Think of all the different “years” we use to help us mark time. For Western countries, there is the Gregorian calendar, which begins on January 1. Then there’s the school year, which runs only nine months for most countries. Many Asian countries follow a lunar calendar, resulting in shorter months. Our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate their own new year during the feast of Rosh Hashanah in the fall. Then there are businesses. They have their own fiscal years, which can begin with any month, to help them keep track of their finances. And like businesses, countries have fiscal years as well. For the United States and Canada, the fiscal year begins on April 1, while in Great Britain it’s July 1.
The Church has its own liturgical year as well. It begins with the season of Advent, and it ends, appropriately enough, with the feast of Christ the King in November. As the culmination of the liturgical year, the feast of Christ the King incorporates everything we have celebrated all year long: Jesus’ birth, his suffering and death, his glorious resurrection, and his gift of the Church. It celebrates the fact that Jesus has overthrown the dominion of sin and death and has been exalted over all creation.
Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 as a response to the growing secularism in the world. Pius wanted to remind believers that there is one King over all people, and we are all accountable to him.
Jesus, the risen Lord, has authority over all history—and he invites us to give him authority over our lives. He wants to rule over us as a loving and gracious king. He also wants to see us extend his kingdom wherever we go so that more and more people can come to know the peace that comes from living under his rule.
Since we are in the month of November, when the Mass readings focus on Jesus’ Second Coming—this time as universal King—we thought it would be good to look at the kingship of Jesus. What kind of king is he? What is his kingdom like? And how can we live more fully in this kingdom?
More Powerful Than the Sun. If you put a hot cup of coffee into the refrigerator, it will take a little time before it cools down. Similarly, scientists tell us that if our sun were to stop shining, the Earth would not freeze instantly. It would take about a week for that to happen. It would take a few weeks for most life on Earth to come to an end. Of course, it would be possible for some people to find a way to harness our planet’s geothermal energy to stay warm, but without the sun’s light and heat, crops and livestock would perish as well.
So here’s a question. If the sun is so vital to life on this planet, what should we think about the Son of God, who gave us the sun in the first place? What should we think about the One who keeps the sun shining day after day? We should honor and praise him as the source of all our lives, the center of the universe, and the greatest force in creation. As St. Paul wrote, Jesus holds everything together—and he does it out of love (Colossians 1:17). That’s the kind of king he is!
As awe inspiring as this reflection is, there is more. Jesus isn’t just a distant force who keeps all of creation moving. Neither does he rule his creation from a far-off heaven. No, he is the kind of king who is intimately involved in the affairs of his kingdom. He went so far as to enter the world to rescue us from sin. And after having saved us, he sent his own Spirit to form and guide his Church so that we could hold fast to our salvation.
It was Jesus who freed Peter from prison. It was Jesus who revealed himself to Paul and sent him to become an apostle to the Gentiles. It was Jesus who touched St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Ávila, and St. Francis of Assisi. In fact, it’s Jesus who touches each and every one of us and offers us a greater share in his life and his grace. That’s the kind of king he is!
Whether we are aware of it or not, Jesus is constantly at work, seeking to work in our lives in ways both large and small. He may be behind a seemingly random event that reminds us to turn to the Lord in prayer. He may be that still, small voice that urges us to reach out and care for someone in need. And he may be the One who worked an inexplicable cure for yourself or a loved one. In all of these situations, Jesus has one goal in mind. He wants to be close to his people. That’s the kind of king he is!
An Ever-Present King. We may never recognize all the ways Jesus is working, or has worked, but that doesn’t matter to him. It’s not important for him to be praised every time he helps us out. What matters is that we become more and more aware of our heavenly citizenship. What matters is that we be set free from the sin and bondage that keep us from living as members of his kingdom. What matters is that we grow into our role as ambassadors, inviting other people to discover how great our King really is.
Take Liz, for example. She and her husband, Dave, were drifting further and further apart. What started as a tendency to bicker and argue grew into full-blown fights. They focused on their resentments and their differences and became increasingly isolated from each other. They sensed they were heading toward separation and divorce, but neither one dared speak about it. They resigned themselves to tolerating each other.
But then Liz read one of Pope Francis’ messages on forgiveness and humility, and it touched her heart. Instead of fighting with Dave over little things, she tried to take the high road. Even when Dave said something that would invite another argument, she said a quick prayer and tried not to take the bait. She focused instead on letting love overcome their multitude of differences. Over time, moved by the change in Liz, Dave became more gentle and understanding. Their marriage was saved because Liz heard Jesus’ voice in her heart, and she responded.
Or take Julie. She was only forty-two years old when she was diagnosed with cancer. A few days prior to her operation, she asked members of her parish’s healing ministry to pray with her, and they did. When Julie went for her final X-ray exam, the doctors were shocked to find that the tumors had disappeared. Julie is convinced that God healed her.
Finally, there’s Richard. When he was five years old, he contracted an especially virulent form of meningitis, which caused him to become deaf. His parents prayed over and over for his healing, but to no avail. At the same time, as they persisted in prayer, they taught Richard how to compensate for his loss. They never gave up hope that their son could live a full, productive life—and they passed that determination on to Richard. Now, twenty years later, Richard is still deaf. His parents still pray with him for healing. But Richard is also a successful, well-adjusted researcher in a leading university’s medical school. If you were to ask him (through sign language), he would tell you that he doesn’t blame God for his illness. Instead, he is grateful for all the ways the Lord has cared for him throughout the years. He is living proof that Jesus, the King, cares for each of his people in a unique way.
So present your petitions to the Lord. Don’t be afraid to ask for his help. Jesus wants the people of his kingdom to do well—not always in terms of riches or full health, but always in terms of building their faith and teaching them to live lives of love and holiness. Always ask. Never stop believing, even when it seems that God is absent.
A Kingdom of Love. “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). Jesus said this to a Jewish scribe who recognized the two greatest commands: to love God and to love one another. These two commands are at the heart of the kingdom of God because they lie deep in the heart of the King. Jesus lived these two commands every day, and at no time more so than when he laid down his life for us on the cross. What other king would do this for his people? What other king would act with such humility? What other king would show such covenant love?
This is Jesus, the King of all creation. Let’s commit ourselves to his kingdom. Let’s decide to spend our lives loving, serving, and imitating him. Together, let’s build his kingdom of love.