Nov 16, 2011
The feast of Christ the King not only ends the current liturgical year but also anticipates the new year of grace, which begins next week, the First Sunday in Advent. Today the Church professes that Jesus Christ is the world’s salvation, the shepherd-king who lays down His life for His sheep (Jn 10:1-30). He is the Father’s gift to humankind, and our minimal response is gratitude for his coming among us to assume our human condition in all things but sin. St. Peter captures the meaning of the feast when Jesus asks if he wants to leave his friendship. “Lord, to whom shall we go,” replies Peter, “you have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).
Why has the Church’s celebration of Christ the King assumed a new urgency? In 1925, Pope Pius XI proclaimed this feast to overcome the prevailing errors of the time—materialism, secularism, and relativism. Today, unbelief, religious indifference, and a neo-paganism have been added to the list. Taken all together, they pose a direct assault on a moral and a Christian way of living. Millions of disaffected, non-practicing, and angry Catholics have exited the Church only to ally themselves with at least one of these tendencies.
There is more. Ours is a Christophobic culture. Except perhaps for purposes of swearing, the name of Jesus Christ has been banished from polite company and from the public square. Mention the name Jesus Christ more than once, and you are branded a “Christ-er.” Whether in science, dialogue among religious groups in pursuit of peace and mutual respect, most conversations barely tolerate the name of God, let alone the name of Jesus Christ.
The Norwegian Expressionist painter, Edvard Munch, captures the pulse of contemporary man in his famous work, “The Scream, painted in different versions between1883-1910. It shows an agonized figure in front of a bloody red sky and painfully expresses man’s futility, alienation, and fear of death. Musical texts from the pop culture mesmerize our young people and echo a similar morbidity. Man screams for meaning, for hope. On his own, what is left to him is nothing—a nihilism of dread.