Sunday, Nov. 20, is the Solemnity of Christ the King. Mass Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalms 122:1-5; Colossians 1:12-20, Luke 23:35-43
We can find the kingship of Christ everywhere in our faith.
But, first, it is important to note that, even in his own day, “kingship” was not an obvious metaphor for Christ to make. Galilee had its own king, Herod Antipas, a corrupt man whose authority was almost entirely overridden by the Romans. Even for Jesus, “king” references were more from history than from real life.
“Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables,” says the Catechism (546). Christ uses parables to show just how radical a change he is making. In this case, he is changing the kingdom from a symbol of glory and luxury to a symbol of humility and simplicity. He tells Mary that she will “throw down the mighty from their thrones,” and he himself becomes the first example of that, offering his kingdom to the poor and lowly, demanding that we “humble ourselves and become little” — become like children — to enter God’s kingdom.
This alternate vision of kingship fills our faith.
It is there in the Our Father, when we pray, “Thy kingdom come!” It’s there in the crucifix, with the sign saying, “Jesus, King of the Jews.” It is there in the Rosary, in the “threes” — the third mysteries in each of the first three decades: The Nativity of the Newborn King; the Proclamation of the Kingdom; and — marking the only earthly coronation Jesus ever submitted to — the Crowning With Thorns.
His kingship accompanies us all year, actually. It starts at Epiphany, when the Three Kings lay their gifts down before the Christ Child, who then has to flee a king’s wrath. It continues as Lent begins, with the three temptations in the desert and Satan offering Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world.” Lent ends with Holy Week, when Pilate discusses Christ’s kingship with Jesus before sending him to his death, where the Good Thief says, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The Easter season ends with Christ declaring himself King of the Universe, at the Ascension, saying, “All authority on heaven and earth are given to me.” Then follows, in the liturgical calendar, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, which again focuses on Christ’s kingship. The summer ends with the Marian feasts of the Assumption and Coronation, where the King crowns his Queen.
No wonder the Church year ends at the throne of Jesus Christ, with his glorious crown and scepter of power.
Lord, as the new liturgical year begins, help us face whatever comes, knowing that it is all part of the royal road to your heavenly throne.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
He is the author of What Pope Francis Really Said.