Mons Yennock Homily — Feast of Christ the King

Feast of Christ the King November 23, 2014

In 1924, the year before the feast of Christ the king was proclaimed, the government of Mexico declared war on the Catholic Church to prove that Jesus is not lord. 

A young Jesuit priest, Father Michael Pro was arrested and brought in front of the firing squad. Before they shot him, with a crucifix in his hand he shouted out viva el Christo rey. Long live Christ the king. Thousands of priests, religious, and lay people were killed in that movement against Christ the king. The counter movement was called the el cristo rey! Was the battlecry of the entire Cristero movement.  The people wanted everyone to know that Jesus Christ was lord and king. 

The persecution is over now in Mexico. The church is flourishing there. Today more than 80% of the people of Mexico are Catholic. When pope benedict xvi  went to Mexico he spoke to 350,000 people in front of a dramatic 72 foot statue of Christ the king a symbol of their freedom in Christ. The Mexican Catholics made a statement of faith with that dramatic statue—Jesus Christ is lord. Jesus Christ is the king of kings. 

The four gospels are fundamentally the story of how Yahweh, the God of Israel, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, established himself as king of the universe. 

If you read ancient history the world had long been governed by various “kings” who ruled through violence and cruelty: Pharaoh, the Amalekites, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans. Read the bible where Yahweh had promised that one day, through his anointed servant the messiah, he would deal with these tyrants, and would himself come to be the shepherd king. 

In the first three hundred years of the church the roman emperor forced everyone to acknowledge that Caesar is lord meaning that the roman emperor was the one to whom final allegiance was due. Christians who believed that Jesus is Lord refused to acknowledge the lordship of Caesar.  The early Christians refused to offer incense before his statue. They refused to say Caesar is lord. They said: no Jesus is lord. 

St. Peter’s statement was typical of the early Christian stance. He says in the acts of the apostles (acts 3:15) “you killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead, and to this we are witnesses”. As a consequence of this belief they affirmed that Jesus is lord. 

One of the commonest phrases in the writings of St. Paul is Jesus is lord. Paul was directly challenging the political and social status quo, which goes a long way toward explaining why he spent a good deal of time in jail!

This explains why Christianity and the roman empire were in conflict. The question of the day was: who would triumph, Caesar or Christ? Who is lord?

For three hundred years Christians persevered in their belief that Jesus Christ is lord and he alone must be adored. The military might of the roman empire came down on thousands of Christians who were martyred for their faith. Their blood became the seed of the kingdom of Christ.

By the end of the fourth century the roman empire that proclaimed Caesar as lord bowed down to the savior of the world and proclaimed Jesus Christ is lord. By the end of the fourth century there were 35 million Christians. From that moment on the kingdom of Jesus Christ was firmly proclaimed in the world.

The secular world has never been comfortable with the lordship of Jesus Christ. The secular world claims that political, economic ad military power determine who is lord. And those who possess them are lords of the world. Christians knew that, in Jesus, the God of israel had become king, and that the world was now under new management. 

They saw their mission as the declaration of that kingship to everyone.  But they were insisting that Jesus is the one to whom final allegiance is due, and that he is more powerful than any of the “kings”—political, economic, military or cultural—who tend to dominate human affairs.

They reveled in the fact that Jesus’ kingly power was exercised, not through violence and domination, but through the nonviolence of the cross. They gladly announced to anyone who would listen that the true king wore a crown of thorns, and reigned from the throne of the cross. 

When Pontius Pilate the Roman governor in Palestine interrogated Jesus he questioned the kingship of Jesus. He asks Jesus: “are you a king? And Jesus who had the royal blood of King David running through his veins, stands tall and majestic. He is a king both in his human nature and in his divine nature. He says humbly with great nobility:  “I am a king. My kingdom is not of this world” (john 18:36).

Jesus never really defined the kingdom but once he said something that shows what he believed the kingdom to be: thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

The kingdom is a society and a state of things when God’s wll is perfectly done on earth as it is in heaven. To Jesus the kingdom meant not wealth or power or political prestige, but perfectly doing the will of God. To Jesus the kingdom was not a thing of power and force with armies, battles, palaces and riches. Jesus’ idea of the kingdom was quite different from the ideas that the world had. 

The secular roman empire confronted the kingdom of God in the personalities of Pilate and Jesus. Pilate, wearing the robes and insignia of the roman empire, is surrounded by guards. He stands there with all the splendor and power of the empire behind him. 

Jesus stands there alone in the robe of a fool with a crown of thorns and blood on his face. 

As we look at the confrontation between the secular kingdom and the spiritual kingdom, we have to ask the question: who won in that encounter between Pilate and Jesus?  From all outward appearances it looks like Pilate won. Jesus was sent away. He was dismissed as a despised criminal, and was executed.   

In a few years however the tables are turned. Pilate must stand before the risen Jesus in judgment. Jesus describes this judgment in Matthew’s gospel: “when the son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him“(matt. 25:31).

The judgment of God will always triumph over the judgment of secular power because God will always outlive those who wield secular power.

Jesus Christ proved his lordship over life and death when he rose from the dead and walked away from his own grave by his own power. From that moment on the kingdom of Jesus Christ was firmly established in the world. As Daniel the prophet said: “his kingdom shall not be destroyed; his dominion is forever.” (dan. 6:26)

If we take a trip through the events of the past 2000 years, Jesus Christ emerges as the lord of history

The kings and queens of Europe with their claims of lordship are gone. After a thousand years of French monarchy and another thousand years of British monarchy in Europe the rule of kings and queens has pretty much disappeared.  Christ the king survives.  As Daniel says:  his kingdom shall not be destroyed his dominion is forever. (dan. 6:26)

In modern times we have lived through the history of napoleon, Hitler, Stalin and other dictators who had designs to conquer the world. They would prove that Jesus is not lord that his dominion is not forever. They spent billions of dollars on their armies their navies and their air forces. They cruelly killed millions of people in their effort to show that they were the lords of the universe

In 1925 Pope Pius XI declared a new feast in the church—the feast of Christ the king. 

Some thought it was strange that the church was instituting a feast of Christ the king at a time when the title of king and queen was disappearing in the world. In 1925 after the first world war the whole geography of Europe had been redesigned. Most of the kings and queens were gone or most of their power was diminished

Actually, it was a stroke of genius on the part of the church to emphasize the kingship of Jesus Christ because it answered the question: who is the lord of history?  The Catholic church is two thousand years old. From the beginning, the church has lived side by side with kings and queens, emperors and dictators. Many of these leaders tried to destroy the church by attacking the lordship of Jesus Christ.  

They tried to convince the world that economic power is lord, political power is lord, and pleasure is lord; Caesar is lord, napoleon is lord. And in our own time Lenin is lord, Marx is lord, Hitler is lord, Stalin is lord, Mao Tse Tung is lord, Idi Amin is lord, and pol pot is lord. 

What happened? The kings and queens, emperors and dictators who persecuted the church have faded into history. 

Caesar is dead, napoleon is dead, Lenin is dead, Marx is dead, Hitler is dead, Stalin is dead, Mao Tse Tung is dead, Idi Amin is dead and pol pot is dead. All those kingdoms of the world that tried to destroy the church are gone. 

The intellectuals and the wealthy are usually attracted to the powerful of this world—they were fascinated by Caesar, by the kings and queens, by napoleon, by Hitler, by Stalin.  Those kingdoms and empires are long gone. The Kingdom of Christ the king remains. His kingdom shall not be destroyed his dominion is forever. 

At the time of the so-called enlightenment in France, Voltaire, a noted French critic and writer said: “in a 100 years from now, Christianity will be swept out of existence and pass into history. Voltaire died in 1778. He passed into history. The followers of Jesus are still very much alive. Jesus is still lord

The kingdom of Jesus Christ is the oldest kingdom in the world today. There are 2 billion Christians in this kingdom. What did Daniel the prophet say?  His kingdom shall not be destroyed his dominion is everlasting.

Jesus said to palate: “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth”.  As Christians you and I pursue the truth of Christ. It is folly to pursue the false values of the world.  We will not fall for fashionable teaching. What is fashionable today will be out of date tomorrow. That’s why we follow the eternal truth of Jesus Christ the king. It is never out of date. It may be unpopular but it is never out of date. 

Both napoleon and Stalin at different times mocked the church asking. How many legions does the church have? Where are her armies? Where are her navies? 

The power of the church is the power of Jesus Christ the king. The power of the church is manifested in her sacraments. The power of the church is manifested in that spiritual army of men and women called to build up his kingdom through the priesthood, the religious orders and the powerful lay movements in the church. 

There are 400,000 priests and 800,000 sisters throughout the world. The religious orders of men and women form the armies of Christ-- the Augustinians, the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Vincentians, the Jesuits, the Silesians, the sisters of life the sisters of St. Joseph, the Franciscan sisters, the sisters of charity and hundreds more religious orders of men and women.

Thousands of men and women take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to counteract the obsession that the world has with wealth, power, sex, and rebellion. 

These armies give witness to Christ the king. They give witness to his teaching about the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field.

Jesus is Lord and he will reign forever. Never give up. Never become discouraged. Some of you are fearful about what looks like the decline of the church. Do not be fooled by the deteriorating culture around us. The church may be declining in some places but it is flourishing in other places. Pope benedict xvi said that when the dead weight is gone we will be a smaller church but a stronger one. Daniel prophesied correctly:  his kingdom shall not be destroyed his dominion is forever

Jesus is the lord of history. He must also be the lord of your life. If he is not the lord of your life then Satan is the lord of your life and you will inherit the kingdom of Satan for all eternity. The choice is yours.   

Whom will you choose as the lord of your life? Who will give you your marching orders? Are you prepared to approach Christ as men and women ready to lay down your lives for him and his father? Are you ready to pick up his cross and follow him into his father’s will, and into his father’s kingdom? Remember: his kingdom shall not be destroyed his dominion is forever.

When you receive holy communion at this mass tell Jesus what your decision is:  “lord Jesus, you are the lord of my life. I will never stand against you. I surrender to your will. Give me the wisdom and the courage to promote your mission. I believe that your kingdom shall not be destroyed. I believe that your dominion is forever.

Jesus said: “he who is not with me is against me”. You have a decision to make on this feast of Christ the king. You have to make a decision to promote his kingdom. You may not hang out on the sidelines. You may not stand by as an observer.  There is no neutral position. If you are not actively promoting his kingdom you are a load on the kingdom. You do not really understand the meaning of Christ the king. 

I heard of a woman who decided after much prayer and study to give her life to Christ. She said that she took a shower, dressed in her finest clothes, did her hair, put on her makeup, and then knelt down by her bed to ask Christ into her life. She argued that if she had an audience with the queen, she would have done all that and more besides. So why not be presentable, when meeting, for the first time, the king of kings and the lord of lords? That lady understood the meaning of Christ the king, the lord of my life