Christ the King

Solemnity of Christ the King. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama at Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Sheda, Abuja. November 22, 2020.

Readings: Ez. 34:11-12, 15-17; Ps. 22(23): 1-3a. 5-6; 1 Cor. 15:20-26, 28; Mt. 25:31-46

A few days ago, a lady in frustration about insecurity, poverty and uncertainties said she would be very happy if Christ could return quickly and carry us all away and terminate this world. I told her that before that happens, and for it to be beneficial to us, we must purify our lives; our polluted spiritual environment needs cleansing and there is need to consolidate our brotherhood and sisterhood. Wishing that Christ should come now to terminate our world as it is, is an act of escapism.

In any case, we must not wait for Christ’s final return before we do the needful. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. All that matters is to allow Him to be the King of our lives and to allow his teachings about love and peace reign, and to put the interests of our neighbours before ours (cf. Phil 2:4). If we do this, the entire world will be a delight to live in. But when we ignore the fundamentals of justice, cordial interpersonal relationships and tear at each other, this world becomes hellish. When what is yours is denied you, or you deprive another person what is his/hers, violence easily erupts and even if we desire that Christ should return now, He will meet us grossly unprepared, because we don’t live in accordance with the injunctions of God.

The Feast of Christ the King instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 was first celebrated at a time when the world was suffering from the devastating effects of the First World War (1914-1918). Secularism and dangerous dictatorships were emerging around the world, especially in Europe, making many Christians to doubt the authority and existence of Christ. It was therefore, a feast that served as a reminder to Christians and to the totalitarian governments of the day that Jesus Christ is the only sovereign and eternal King and we should enthrone Him in our hearts and surrender our lives to Him.

Our first reading today offers some words of consolation to the people of Israel as they were passing through hard times. Their Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed and they were experiencing political, social and religious instability. The people were losing confidence in their leaders, and they were almost driven to a state of despair. Ezekiel as a prophet of hope and restoration assured them that God would as a Good Shepherd look after His flock. This prophecy was fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the eschatological King, who came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (cf. Mt. 20:28). By washing the feet of His Apostles, Christ in contrast to the oppressive nature of earthly kings, showed His disciples practical lessons about true leadership (cf. Jn. 13:4-17). Leaders serve and don’t rule.

Christ should be the model for our political, traditional and religious leaders today. He was a King without attendants, special advisers, security guards and without other paraphernalia of power. As the Good Shepherd, He led, fed, healed and protected His sheep. He rescued and brought back the lost sheep to the fold. While earthly kings sought honour and demanded service from their subjects, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. While earthly kings wore crowns of glory, Jesus wore the crown of thorns; earthly kings sat on the throne while Jesus hung on the cross. His was as the Eucharistic Preface puts it, “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

The Gospel reading today calls us to become more concerned about the needs of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the jobless, the sick, the imprisoned, etc. St. John of the Cross, said, “At the evening of our lives, we shall be judged on our love.” As long as people are hungry, Jesus is denied food; as long as people are unemployed, Jesus is denied means of livelihood; as long as people are poor and suffering diseases and dying, Jesus is the one dying, for whatever happens to the least among us happens to Jesus.

As Catholics go on a limited procession today owing to COVID-19, our desire should be to enthrone Jesus as King of our hearts and families that others may come to see Jesus in us and come to salvation. As we proclaim Christ the cosmic and universal King in different tongues, ‘Yesu bu Eze’, ‘Yesu Sarki’, ‘Jesu Oba’ etc., let us remain solid in the faith and pray for an increase in the faith of the candidates who will receive the sacrament of confirmation in this Mass. To Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever (cf. Heb. 13:8) be praise, glory and adoration forever and ever. Amen.

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