Good Citizens of our Country but God's Servants First - Jesus is our King

Homily for the Thirty-Fourth Sunday of Year B - Solemnity of Christ the King

by Fr. Tommy Lane

We are aware of various different tensions between politics and religion in the many moral questions being debated in our times. Tensions between politics and religion are nothing new and people placing God first is nothing new either. An Englishman, Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), who was a member of Parliament from 1906-1910, was heckled during a campaign speech for being a Catholic. He responded,

“Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. This is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative.”

The crowd was astonished and responded with applause. Belloc put God first.

This incident in the life of Hilaire Belloc reminds me of another Englishman who paid with his life for putting God first. Thomas More, who was Lord Chancellor, resigned when Parliament passed a law forcing clergy to acknowledge King Henry VIII as head of the Church. In 1534 Thomas More refused to take the oath and he was beheaded in 1535. His final words were, “The King’s good servant, but God’s first.” He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935. Both Belloc and St. Thomas More were the king’s good servants but God’s servants first.

It was also tension between politics and religion which led Pope Pius XI to institute this Solemnity of Christ the King in 1925. That was just three years after Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and his fascist government came to power. Pius XI, in his encyclical Quas Primas which instituted the Feast of Christ the King, referred to his earlier encyclical in which he mentioned the,

“…chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind was laboring. And We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ…”
(Pius XI Quas Primas 1)

The Scripture readings today give us beautiful selections on Christ as King. In the first reading (Dan 7:13-14) we heard of Daniel’s vision of one like a Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven. We understand that vision to be a prophecy of Jesus. The Son of man in Daniel’s vision,

received dominion, glory and kingship;
all peoples nations and languages serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed.

The vision tells us that all peoples and nations and languages will finally see that Jesus is the only true Savior of the world. This beautiful prophecy in Daniel is fulfilled when people acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, our Savior. In response, the Psalm praised God as king.

The second reading is another vision of Jesus, from the Book of Revelation (Rev 1:5-8). It is a vision of the Second Coming of Jesus when he comes on the clouds and everyone will see him and everyone on earth will lament because they will see that that he is pierced, i.e. he suffered and died for everyone in the world, even though many billions in the world do not know this. Jesus describes himself as the Alpha and Omega, Α+Ω, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, which are also on the Paschal Candle, signifying that Jesus is to be the beginning and end of everything we do and say, that Jesus is to be King of our lives.

In the Gospel (John 18:33-37) Jesus declares before Pilate that his kingdom does not belong to this world. Jesus admits that he is a King, but not in our normal understanding. He is King because he testifies to the truth and everyone who belongs to the truth listens to Jesus. How do we ensure that we are on the side of truth and belong to Jesus? Pope Pius XI in his encyclical wrote,

If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth…it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls…”
(Pius XI Quas Primas 33, emphasis mine.)

How do we ensure that we are on the side of truth and belong to Jesus? Let us ask ourselves if Jesus reigns in our minds, reigns in our wills and desires, reigns in our hearts, and reigns in our bodies. Is Jesus the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, Α+Ω, over everything in our lives? If Jesus is not our King, let us once again today place Jesus first in our lives and ask his forgiveness. To help us put Jesus first and be the Alpha and Omega of our lives, the U.S. bishops during their recent meeting (2006) published three major documents worthy of our attention and reading,

  1. Married Love and the Gift of Life

  2. Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care

  3. “Happy Are Those Called to His Supper”: on Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist

If we have not been putting Jesus first in our lives, if Jesus is not our King, once again today let us place Jesus first in our lives. As Pope Pius XI said, let Jesus reign in our minds, reign in our wills, reign in our hearts, and reign in our bodies. If we have been treating something or someone as king of our lives, Jesus is always merciful and we can receive his forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Like Belloc and St. Thomas More we want to be good citizens of our country but God’s servants first. As Pope Pius XI wrote,

“We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ…”
(Pius XI Quas Primas 1)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2006

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Thirty-Fourth Sunday Year B - Solemnity of Christ the King

Jesus Christ our King - King of our Minds and King of our Actions

Related Homilies: Christ - a Powerless King 

Commentary: Jesus as King in Mark