Solemnity of Christ the King – Year B
[Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33b-37]
If you have been following news from the Archdiocese over the last few weeks, you would know that we have been soliciting stories of people we are calling “everyday heroes”. What we have in mind are men, women, and children who have gone “above and beyond” to help other people in the long and difficult months of the pandemic. We know there are many: healthcare workers and first responders who put themselves and their families at risk to care for the sick; neighbours who picked up groceries for someone unable to get out; parish volunteers who registered and screened people coming for mass, took extra time to clean the church afterwards, and set up livestream capacity for those unable to be present in person; school teachers and staff who constantly adjusted to changing conditions and varying restrictions to assure student safety; children who made crafts or sent written notes to residents in long-term care facilities; chaplains who underwent special training in the use of protective clothing to bring the sacraments to COVID sufferers. The list is long. In this mass we honour all of them, and give thanks to God for the countless women, men and young ones who, because of their kindness and generosity, are rightly called “everyday heroes”, or, as Pope Francis once put it, “the saints next door.”
When we place these extraordinary acts of goodness against the backdrop of today’s Solemnity of Christ the King, an important consideration comes right away to the fore: what influenced these people to do the good they did? We can state the answer this way: they were governed by the imperative of charity and ruled by the urgency of need. I’m putting it in these terms because today’s liturgical celebration summons each of us to examine ourselves closely and ask: what governs my life? To whose rule am I surrendering in my daily living? Today the Church proclaims Jesus Christ as King of the universe, and we, precisely as Christians, acclaim him as our Sovereign, and profess that his Word and his grace reign in our hearts and exercise decisive sway over our every thought and action. Yet, is that, in fact, the case? Is it truly to Jesus Christ that we bend the knee, or are we allowing other forces to shape the way we live?
These questions are not abstract and innocuous but concrete and determinative for each of us. We need only think of the ways people may surrender to the seduction of advertising, bow to the craving of addictions, or yield to the pressure of “groupthink” to appreciate the wide variety of means by which we are “governed” or “ruled” on a daily basis. So, as we encounter the message of the Gospel today and allow its light to penetrate us, we can expect to be brought face to face with the struggle that confronts us daily: the choice between Jesus Christ or some other person or thing as sovereign ruler of my life.
The reasons why we must choose Jesus as our King are already clear enough to believers. He is the world’s one and only Saviour; he knows our every need and loves us beyond imagining; he is present with us to guide our every step along our pilgrim way to heaven. Apart from our Lord, we are simply lost. Bending the knee to anyone or anything else will surely lead us astray. In the Gospel text today from St. John, Jesus himself makes this point in terms strikingly pertinent to the times in which we live when he says this to Pilate: “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” We accept Jesus as our rightful Sovereign because in him we meet truth.
This is the wonderfully good news that we need to hear and hold on to right now. Truth is experienced in our day as alarmingly elusive. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have been subject to contrasting assessments of what is necessary and what is not to beat the virus. Who do we believe? Whose voice do we trust? What is the truth? News reporting has become largely an exercise in spin. How are we properly to know and understand what is going on in the world? What is the truth? New and strange ideologies are becoming a dominant orthodoxy that does not tolerate being questioned. How are we supposed to make sense of things, when what is proposed as true manifestly does not accord with reality? What is the truth?
The One who brings us truth is Jesus Christ, because he is the Truth (cf. John 14:6). There is only one voice worthy of our trust, and it is his. As Jesus himself says: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” To bend the knee to Jesus as Sovereign over my life means to open my heart to his voice, hang on to his every word, and close out from my hearing any voice that leads me away from him.
To make this very practical, we can ask ourselves such questions as these: when the voice of Jesus warns against judging another, and the voice of a neighbour brings me some gossip, to whom do I listen? When the voice of Jesus calls me to trust peacefully in the love of the Father, and my inner voice of fear incites me to anxiety, to whom do I listen? When the voice of Jesus commands me to care for those in need, and the voice of advertisers entices me to spend money on things of which I have no need, to whom do I listen? When the voice of Jesus calls me to be merciful and forgive, and the voice of hurt and anger tells me to exact revenge, to whom do I listen? We can all multiply instances where voices speak words and suggest actions contrary to the Gospel. To accept Jesus as our Lord and King is always to seek his voice, which alone speaks the truth, give his voice our full trust, and surrender to all that he tells us.
It is clear that our everyday heroes made the choice to be governed by Christ and his command of charity every time they put the needs of others before their own. As in this Eucharist we thank God for them, may they be for us all an example of what it means to live daily in surrender to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, Lord and King.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
St. Joseph’s Basilica
November 21st, 2021