This week the Church ends its liturgical year by celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King. It is a prominent feast day that speaks with as much truth now as it did when first established in 1925.
Nationalism and secularism – equally strong, both aggressive – marched around the globe during the brief period between the First and Second World Wars (1919-1939). In his 1925 encyclical, Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI diagnosed the roots of such movements as “the majority of men (having) thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives” and a conventional wisdom blossoming from those decisions which said both “had no place either in private affairs or in politics.” Today events trend similarly toward trying times. Pope Benedict XVI defines this modern darkness as a “dictatorship of relativism,” a force that knows no political boundaries, teaches that no freedoms are found in absolute truth, and seeks security in the disasters of moral disorder.
As the Year of Faith continues, and a new liturgical year begins this Advent, the Solemnity of Christ the King presents an opportunity to recognize that the Son of God triumphs always over evils with a kingship of love. He exercises a holy authority that lights the way to authentic joy, the origins of our first freedoms, and the ultimate source of our very life. He finds no equals among natural and supernatural opponents. When recognized both privately and publicly, the kingship of his love leads to what Pius XI characterized almost a century ago as a world blessed with “real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.”
Clearly the world today needs reminding once again about the kingship of love found and secured through Christ and his Church. But how can this be done when most people are taught to think that religious truths are mere opinions or preferences, none of which are any better than others? The victory over relativism and its dictators demands nothing less than discipleship forged by the reality that God “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) As one community, it must remain strong even when weakened by sin and attacked by sinners. It must encounter and enflame embers of courage deep within cowards. It must see humility as a quality necessary to add and never accept it as sufficient to lose. It must accept the kingship of love as an invitation to learn, live, and value life from conception to natural death, which a dictatorship of relativism by its very nature can never provide.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) To realize the kingship of love fully requires saying “yes” continually to a faith that bears witness to Christ governing the universe and standing in solidarity with his people. And, in its finest hour, the kingship of love, as it sheds light into the dark corners of the times, seeks justice and provides hope to all even in the most unjust and seemingly hopeless of eras.
Jason Godin teaches United States history at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas.