Bishop David McGough wrote this piece for the Catholic Herald to mark the Solemnity of Christ the King in 2010.
The prayers for the Solemnity of Christ the King address Christ as the King of all creation and invite us to live by his Gospel so as to enter the joy of his kingdom.
The language of a sovereign monarchy, while rooted in institutions of the past, describes a fundamental aspect of our relationship with God. The proclamation of Christ as universal King is something more than a purely intellectual confession of faith. To acknowledge Christ as King and Lord is to surrender our lives and all that we are to his service. A sinful world creates many false kingdoms around its own selfishness. Sin, no less than despotic reigns in the past, has the subtle power to subject us to its own reign and influence. On this day we proclaim that Christ is the only King with the power to change and claim our lives.
The imagery of God’s Kingdom, with Christ as its King, reaches back to the establishment of the kingdom of David in the Old Testament. Here, the institution of the monarchy symbolised the covenant between the God of Israel and his people. The King represented God’s saving power among the people.
Thus the emphasis was on the pastoral rather than the imperial aspect of David’s rule.“You are the man who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you shall be the leader of Israel.” Inevitably the frailty of David’s successors fell short of their calling to establish the kingdom of God on earth. The longing for God’s kingdom of peace and justice became increasingly focused on a future Messiah, a worthy successor to the promises made to David. Christ was born the Son of David. In him, the Son of God, the kingdom of God became one with our flesh and blood. The power of this kingdom was demonstrated in service rather than conquest, in humility above pride, in the forgiveness that brings reconciliation.
The soaring imagery of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians makes Christ’s Kingdom the heart and driving force of all creation. “He is the image of the unseen God and first born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth.”
On this feast of Christ the King we celebrate the one who is not only the pattern for our lives, but is also the pattern for the whole of creation. Christ holds all things in unity. The delicate balance of our planet’s ecology reflects the unity of his Kingdom. We ignore this balance at our peril.
Above all else, Christ is our King in the struggle with sin. He was the first born from the dead, the first to vanquish the power of sin over our humanity. The Father wished that the perfection for which we long should be found in him, that through his death and resurrection we might enter the perfection of his peace. This is the kingdom that Christ lays before us.
The Cross lies at the heart of Christ’s kingdom. It was on the Cross that Christ demonstrated the power of his kingdom. On the Cross he claimed nothing for himself. Instead he entrusted himself to the Father, taking to himself the insults and burdens of a sinful world. The repentant thief instinctively realised that in Christ’s humility the pride and arrogance of sin had been vanquished. Let us pray with him: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”