November 16, 2010 // Uncategorized

‘Long live Christ the King’

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. How fitting it is that we give honor and praise to Christ the King on the last Sunday of the liturgical year. This Solemnity reminds us that Christ is the King of heaven and earth and that He has sovereignty over all creation. It reminds us that we belong to Him, that we are His and His we wish to be.

The Kingdom of Christ is mysteriously present now in His Church, the seed and beginning of the Kingdom on earth. It will enter into its perfection at the end of time. Yet now we are called to increase His Kingdom. This begins with Christ reigning in us and in our lives. When Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1921, he pointed out that Christ must reign in our minds, in our wills, in our hearts, and in our bodies.

In 2005, several martyrs were beatified in Guadalajara, Mexico. They were faithful Catholics who died defending the Church against the persecution by the government there in the 1920s. Some were tortured for their loyalty to Christ the King. Each martyr’s story is inspiring. Each is unique, however, in common, each one before his or her execution shouted: “Viva Cristo Rey” (“Long live Christ the King”).

One of the Mexican martyrs was a young teenager, Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, a devout 14-year-old boy who, after being captured, was asked under pain of death to give up his faith in Christ. Jose Luis refused to apostasize. His mother was overwhelmed by sorrow and anguish, but she kept encouraging her son. The soldiers sheered off the skin from the soles of his feet and made him walk through the village to the cemetery. He wept and moaned with pain, but would not give in. He said along the way: “Viva Cristo Rey.” Every now and then along the route, they stopped and said to Jose Luis: “If you cry out, ‘Death to Christ the King,’ we will spare your life. Say ‘Death to Christ the King.’” But each time, Jose Luis answered “Viva Cristo Rey.” At the cemetery, before shooting him, they asked him one last time to deny his faith. He refused. His assassins then fired upon him and he died like so many others shouting: “Viva Cristo Rey.”

The Mexican martyrs of the 1920s included a Jesuit priest, Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, whose feast we celebrate this Tuesday, November 23rd. I remember celebrating Mass at his tomb in a church in Mexico City. Father Pro risked his life by celebrating the sacraments during that severe persecution of the Church in Mexico. He would disguise himself in various ways to evade capture as he went about doing his priestly ministry with charity and zeal. He was eventually discovered and arrested like so many other faithful Catholics. As he stood before the firing squad, he stretched out his arms like Jesus on the cross and declared “Viva Cristo Rey.” He was shot to death and died at the age of 36.

Blessed Jose Luis, a teenager, and Blessed Miguel Pro, a priest, and all the Mexican martyrs are an encouragement to all of us, especially our young people, to live for Christ more fervently, to live with Christ as the King and Lord of our lives, the center of our life each and every day. At times, this may bring us criticism, even some persecution and suffering.

Our King’s crown was made of thorns. His throne was a wooden cross. He revealed from that throne that God is love. He offered Himself in expiation for the sins of humanity and He defeated Satan, the ruler of this world. From that throne, from the cross, He established the Kingdom of God once and for all. This is how God reigns as King! His triumph is the victory of love. He does not impose his rule by force. He invites us to follow Him, to embrace His cross, to overcome evil with good, so as to enter into His eternal Kingdom.

At every Mass, we listen to the Word of God which enlightens our way to the Kingdom. In the Eucharist, we offer ourselves and our lives in union with Christ in His sacrifice of love on Calvary. Our King feeds us with the bread of life, with Himself, His holy Body and Blood. He nourishes us with the food that the martyrs received, the food of immortality. He strengthens us to live our faith with fidelity and conviction and to love one another as He has loved us.

In the Preface of Mass on this Solemnity of Christ the King, we will hear these beautiful words:
“As king He claims dominion over all creation, that he may present to you, his almighty Father, an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.”

May we be loyal servants of Christ the King and serve the building up of His kingdom on earth!

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