What a pleasure to celebrate the beautiful feast of Christ the King with all of you, the family of the Knights of Columbus. For our knighthood is at the service of Jesus Christ, our great King and Shepherd, and our gallant service seeks to advance not an earthly kingdom but rather a kingdom “not of this world”, the Kingdom of God. Let us then hasten to make inroads into this feast by turning our attention to the King, to his Kingdom, and to our citizenship in that Kingdom.
In today’s Gospel, Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Perhaps he wanted to know if Jesus were planning to lead an insurrection, or maybe Pilate just wanted to test the depths of Jesus’ support among his people. If only Pilate had known who Jesus truly is he would never have crucified the Lord of glory! (cf. 1 Cor. 2:8) In our first reading the prophet Daniel transports us to the halls of heaven where the Son of Man, that is, God’s eternal Son, is presented to the Ancient One, that is, to God the Almighty Father. There, in the courts of heaven, the Father bestows upon the Son “dominion, glory, and kingship” – a kingship which is eternal and universal. And so by faith we recognize the man who stands in tatters before Pilate is God’s Son: He is “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.”
How do we describe the source of Christ’s Kingship in the Church’s life and worship? Every Sunday when we profess the Nicene Creed we say that the Eternal Son is “consubstantial” with the Father. This means that the Son of God was not created by the Father, as we are. Rather, the Son, like the Father, had no beginning and will have no end. The Son is equal in majesty, in dignity, and in glory to God the Father. And why is this important to us? It is vitally important, because only a Savior who is fully divine and fully human could serve as the mediator between God the Father and sinful humanity; only such a Savior could win the victory over sin and death and lead us to living contact with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Only such a King can claim our absolute allegiance as Savior of the whole world.
And what of this Kingdom to which we have been called? Before the Lord entered the world, the Israelites wanted a king like their neighbors so that they would become a domineering earthly power. Some of Jesus’ own followers wanted him to be a king who would lead a revolt against the conquering Romans. To them and to us Jesus says decisively, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
We are all too familiar with kingdoms that are of this world: the caliphate called “ISIS” that is persecuting Christians and spreading terror; Western democracies that have fallen prey to a militant secularism that crowds out God and the things of God from the public square, subjecting citizens who are believers and their institutions to low-grade bureaucratic harassment and public ridicule; in a phrase, liberal realms that have lost their liberality.
Jesus offers us another kind of kingdom, described in the Preface of today’s Mass: It is a universal kingdom, extending to every race and nation, time and place; It is a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice love and peace. Only the God who is love could establish such a kingdom and the deepest longing of our human spirit is to become a part of that Kingdom where truth sets us free; holiness gives us joy; and love and peace surround us.
This Kingdom is not a dream; Jesus established it in our midst. It proceeds by not by force or domination but rather by divine compassion. It is God’s merciful love that wins the allegiance of minds and hearts. By converting us from our sins and by freeing us to surrender to his love – this is how Christ our King builds his civilization of love. How blessed we are that our King, “the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of earth” loves us and has freed us from our sins by his own blood. May he reign always in our hearts, in the inviolable sanctuary of our conscience, and in the heart of the Church against whom “the gates of hell shall not prevail” (Mt. 16:18).
Our Citizenship in the Kingdom
So what does all of this mean for me and you as members and leaders of the Knights of Columbus? It is simply this – if we want to become permanent citizens of the Kingdom of God then our passport, our green card, is charity. Charity and compassion are how we acknowledge the true sovereignty of Christ our King and establish ourselves as citizens of his Kingdom. By imitating Jesus’ works of mercy and compassion for those in need our humanity is opened to the splendor of God’s redeeming love. Thus we show that we are more than nominal citizens of this Kingdom when we love as we have been loved, when we forgive as we have been forgiven, when serve as we have been served by the King of Love, our Shepherd.
By placing ourselves in service to one and in service to all – that is – by giving warm coats to inner-city kids in the winter, supporting the Special Olympics, by protecting unborn children and their mothers through the ultrasound program, by building up loving parishes and families as domestic churches where young people can grow in grace and age and wisdom, or by reaching out to persecuted sisters and brothers in the Middle East – in these and other ways we are opening our hearts to the Kingdom of Christ’s love. This is how we offer ourselves and our daily lives as a sacrifice pleasing in God’s eyes. This is how we become apt candidates to hear the most important words that we could ever hear: “Come, you blessed of my Father and receive the reward prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt. 25:34).
When he served at St. Mary’s in New Haven and went in search of those who in need, the venerable Father Michael McGivney taught us to seek first the Kingdom of God. May he now pray for us from his place in eternity, such that the Knights of Columbus always will be a supple instrument of our great King and Shepherd who, even now, ushers in his Kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love and peace.