Dear Friends in Christ,
Today’s Feast is a relatively new one in the liturgical calendar. It was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quas primas. Back then the feast was called ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King’ and fell on the last Sunday of October.
However, in 1969 Pope Paul VI gave the feast its current title ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe’ and also a new date, the last Sunday in the liturgical year. In the UK this day also marks Youth Sunday, when we give thanks and praise to God for our young people. For their faith, enthusiasm and joy, but also pray for all those who have difficulties in living their faith today.
The idea of kingship is one which was better understood by the ancient and medieval world than it is today. Monarchies are less prevalent today, although of course Elizabeth II has served the British people as our queen for over 60 years. Her role as sovereign has decreased politically over the years but her regal presence and witness of dedication to duty and unfailing service of her people is a great source of joy and inspiration to so many. Queen Elizabeth is the first to confess that although she is a queen, Jesus is also her King. In her Christmas speech to the nation a few years ago she said, ‘Jesus is the Saviour, the Prince of Peace, who is our source and light and life both in good times and bad.’
Our understanding of kingship or queenship is very much rooted in the idea of privilege and of ruling our subjects. Jesus, however, bore witness to an altogether different kind of kingship. He is the Servant King. He is the King of the kingdom of love, service and sacrifice. We are his subjects – we swear a loyalty to our King. What is wonderful about the kingdom is that rather than us just serving the King, the King also serves his people. Jesus turned upside down our understanding of what it means to be great, what it means to be regal. We are called to witness to the fruits, gifts and values not of the kingdom of this world but of the kingdom of Christ.