The Ultimate Peace of Christ Our King

User’s Guide to Sunday, Nov. 22, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

This Christ the King statue rises high above Poland.
This Christ the King statue rises high above Poland. (photo: Pixabay)

Sunday, Nov. 22, is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Year A). Mass Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46.

Today, the Solemnity of Christ the King, marks the end of the liturgical year. It is an invitation to us to transition from considerations of the end times, which have been the subject of the last few Sundays’ readings, to preparation for the hopeful time of Advent and Christmas. 

Pope Pius XI, who gave us this wonderful feast, became pope in 1922 shortly after the end of the Great War. His first encyclical, Ubi Arcano, speaks “first, and most important of all,” of the need of “spiritual peace” for mankind. This peace is possible only in and through “the Kingdom of Christ,” he writes. So it is that shortly after he became pontiff, Pope Pius XI promulgated Quas Primas in 1925, creating for us the solemnity we celebrate this Sunday. In it we read, “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.”

In many of his writings Pope Pius XI calls us to strive for peace, an authentic peace that is more than mere justice but which is founded on the self-emptying love that Christ the King provides us. And today’s readings show us the nature of that love. 

In the first reading and in the Psalm, for instance, we are presented with a sovereign who is also our shepherd. Ours is a king who smells like his sheep, who is among us, who watches over and protects us. In the second reading from St. Paul, however, we are presented with a different ruler. This one is Christ All-Powerful, who “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” This King has power over death itself and so his love saves us from ultimate annihilation. In the Gospel, we are introduced to a still different, radical love.

Speaking plainly to his disciples instead of in a parable, Jesus tells them that they will be judged in the end not by their claims to fidelity but by the manner in which they feed, clothe and visit the “least brothers.” This is so because our King is not just with the poor and the lonely, but he is in them. St. Matthew reveals to us in his 25th chapter that our King’s love is a love of solidarity. This King is with and in us particularly when we suffer, when we are poor, when we are alone. And we best serve our King when we serve the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the stranger.

These readings stand as a reminder to us, then, that the peace we still seek in our world of chaos will be found ultimately only in our God. What’s more, this God of ours, this beautiful King, has bound himself to the poor in radical intimacy. So, this day, we are invited to pray that we may always strive to find Our Lord and serve him in the “least ones” with the very love he gives — and that brings about the ultimate peace of Christ our King.