Tag Archives: Christ the King

Joy to the World

26 Nov

Pope Francis2This past Sunday, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, more commonly known as the feast of “Christ the King.”

This year’s celebration of Christ the King not only brought with it the end of our liturgical year, but also the end of the “Year of Faith,” which invited all of us to a renewed relationship with Christ and His Church. The Year of Faith coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and during the Year of Faith, Church leaders from around the world gathered to discuss in practical terms the “new evangelization.”

But that’s not nearly all. On the feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis issued a 223-page apostolic exhortation entitled Evangelii Gaudium (“Joy of the Gospel” or “EG”), on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world. Therein the Holy Father not only synthesizes the discussions regarding the new evangelization, but even more gives his own personal stamp to the Church’s mandate to evangelize in the here and now.

This document is fairly long, so I will try to break it down into smaller parts. Today, I’ll just look at the Introduction, in which the Pope sets the tone for the entire document. Four things struck me about the Introduction at first glance:

(1) He gets your attention. The Pope has a unique way of challenging all of us, and in particular by way of “afflicting the comfortable” (as opposed to “comforting the afflicted”). For example, take this passage from paragraph 2:

“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and an­guish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry, and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spir­it which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.”

He addresses evangelization not as a task or technique for those of us who already think they have their act together, but rather as the fruit of a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ.

(2) It’s all about joy. The words “joy” or “rejoice” appear at least 50 times just in the Introduction. I think the Holy Father is trying to make a point here! And the point is this, quoting Pope Paul VI:

“May the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anx­ious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ” (EG 10).

(3) The Pope is quotable! Here are just a few nuggets:

  • “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter” (EG 6).
  • “Sometimes we are tempted to find excus­es and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met” (EG 7).
  • “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” (EG 10).
  • “Every form of authentic evangelization is always ‘new’” (EG 11).
  • “The believer is essentially “one who remembers’” (EG 13).
  • “It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but ‘by attraction’” (EG 15).

(4) It’s modest, yet far-reaching. I say that the Pope’s approach is “modest” in the sense that he acutely recognizes that evangelization happens “on the ground,” and that each geographic region presents its own pastoral challenges for individual bishops. Even more than that, Pope Francis does “not believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world” and is conscious of the need to promote what he calls a “sound decentralization” of Church authority (EG 16).

Notwithstanding this noble recognition of the prerogatives of individual bishops, he does take it upon himself to give an extensive teaching on evangelization (did I mention that the document is 223 pages?). As we proceed in the document, we are going to unpack the Holy Father’s views on these subjects, identified in EG 17:

(a) the reform of the Church in her missionary outreach;

(b) the temptations faced by pastoral workers;

(c) the Church, understood as the entire People of God which evangelizes;

(d) the homily and its preparation;

(e) the inclusion of the poor in society;

(f) peace and dialogue within society;

(g) the spiritual motivations for mission.

I think as we read the document the Holy Father desires that these words of St. Paul remain ever present to us:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

Long Live Christ the King!

23 Nov

Bl. Miguel Pro at his martyrdom

This past Sunday we began the last week of the liturgical year with the Solemnity of Christ the King. Pope Pius XI initiated this feast day in 1925, at a time of growing secularism, which led to a loss of respect for the Christ’s sovereignty in our lives and in our world. I think the same concern applies to contemporary debates regarding the role of faith in political life, as the U.S. Bishops beef up their defense of our religious liberty.

I especially like this quote from Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quas Primas, which introduced the new feast:

“Nations will be reminded by the annual celebration of this feast [of Christ the King] that not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. It will call to their minds the thought of the last judgment, wherein Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected, and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults; for his kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws and in administering justice, and also in providing for the young a sound moral education.”

As one of today’s saints–Bl. Miguel Pro–said at the moment of his remarkable martyrdom, “Viva Cristo Rey!”  Long live Christ the King!

Pilate Light

21 Nov

In St. John’s account of the Passion, proclaimed every Good Friday, we hear the dramatic exchange between Our Lord and Pontius Pilate in which Jesus makes this remarkable statement: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (Jn. 18:37).

Just one day–or four chapters–earlier, Jesus identified Himself as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). Perhaps with Pilate we might ask, “What is truth?” (Jn. 18:38), or at least, “Lord, what do you mean?”

All the books in the world can’t contain the full answer, but we can say that Christ came to show Himself as the Son of God, who came that we may partake of His divinity as adopted sons and daughters of God (cf. Rom. 8:29; Gal. 4:4-7).

He is the King of the New Israel, the Church, which in His name and through the power of His Spirit is called to renew the face of the earth. This kingdom is fully in this world, but ultimately does not belong here (cf. Jn. 18:36), pointing instead to a new heaven and a new earth (cf. Rev. 21:1-4). We celebrated His kingship yesterday at Mass, as the culmination of our liturgical year. Continue reading