Domini Nostri Jesus Christi Regis [Our Lord Jesus Christ, King]: October 29, 2017
Delivered by Most Reverend Roger LaRade, O.F.A.
Beloved Disciple Catholic Church, Toronto
©2017 Roger LaRade
Colossians 1, 12 – 20; John 18, 33 – 37.
“Dual Presence: Thorn-crowned Sovereign”
On this last Sunday in October, we celebrate the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ, King; of Christ, our Sovereign. This is the placement which the feast has in the pre-Vatican II Roman liturgical calendar. According to this placement immediately before the celebration of All Saints Day on November 1, we are reminded that Christ’s sovereignty indeed is intimately linked to the Triumph of the Saints. As well, the sovereignty of Christ is then recognized as being in closer relationship to the fate of all the faithful departed which we commemorate on All Souls’ Day on November 2.
Of what is made the sovereignty of Christ? What does this mean?
The feast day was instituted by Pope Pius XI on December 11, 1925 in his encyclical Quas Primas. The encyclical, and the feast, were measures meant to address the evolving secularism in society, what was called ‘anticlericalism’ in those days; that is, “a way of life which leaves God out of (our) thinking and living and organizes life as if God did not exist. The feast was intended “to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ's royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations.” More specifically, the encyclical bemoaned the fact that references to Christ were being dropped or no longer being made in the affairs of government and nations. It saw secularism as “the direct denial of Christ's Kingship.” In the words of the encyclical:
the annual and universal celebration of the feast of the Kingship of Christ will draw attention to the evils which anticlericalism has brought upon society in drawing men away from Christ, and will also do much to remedy them. While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim his kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm his rights.
And, more specifically,
Nations will be reminded by the annual celebration of this feast that not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. It will call to their minds the thought of the last judgment, wherein Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults; for his kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws and in administering justice, and also in providing for the young a sound moral education.
It would seem that this concern of the early 20th century is still alive in the early 21st century as discussions abound over the separation of religious faith and social and political life. Indeed, a growing secularism has relegated religion to the sidelines. Certainly, this is due to a growing secularism, where religion is considered irrelevant, or simply a matter of personal preference. It is also due to the reality of a multicultural society where the diverse religions are pitched against one another to show up their subjectivity and, therefore, untrustworthiness. It is also due to Churches themselves which often cling to doctrines about human nature, including issues related to gender, family and sexuality which clearly contradict sound reason and scholarship, and therefore, remain locked in an artificially restrictive paradigm of human nature. A current example of this is the Roman Catholic Church’s Synod of the Family which has just concluded.
So, given all this, the question poses itself: What does it mean to proclaim and celebrate Christ as sovereign? Of what is made the sovereignty of Christ, since we realize that it’s meaning can be, and is, used by various parties to further often conflicting social and political agendas? How do we approach our faith in Christ in terms of our life in the world, especially given Jesus’ response to Pilate that his “kingdom is not from this world” (John 18: 36).
In his response to Pilate Jesus doesn’t deny his sovereignty, “but he dissociates it from the political form of government that concerns Pilate”. By his answer, Jesus “turns the focus toward heaven, where he will be crowned not with gold but with glory and honor”. We read why this is in Hebrews 2: 9: “…we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death…”(italics added). This verse leads us to the Gospel passage for the feast today. It provides us with no surer guide. Significantly, the Gospel passage for today is the same passage that is used for the Passion on Good Friday.
We can therefore have the certainty that the sovereignty of Christ is rooted in the Passion of Jesus. Christ is sovereign because He has suffered. He took onto himself the sin and suffering of the world, and through His suffering and death, brought it into the glory of His Resurrection.
In our linear and time-defined way of thinking, we tend to think of these as cause-and-effect: Jesus suffered and died, then Christ was resurrected and ascended in glory into Heaven. On the earthly plane this is in fact the case. But on the cosmic plane, in a spiritual perspective, these two events become states of being. And they co-exist. Suffering and death; resurrection and ascension. They form a dual presence of Christ Jesus in our lives.
This impression was clearly made on me as I was one day praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. At one point, I noticed that my visual focus was shifting from the gleaming golden monstrance on the altar to the life-size crucifix immediately behind it, and especially to the crown of thorns on the head of Jesus; back-and-forth, from the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance to Jesus Crucified; from Jesus Crucified to the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. From Enthroned Sovereign to Thorn-crowned Crucified; from Thorn-crowned Crucified to Enthroned Sovereign. It struck me that we, followers of Jesus Christ, live in the inbetween of these two presences, or more precisely perhaps, in the inbetween of this dual presence. We are partakers of both the Enthroned Sovereign, reigning gloriously over and in us, and of the Thorn-crowned Crucified, called to share in Jesus’ suffering and death as he suffers and dies in and around us in the world, and so, called to share in his sovereignty.
This Dual Presence guides our proclamation of the sovereignty of Christ, and conditions the kind of involvement we have in the world. These are to be rooted in the Thorn-crowned Crucified, the Suffering Christ, that is, the suffering yet sovereign Jesus Christ, both suffering human and sovereign God. Our proclamation of Christ’s sovereignty is that of the way of compassionate and redemptive action in the world; an action not corrupted by triumphal power and myopic certainty but centered on loving and humble solidarity with the poor, the marginalized and the suffering in our world.
In our action and prayer, we should never lose sight that we live in the inbetween of the Dual Presence. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Quas Primas (On The Feast Of Christ The King); Pope Pius XI, par. 25.
 Ibid., par. 32.
 Scripture quotations are from The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Third Edition (NRSV).
 The Gospel of John, Scott Hahn & Curtis Mitch (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003), p. 52.
 Ibid., p. 52.
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