Solemnity of Christ the King

Solemnity of Christ the King, 21st November, 2021, Holy Trinity Parish, Maitama, Abuja. Homily by Archbishop I.A. Kaigama.

Readings: Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33-37

Since 1925 when Pope Pius XI instituted the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the feast has been celebrated to prompt us to recognize Christ more as the King of our lives.

The first reading from Daniel tells of the Son of Man coming in the clouds and given dominion that will last forever. God carried the title ‘Ancient of Days’ in contrast to ancient rulers whose reign was limited by time and space. The second reading presents Jesus as a King of Love. Human kings will rather have their followers protect them and die in their place. Jesus proved His love by dying to free us from sin.

According to Vatican II, each of us has been anointed with holy oil at baptism, as priest, prophet and king. The feast of Christ the King is thus a good moment to remind ourselves of our call to offer constant sacrifice of worship to God, to bear witness to the truth as Jesus does in the Gospel today, and to allow truth and moral rightness to rule us.

Today’s celebration points to God as fundamental to our existence. He alone is King of the world. Even as we battle with climate change and the destabilizing COVID-19 Pandemic, it should be a sober reminder that we cannot do it alone. We may boast of huge advances in science and technology, but like the sons of Adam building the tower in Gen. 11:1-9, our innovative and magnificent technology could disappoint us badly. We are to seek God and be always guided by Him.

Today’s feast tells us that we must think of Christ not only in the past or in the future (cf. Mk 13:32). He is already here. Allow him to be king of your life, just as He is the universal and cosmic king. If His words in the beatitudes and His commandment to love one another should be our guide, then the world will be a delight to live in. But when we ignore the fundamentals of justice, cordial inter personal relationships and tear at each other, this world becomes hellish. When what is yours is unjustly denied you, life becomes unbearable.

As we celebrate Christ as the King of truth, He should be an example par excellence to our political leaders to pursue truth and justice in all their dealings and not to manipulate their way to power, by rigging elections or imposing themselves or by manipulating the youths, security agents or electoral officers.

The responsibility of a king is to care for his subjects. Leaders must therefore lead with decorum and vision. Our leaders must be concerned about the majority poor who live in rural areas, suffering the deprivation of infrastructure, education, healthcare, as well as the very poor who live in urban areas. Here, I remember the poor frustrated pensioners, especially, my security guard who retired many years ago from government service, and hovers between Abuja and Lagos without any hope of getting his entitlement.

The parable of the bramble in Judges Chapter nine can teach our leaders how not to be leaders: by force or by fraud. The men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” There was no centralized human leader in the time of the Judges, and Gideon not wanting to fall for the temptation of position, power and prestige, said, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you” (Judges 8:21–23).

We read of the treachery of selfish ambition when one of Gideon’s sons, Abimelech, by a Shechemite concubine, wanted to become the leader above the 70 legitimate sons of Gideon. His mother’s family provided both political and financial support that resulted in an ambush of Gideon’s sons at Ophrah wherein all 70 were murdered “on one stone” except for the youngest, Jotham, who hid himself and escaped the slaughter (cf. Judges 9:5). The deceptive and murderous Abimelech was crowned king beside the “oak of the pillar which is at Shechem.”

Jotham who escaped into exile, from Mount Gerizim called Abimelech and the Shechemites to account before God for their treachery. He told the parable of the trees wanting to anoint a king over them, by inviting the olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine, which all refused. Finally, all the trees said to the bramble, “You come, reign over us!” The olive and fig trees and the vine knew what they were created for and were not tempted to covet a role that was not theirs, but the bramble which did not have the characteristics of leadership simply wanted to rule, and so, readily accepted the offer of kingship, but ruling with coercive dominance.

Abimelech ruled Israel for three years (cf. Judges 9:22) but is not remembered as Israel’s first king. He was betrayed and died at the hands of his own “flesh and bones” relatives—the Shechemites.

The parable of the trees provides a powerful insight into the dangers posed by ambitious, self-centered and dominating leaders.

Leaders are called like Christ to serve rather than be served. Let us pray fervently today for Nigerian leaders especially those with the ambition to rule this nation or their states or local governments, that God will imbue them with the qualities of truth and selfless leadership. They should be like the productive olive tree, fig tree and the vine, and not like the brambles.

May the Lord, King of Kings, rule over us and bless us all with His peace.

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