Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
With the Solemnity of Christ the King, we mark one final solemn celebration on the liturgical calendar before the end of the season of Ordinary Time and the start of the season of Advent. Jesus is truly King of the universe, the Lord and ruler of all. Unlike any earthly monarch, though, Jesus is perfectly just, benevolent, good, and worthy of our loyalty, our service, and our love.
In his book “Extreme Ownership,” former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink outlines a leadership philosophy that calls on the person in charge to take active and full responsibility. This example inspires others to take responsibility for their particular roles. With this growing sense of accountability and responsibility within an organization, a sense of loyalty and mutual respect also takes root. Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, is eminently worthy of our loyalty. Though He is God, He willingly lowered Himself to our human level, taking on our human flesh. Though without sin, He willingly took our sin on Himself and suffered death on the Cross. Though eternal and ever-living, He deigned to enter the tomb in death on our behalf. Jesus takes ultimate responsibility for us out of love. When we see this ultimate gift of self to us, this extreme act of love, our hearts ought to be inspired to profound loyalty. The Apostles, loyal to Christ to the end, died martyrs’ deaths (except for St. John the Evangelist), as did countless other martyrs in the history of the Church. On this great solemnity, we are invited to embrace such loyalty to Jesus.
In the second week of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola offers the meditation on the good temporal king, which I have referenced in this column in the past. In the meditation, we are invited to consider a king who asks us to follow him, but not merely in following orders. The king promises that he will share in every challenge, burden, and hardship. In other words, to follow the king is not simply an act of obedience, but an act of accompaniment. The king wants to share everything with us. Of course, St. Ignatius wants us to consider Jesus as king. He is a King who truly shares everything, as well as the reward for faithful service. The service that Jesus asks of us is not anything He has not already done, nor will He leave us to accomplish the task solo. Jesus has already shown us the example of service in the Gospel. He is radically available to the poor, the outcast, the sick, and the suffering. His teaching is accessible to all people, and His grace offered to anyone who desires it. And Jesus calls us to serve Him. We carry out this service when we do anything for the least of our brethren (cf. Mt. 25:40). We who have been given so much, have been served so profoundly by Jesus our King, ought then to be ready and willing to serve Him with our very lives.
When Queen Elizabeth II passed away in September, among the many sincere tributes extended, the most striking to me were the expressions of genuine love and affection offered by ordinary Britons. The queen was sincerely loved by people who had never met her in person, but saw in her a maternal figure and someone who loved them in return. With the rugged individualism so characteristic of our culture, we might find this kind of love unusual. But in the same way that people in England saw Queen Elizabeth as genuinely worthy of their love, when we consider Jesus Christ, we will come to understand that He too is supremely worthy of our love. This solemnity of Christ the King points us to a King who has loved us first and loved us to the end, to the extreme, and unto eternity. The response to love is love. Pope Pius VI is credited with writing a beautiful litany, called the Litany of the Love of God. Praying it can be a tremendous aid to growing in our love for Christ our King.
As the liturgical year draws to a close, the Church invites us to reflect on our great King. Jesus Christ is truly worthy of our praise and adoration, our loyal service, and our hearts committed to Him in love. With Advent right around the corner, we will continue in this spirit of love as we prepare the way for our King to come to us again.