November 20, 2009

Feast of Christ the King / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis weekend, in great joy and thanksgiving, the Church closes its liturgical year.

As the Church looks back through the days and months of 2009, it gives thanks for salvation achieved in Christ the Lord.

He is king, and justice and peace only occur when Jesus truly is acknowledged as Lord.

The Book of Daniel supplies the first reading.

This book, like many others in the Old Testament, was written when God’s people were experiencing many trials.

The book includes a certain literary exaggeration among its techniques. It is intended to impress upon readers the depth of the troubles that challenged God’s people at this time.

This technique also dramatizes God’s redemption and protection. God subdues every evil force. He is almighty.

In this reading, a certain representative of God appears and is identified by the title “Son of Man.” The Son of Man receives dominion, glory and kingship from God.

In the New Testament, Jesus was called the “Son of Man.” The New Testament title referred back to the Old Testament image in the Book of Daniel.

For its second reading, the feast’s liturgy looks to the Book of Revelation.

Of all the New Testament books, none is as dramatic, and indeed as mysterious, as the Book of Revelation.

The Book of Revelation is at times, and more aptly, called the “Apocalypse.” It is written in the apocalyptic style in biblical literature. Actually, “Revelation” could be applied to any book of sacred Scripture.

The reading is straightforward and bold. There is no question as to its message. The message simply is that Jesus—the holiest and the perfect—rose from the dead, rules the world and vivifies all who love God with eternal strength.

St. John’s Gospel furnishes the last reading.

It is a bittersweet reading for this great, joyous feast. The scene is Pilate’s courtroom.

Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the Holy Land, which was called “Palestina” at the time of Jesus, goes immediately to the heart of the charge against Jesus.

Is Jesus a king? Does he rival the mighty emperor of Rome?

Jesus replies, but in fact he and Pilate are talking about two distinct realities. Pilate is interested in the political and social stability of the Roman Empire. Jesus is speaking of a kingdom much more profound, that of human hearts.

Jesus affirms kingship. He is indeed the king. He is the king anointed by God to bring all people back to the Father in heaven.


Just over a century ago, Pope Leo XIII, one of the greatest popes, consecrated the human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In this, Pope Leo appealed to the people of the world to make Jesus their king and the Gospel their law.

Forty years later, Pope Pius XI established the feast of Christ the King in late October.

Pope Paul VI, after the Second Vatican Council, moved the feast to the last Sunday of the Church’s year.

In so doing, it offered the feast to Catholics as an opportunity to draw everything together in one essential fact: Christ is king.

Kings abound in the New Testament. Some ruled over God’s own people. Some were good and holy. Others were not. Kings who governed other nations are mentioned throughout the Bible.

The image is clear. Kings were rulers. Moreover, they protected and cared for their people. Peace abided when the kings’ commands were obeyed.

This feast’s liturgy calls us to recognize that, above all, Jesus is king. His reign is not harsh nor selfish, but loving and life-giving. In Jesus alone is peace. God has given Jesus to us so we celebrate Christ as our king.

Christ is our Savior. The readings from Daniel, Revelation and John all not only identify Jesus as king, but also describe the gifts of salvation and life given to us by God through and in Jesus. †

Local site Links: