By Father Kevin Bobbin
The month of November is associated with several things: All Saints Day, All Souls Day and prayers for the faithful departed, and Thanksgiving.
November also takes us to the end of the liturgical year. We are in the very last weeks of Ordinary Time before we begin the yearly cycle again with Advent.
The final Sunday of our Church year is the Solemnity of Christ the King (Nov. 26 this year). We end the year by recognizing that, in the end, all things, all humanity, the entire universe will be under the dominion of Christ.
For people of faith, this is a reassuring thought as we struggle with the sin and evil of the world and the desire to see things set right. At the same time, though, the idea of “Christ the King” may seem a bit off-putting. We live in a democratic society where the idea of a king – a single person who has absolute authority over everyone – seems archaic and even offensive.
What is Christ’s kingship really about? This year’s Gospel reading for Christ the King gives a clue. It is the scene of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).
When Jesus separates the “sheep” from the “goats” he tells the sheep on His right: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me…. Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
In other words, Jesus identifies Himself with those in need. The good we do for others we do for Jesus. The “goats” on Jesus’ left learn this the hard way.
Helping others is not an obligation that our faith imposes on us. It is something that must come from the heart. Can I recognize the presence of Jesus in other people (even when they make it hard to see Jesus’ presence in them)? Do I have a heart that is loving, a heart that is attentive to the humanity and needs of another person, a heart that moves me to want to respond to that person?
We gradually develop a heart like this when we allow Jesus to be king of our hearts. The Kingdom of God begins in the heart. In the world we live in, authority is imposed from outside. Whether it is a boss or supervisor, a superior, mayor, governor, or president, we are all under someone’s authority. We may be under this authority willingly or unwillingly. We may agree or disagree with the policies and decisions of the person or body in authority.
Authority is needed to keep order and advance the common good of society or of some organization. While authority can compel the people under it to obey (perhaps under threat of punishment), even the most benevolent and most competent authority cannot force all people under it to be in agreement, to be unified in mind and heart.
This is the difference with Jesus. Christ the King wants to be king of our hearts. The Kingdom of God begins in the heart.
When we allow our Lord – through prayer, the sacraments, the Scriptures, and teaching of our faith – to form our hearts, to create hearts that are loving, compassionate, more free from sin, better able to clearly recognize the humanity of all people, it changes us.
And if we change, the families, groups, organizations, and societies we belong to will gradually change. God’s Kingdom, the kingship of Christ, will continue to spread.
Father Kevin Bobbin is pastor of St. John the Baptist, Pottsville, and chaplain of Nativity BVM High School, Pottsville and the Diocesan Homeschool Community.
Photo: Icon written by Alexey Akindinov: “Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World,” 2018-2019. Released into the public domain by Alexey Akindinov, via Wikimedia Commons under CCA-SA 4.0 International. (OSV News photo/Alexey Akindinov, Wikimedia Commons). Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925, saying “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.”