Between 1914 and 1918, the world was embroiled in a war that for years had been teetering on the edge of eruption, and only needed one act of violence to set it off. Alliances had been formed and nationalistic allegiances ran strong, especially among the leaders of nations. The devastation was enormous. Young men who thought they could set out on an adventure in the “glory of war” soon found out about the new horror that modern warfare had become.
Holy Mother Church was there, insisting that leaders of nations strive for peace, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. So she watched as Europe crumbled. Seven years later, Europe was still reeling from the aftermath of that tragic “war to end all wars”. The Holy Father Pius XI, during that year promulgated a new solemnity: Christ the King. It was evident that mankind had put more stock in his own power and authority and left Christ and His rightful dominion behind. It was obvious what happens when humankind, left to its own devices, tries to do things their own way: Death and destruction. Pius XI saw it necessary to remind all people of the importance of allowing Christ to have dominion over all.
As true as it was then, it's even more true now: we, in modern society, can't stand for anyone to have dominion over us. We have seen how when our fellow human beings gain power, that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The United States of America fought a Revolution to rid ourselves of kingly dominion. Yet this distrust of those in power is because human beings are flawed, due to original sin. We recognize that we need leadership, and so we instate leaders. But we have those leaders swear an oath of allegiance to promise to uphold the laws of the land. They take oaths because we don't trust them but we have to.
The Kingship of Jesus Christ is totally different. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. In fact, the promulgation of the Feast of Christ the King occurred precisely 1600 years after the Council of Nicea, in which this dogma of the two natures of Jesus Christ was established. Throughout Scripture, this notion of the royal dominion of Christ is made plain. As we embark upon the season of Advent, we will soon hear those familiar words of the prophet Isaiah: “For a child is born to us, a son is given us. On his shoulders, dominion rests, and he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, God the Mighty, Prince of Peace. His dominion shall be vast and forever peaceful . . .”
Yet, when we yearn for peace, we can tend to complain about leaders of nations and how they instigate war and keep it going, or how their plans for peace may be naïve. If it is true peace we are after, let us look to ourselves, for true peace begins in each human heart. That human heart must be willing to share that peace with those around him, and so it spreads. [It is amazing how the discontent of one person can spread throughout an entire community.]
Pope Pius XI said: “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.” There is a popular expert on personal finance that teaches people how to be debt free. His method, however is not quick or comfortable or painless. He requires of his students that they commit to a tight budget and strict regimented discipline in terms of spending. His motto is: “Be willing to live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else.” People would call into his radio show after months and sometimes years of this kind of strict discipline and chant, “I'm debt free!” One can almost hear the sweetness of liberation.
Our life in Christ is almost like that. Our Lord promises us that grace of freedom, but it comes at a price, the price of the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is the image of Christ the King, not a throne of glory, but the wood of the Cross, which lead to the throne of Glory. Our willingness to enter into that redemptive act, and accept Jesus as our King will lead us to that sweet freedom Jesus promises. Perhaps someday we can cry out to Jesus, “I'm debt free”, free of the debt of sin and free to live in the Kingdom of God.