jesus this question. Jesus’ answer remains: “I am a king.”
Let us give thanks with St. Paul, because,
For in Him were all things created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers. All things were created by Him and in Him. And He is before all: and by Him all things consist. And He is the Head of the Body, the Church. (Col 1:16-18)
During the sacrament of baptism, the priest asks the catechumen: “What do you ask from the Church?” He must answer: “Faith.” This answer should remain our whole lives’ firm purpose. Failure of hope and charity is often a consequence of a lack of faith, of a too human consideration of situations, that forgets abandonment to God’s purpose.
However, so that nations should acknowledge Christ’s kingship over them, we must first accept His kingship over each of us. Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum allows us to enjoy peacefully the manifold riches of the extraordinary form. We should be thankful for that, and to this duty of gratefulness is added another one, that I take the liberty to sum up with a single question: Is our faith as extraordinary as our liturgy? To make Jesus the centre of liturgy has but a single aim: to become ourselves true witnesses of Christ’s kingship, to live of Christ and for Christ, to such an extent that all should be able to say: “It is Christ Who lives in him.”
This thanksgiving pilgrimage has led us to Rome when is ending the XIVth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World”.
King of men, Christ is also King of families.
On several occasions, for instance during Wednesday audiences, His Holiness Pope Francis has offered a rich and in-depth reflection on the family. During his last journey to Ecuador, the gospel of the wedding at Cana has given him the opportunity to broach this subject:
The wedding at Cana is repeated in every generation, in every family, in every one of us and our efforts to let our hearts find rest in strong and enduring love, fruitful love and joyful love. Let us make room for Mary, “the Mother”, as the Evangelist calls her. Let us journey with her now to Cana.
Mary is attentive… Mary is a Mother!… Mary prays… She teaches us to put our families in God’s hands; she teaches us to pray, to kindle the hope which shows us that our concerns are also God’s concerns. And finally, Mary acts. Her words, “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5), addressed to the attendants, are also an invitation to us to open our hearts to Jesus, Who came to serve and not to be served. Service is the sign of true love. Those who love know how to serve others. We learn this especially in the family… (Pope Francis, Homily of the Mass for Families in Guayaquil, Ecuador, July 6, 2015)
To be attentive, to pray, and to serve, such are the indications that Mary gives us.
St. Luke remembers Mary’s attitude: “Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. (Lk 2:19) The Latin word that is translated by “ponder” is conferens, literally “bearing them together in her heart.” Mary’s heart is the place of an alchemy of love. There, she gives thanks, there, she prays, there also, she suffers and offers herself up.
As the jubilary year of Mercy is nearing by, are our hearts the place of a dialogue with Christ the King? Are we bearing in our hearts the joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious events of our lives, pondering them in secret, so as to draw from them a rule for our actions?
“The Pope! How many divisions has he got?” Stalin might have said, “How many hearts?”—for a heart truly given to Christ is far more fearsome than a division!
Whereas St. Therese of Lisieux’ parents have recently been canonised, I think of these few words of their daughter, which I entrust you as a viaticum, in this holy town of Rome, the holy heart of Christendom:
Meditating on the mystical Body of Holy Church, I could not recognise myself among any of its members as described by St. Paul—or was it not rather that I wished to recognise myself in all? Charity provided me with the key to my vocation. I understood that since the Church is a body composed of different members, the noblest and most important of all the organs would not be wanting. I knew that the Church has a heart, that this heart burns with love, and that it is love alone which gives life to its members. I knew that if this love were extinguished, the Apostles would no longer preach the Gospel, and the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. I understood that love embraces all vocations, that it is all things, and that it reaches out through all the ages, and to the uttermost limits of the earth, because it is eternal. Then, beside myself with joy, I cried out: ‘O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love!’ (Manuscript B, folio 3, verso)
Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault