From the Editor’s Desk (Thursday, 11-19-2015, Gaudium Press) We are pleased to offer a commentary by Msgr. Joao Scognamiglio Cla Diaz, Founder of the Heralds of the Gospel, on the solemnity of Christ the King.
Before being scourged, crowned with thorns and crucified, Our Lord Jesus Christ declared before Pilate his sovereignty over all creation: “I am a King”.
At that time, 33b Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about Me?” 35 Pilate answered: “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here”. 37 So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered: “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (Jo 18, 33b-37).
I – The most authentic of Monarchies
When we peruse the pages of the Old Testament, one of the episodes of the chosen nation’s history attracts our attention especially. What is its true signification?
At a certain moment, the Israelites begin to feel themselves inferior in regard to the other peoples, governed by kings, while they lived in a theocratic regime, guided by God through the judges. And so, they ask Samuel for a monarch. They contend with the prophet, who is filled with indignation, but they are finally served in their desires. Finally, the time arrives to establish the new regime and God himself orders Samuel to anoint Saul as king (cf. I Sm 8, 4-22; 9, 17; 10, 1).
Now, this monarchy, thus instituted, is born of an infidelity, and the divine words, explaining to the last judge of Israel the reasons leading Him to act in this manner, leave no room for doubt: “for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (I Sm 8, 7). Therefore, the chosen nation does not wish anymore to be governed directly by God. It must be added that the advantages of the personage chosen seem to be thoroughly worldly and natural: “There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; from his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people” (I Sm 9, 2). Judging from the description, physical presentation and thirty centimeters difference in height above the others sufficed for Saul to be conferred the title of supremacy.
Nevertheless, one can make suppositions regarding the causes of the occurrence. Would not have God inspired in the depths of the souls of the Israelites the desire, perhaps implicit, of a royalty to be instituted in a unique way upon the face of the Earth and, in a certain manner, related to eternity? Might they not have expected a king far beyond any human imagination? Under the influx of such an inspiration, far different would have been the formula of supplication of the elders to the prophet: “Samuel, intercede for us before God! Those kings, who govern the other nations, are miserable, egoists and self-worshippers, who despise human nature and seek to enslave their subjects, for their service and for their own personal glory. Ask the Lord for a monarch as has never been given to any people! May he be among us a reflection of divine goodness! May he reign over us as would God himself and obtain for us the most beautiful manifestation of our theocracy”.
But they, distressed on account of their desire to “be like all the nations” (I Sm 8, 20), were unable to interpret the ways of grace. Much to the contrary, they materialized it, saying merely “appoint for us a king to govern us” (I Sm 8, 5), and they besought the humanization of that which certainly God wished to give them, with immense abundance, in the supernatural rhealm.
However, God will take advantage of this infidelity to effect the greatest of wonders, incomparably superior to that which the Hebrews desired: once founded the monarchy in Israel and, afterwards, established the new dynasty starting with David, from it will be born the true Sovereign, not only of the Jewish people, but of the entire universe. King of divine majesty and grandeur, whose origin is lost in eternity, who descends from infinite heights to save us; King who gives his precious Blood for his subjects: Christ the King, whom we celebrate on this Solemnity.
II-Solemn proclamation against relativism
Pope, Pius XI1 teaches how, throughout History, the feasts of the Holy Church were born and were added onto the Liturgical Year, instituted and organized by the infallible Chair of Peter with the objective of benefitting the faithful regarding the necessities of each age. Thus, in venerating the martyrs, from the earliest times, the Liturgy encouraged fidelity, prompting people to feel supported by their example so as not to deny the Faith under any circumstance. Later, when the persecutions were overcome through the action of grace and the Christians entered into a period of peace, the commemorations extended to the virgins, confessors and widows, innumerable figures with which the Church was enriched. Then emerged the feasts of Our Lady and, at the end of the Middle Ages, when fervor for the Blessed Sacrament diminished, a separate celebration was established, with the purpose of adoring the Sacred Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the Eucharistic Species. Subsequently, when the rigorist coldness, which the Jansenist errors disseminated, were thriving, the festivity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was instituted. An injection of enthusiasm and the rekindling of hope in eternal salvation was its effect.
Finally, on the 11th of December of 1925, having increased the terrible and overwhelming wave of laicism which would invade all countries and lead humanity to turn its back to God, at the moment in which many Catholics offered their blood in defense of Christ and His Church, Pope, Pius XI2 used the power conferred to Peter with the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and proclaimed with his infallible voice: Christ is King! The Encyclical Quas primas, establishing the feast of the royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ ending the Liturgical Year,3 enclosed a special meaning as an opposition to relativism and atheism: he declared to the world that everything has its end and beginning in Christ, King of the Universe.
III – Jesus declares his royalty
In the first reading (Dn 7, 13-14) of this Liturgy, Daniel’s vision shows us Our Lord Jesus Christ in the manifestation of His regal grandeur: “And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Dn 7, 14a).
Indeed, He is the glorious King, crowned in eternity and holder of authority over all of creation. But, paradoxically, the Gospel of St. John presents the figure of this King in a situation of humiliation, with his hands bound, set to be scourged, crowned with thorns, condemned by his own people, slain and crucified. And then, begins one of the most beautiful dialogues of the whole of Scripture.
The governor interrogates the All-Powerful
At that time, 33b Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
By his question, one perceives that the governor had already heard the denunciations of members of the Sanhedrin against the Divine Prisoner (cf. Mk 15, 3; Jo 18, 28-30) and desired to know his intentions. He was perceived as someone who desired to ascend to the throne of Israel and incite the Jews against the dominion of Rome (cf. Lk 23, 1-2)? Would He have arrogated, in fact, the title of Messiah, when he was acclaimed by the multitude as Son of David, upon entering Jerusalem a few days before (cf. Mk 11, 9-10)? Nevertheless, the Roman beheld a Man so respectable, virtuous, composed and submissive! Could He really be a revolutionary?
34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about Me?”
The question with which Jesus replies to Pilate is filled with symbolism. This latter places himself as absolute lord in regard to Him, since he is going to judge Him. Now, Jesus is All-Powerful and, if He so wished, He would cause his interlocutor to return to nothing, or He could even erase him from the memory of men. He knows that the Jews calumniated Him and that the governor acts pressured by them, fearing to be damaged by their intrigues with the Emperor. And so He answers him calmly, placing the problem before him, as if to reprimand him: “Does this come from you or are you afraid of the calumnies that they will make against you?”.
“With these words” – comments Theophylact – “Jesus insinuates that Pilate is a partial judge, as if to say: ‘If you say this on your own, present the signs of my rebellion; if, however, you heard this from others, open an ordinary investigation'”.4 And St. Augustine emphasizes: “Jesus knew well both the question and answer that Pilate would give Him. He willed, though, that it would be expressed in words, not so that He would know it, but so as to be written what He desired that we know”.5
Jesus, sign of contradiction
35 Pilate answered: “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?”
The governor will yet argue, alleging that he is not responsible for the prison of Our Lord, who was given up to him by the Jews themselves. This was the occasion chosen by Jesus to declare Himself King, in spite of being in circumstances which suggested the opposite. He had entered into Jerusalem acclaimed as King, but this acclamation corresponded to a low, naturalistic and earthly conception of royalty. The nation wanted to carry in triumph a potentate of this world, a political messiah, who, aided by miracles, was to obtain for it a strictly human salvation: the elimination of taxes and supremacy over the Romans.
In relation to this materialistic mentality, Our Lord will be a rock of scandal and sign of contradiction (cf. Lk 2, 34). Before Pilate, representative of the supreme power of the age, He will provide of Himself and of his royal authority a very different vision – the only valid one -, utterly supernatural, which will be hated by not a few throughout the course of History, but will remain as a sign of Christianity until the end of time.
The omnipotence of the truth
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here”.
Someone might conclude that, with this revelation, Jesus had renounced his dominion over the world. This conclusion lacks sense He being the Almighty, to whom the entire universe is subjected. To the contrary, He wishes to remind us that He is before all else the God-Man, as St. Thomas explains, mentioning the thinking of St. John Chrysostom on this passage of the Gospel: “You ask if I am King and I say that I am. But I am through a divine power, since for this I was born of the Father, from an eternal birth, as God of God, as well as King of King”.6
Therefore, the true scope of his declaration is this: “My Reign is not like that of the governments of this world, or according to its maxims”. Moreover: as the Author of grace and, in a special manner, by the Redemption He will carry out, Jesus is the King of hearts. He came to offer men supernatural sonship, which would not consist in adoption according to human concepts, but in a real participation in his divine nature, as the Apostle St. John will later say: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I Jo 3, 1). Yes, sons of God, heirs of the celestial throne and princes of an eternal dynasty!
Pilate understood something of the signification of Jesus’ response. Insecure and frightened, he might possibly have received a grace from the Savior Himself. And so he manifested the disquiet which pervaded him before that majestic and incomparable Accused, who proclaimed Himself King of eternity.
37 So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”
Once again Jesus will not deny his royalty, and regarding it He articulates the final and most sublime of his affirmations: the Only-Begotten of the Father has not come to govern by force, but by the omnipotence of the truth. He brings the explanation and the meaning of all the order of creation, initiating in this way the “Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace”.7
37 Jesus answered: “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice”.
And when he had completed the dialogue – registered in all its minutiae by the Beloved Disciple -, as an extreme invitation “intended to persuade Pilate to unite himself to those who were receptive to his teachings”.8 As if He had asked him: “And you, Pilate, will you listen to my voice?”. The Roman governor still did not wish to heed that calling and condemned the Just One, motivated by attachment to his office. Let us hear the voice of the Truth and adore the Divine King who today inspires us, through the Liturgy, to meditate upon the foundations of his royalty.
IV – The triple foundation of Jesus’ Royalty
King by divine nature
“The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength. Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved; thy throne is established from of old; thou art from everlasting!” (Ps 93, 1-2), sings the Responsorial Psalm of this Solemnity of Christ the King. In effect while the Only-Begotten Son of the Father and the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, He existed from all eternity and created the universe as his Kingdom, over which He has the right to govern, being the absolute Lord of Angels and men, and the Dominator of hell, among other titles. Consequently, the first reason of the royal power of Jesus is his divine nature. Before all else He is King because He is God.
Nonetheless, the royalty is not attributed to the other two Persons of the Trinity, nor is there in the Catholic Liturgy a feast to reverence the Father or the Holy Spirit as Kings, although They were associated with the Son in the entirety of creation. Why?
King as Man
For someone to be king – in the strict sense of the term – it is indispensable for him to have the same nature as his subjects. Now, among the Divine Persons this characteristic is only found in the Son, since He was the only One to become incarnate, conserving in his humanity the plenitude of the divine nature. And from then on, besides Creator and Lord, He became our Head.
And what was the first throne of his royalty? Mary Most Holy! In her maternal and virginal bosom the Almighty assumed a human configuration; He became in fact King and began his reign.
But it was necessary for the glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as Son of Man, to be complete and, accordingly, although He had received the title of King through the Incarnation, it was convenient that He also conquer it through the Redemption.
King by right of conquest
Created in grace and enjoying God’s friendship in Terrestrial Paradise, Adam and Eve, however, sinned, abandoning the marvels of the participation in divine nature. In consequence, the Heavens were closed and men began to be conceived in sin, deprived of supernatural life. All of humanity, enslaved and condemned to spiritual death, was caught in the traps of satan.
Nonetheless, ever since the Word of God resolved to become incarnate, his Sacred Heart, divine and human, filled with goodness, mercy and love, was moved by His affection for each one of us as if we were an only son. Defeating the devil, He repaired the offense caused by the transgression of our first parents, liberated us from the initial blemish and opened for us the doors of blessedness; re-conquered and returned to us, to an excellent degree, that which was lost in Paradise, bringing us the extraordinary reward of the Sacraments, especially Baptism and the pardon of sins, insuperable goods because they are eternal, which sanctify us and elevate us to his nature.
Moreover, instead of becoming incarnate in a glorious state, He assumed a passible body, to the point of suffering necessities, anguishes and penuries for us, all through his earthly existence. Having the power to operate the Redemption of the human race with a simple act of will – just a smile upon being born, towards His Most Blessed Mother! -, He wished to fulfill his mission undergoing the unspeakable torments of the Passion and giving up his very life. He permitted to be unleashed upon Him all existing hatred against God, accepted to be condemned in a totally unjust judgment and allowed Himself to be taken by the executioners to death on the Cross, when He had the power to destroy and annihilate them in an instant. Finally, with his Resurrection, He attained ours and, having risen up to Heaven, He offers uninterruptedly his sacrifice to the Father, throughout eternity. Thus, He was already King, by his divine nature and because of all the prerogatives inherent to the Incarnation, and yet acquired even more authentically the title of royalty as Redeemer, by right of conquest.
The plenitude of royalty
Yes, Our Lord Jesus Christ is King and his empire was established in two stages. In the first, of this world, his field of action is the Holy Catholic Church and his objective the sanctification of souls. The jurisdiction of Our Lord takes place in the interior of hearts through grace and, seemingly, it leaves men to act according to their desires, once they are still in the state of trial. It legislates through papal infallibility, it judges in the confessional and it executes its decrees in a discreet way. However, this Reign is invincible, as He himself affirmed when He promised immortality to his Church, saying “the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16, 18), and as had already foretold the prophecy of Daniel: “his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Dn 7, 14b).
Far beyond not being destroyed – notwithstanding all the attempts of its enemies -, the Holy Church continues to produce inestimable bounties during the course of the centuries, always outdoing the previous ones; but its final and most beautiful aspects will glisten at the end of the world, on the day in which the Divine King will consummate his victory over death, sin and the devil, and is glorified as the most faithful Son of the Father.
Then will commence another phase of his kingdom. This is why in the second reading (Rev 1, 5-8) of this Solemnity, the Book of Revelation places us before a horizon replete with grandeur which culminates in the Final Judgment: “From Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood […],to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Rev 1, 5-6). All the peoples will see the glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ as King – now in a distinctive and ostensive way -, the good and evil, those who will go to Heaven and those condemned to hell.
“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, everyone who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen!” (Rev 1, 7). Once creation is reestablished in its perfect order, He will restore it to the Father and will say: “Here is the power which I acquired. I once again return the universe to your hands”. And, at this moment, our King will have received the plenitude of royalty by right of conquest.
V – We belong to the lineage of the King
The Solemnity of Christ the King, inviting us to turn our attention and heart to these grandiose panoramas, requires us to be conscious of special responsibilities in our life.
Once we participate in divine nature and become children of God through Baptism, among other privileges, even his royalty befits us, for, besides being courtiers of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings, we belong to his family as His true brothers, elevated to the category of princes. He wants to make us consorts of the felicity which He possesses from all eternity as the Only-begotten Son, enjoying conviviality and familiarity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and He will associate us moreover with the manifestation of his magnificence, when He comes at the end of time. This is our nobility.
Therefore, if we are overjoyed at belonging to the same lineage and to the royal family of Our Lord Jesus Christ, temples of the Most Holy Trinity, we are obliged to take this filiation to its ultimate consequences in our daily existence.
Lord, I am thine!
What do we implore in the Collect, in the Mass of the Solemnity of Christ the King? “Almighty ever-living God, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise”.9 May creatures glorify Thee in Thy regal grandeur! Now, in order to glorify his sovereign, a subject must, before all else, be faithful to his laws and recommendations.
The Laws of my King are found in the Ten Commandments, in the Gospel and also in my interior, through the moral sense which I received from my infancy. In relation to them I need to be entirely upright, persevere in the grace of God, seeking to practice virtue to the utmost, with a constantly more accentuated aspiration towards perfection and sanctity, for nothing offends this King more than sin. If, to the contrary, I choose the ways of vice and deform my own conscience to live amid indifferentism, I renounce my participation in His royalty and will follow other kings: the devil, the world and the flesh.
On this magnificent Solemnity of the royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ, with our souls abounding with such marvels, blessings and graces, I wish to turn to Him and say: “Lord, I am yours! I am yours! In spite of my debilities and weaknesses, reign in my heart, in my thoughts and sentiments. Reign in my soul through Mary Most Holy, the throne in which Thou didst choose to be born, Queen because she is Thy Mother, and also