Last year on this Sunday we celebrated the "Feast of Christ the King". This year, after a year with the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition, we celebrate the "Feast of Jesus Christ our Lord, King of the Universe". Under either title, we acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives at the close of the liturgical year and also at a time in history when that acknowledgment is ignored and ridiculed by so many.
This feast is rich in historical background, yet relatively new to the Church's celebration. Even though only established universally by Pope Pius XI in 1925, the roots of the celebration, as found in Scripture, go back to the beginning. In the story of creation, Adam and Eve did not speak of God as a king, but they knew who was "boss", and that their friendship and relationship with him meant everything to them. He was their all. When the People of God wanted an earthy king, like their neighbors, God gave them a man after his own heart, David. Sinner though he was, David knew God as his Lord and King, and reflected that in his governance. Daniel in the first reading today speaks of the Kingdom of God, an eternal kingdom that will never end. When God sent his own Son to us, and that Son was brought before Pilate, Pilate asked whether he was a king. Jesus said: "It is you who say that I am" and acknowledges that his kingdom does not belong to this earth - but that he is King and Lord. Paul in Romans asks who do we live for - do we live our lives for ourselves or do we live our life for Christ? A great question.
Why a feast of Kingship and Lordship in 1925? Why then, for what purpose? The reason is that history was at a particularly critical juncture. Church and State were often seen as one, and when the State bore the weight of poor leadership, when revolution was necessary, often the Church suffered as well. But even worse, in the Russian Revolution of 1917, not only the Church and State, but religion and faith itself was relegated to the opium of the people, the superstition that kept people back, the blindness that would stifle growth and prosperity, knowledge and wisdom. There was no god but the state, no lord or master other than yourself (or the state), no religion worth following except for the man made ideologies of the secular mind. The same held true in the Revolution in Mexico in the mid twenties. Priests and bishops and thousands upon thousands of everyday Catholics were imprisoned and put to death, by firing squad and hangings, in those years. Those who resisted, known as the Christeros, had a rallying cry that was on the lips of Blessed Father Miguel Pro (whose feast was yesterday) as he was being shot "Viva Christo Rey!" - "Long Live Christ the King!" (I have mentioned previously the excellent movie entitled "For Greater Glory" which tells the story of those days ... it spent no time in the theaters but is available on DVD).
Those days were at the beginning of a century that saw unbelievable suffering and death, inhumanity to man and negation of God, horrors beyond imagining. Was it wise, with all of that happening, to draw our attention to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Is it important even now with governments, good and bad, who are struggling with their inadequacies to acknowledge the Kingship of Christ? Now more than ever.
On a lighter note, do you realize that one month from tonight we will be celebrating the birthday of that Prince of Peace who is our Lord of Life? We are one month away from Christmas Eve.