The world is full of uncertainties right now. Inflation and economic worries continue with no clear end in sight. War and rumors of war abound. The fabric of our social existence seems to be unraveling amid political division, lack of common values, and social media driven isolation from true community. How in the world is everything going to turn around? Well, I can’t answer that question. But I can share what gives me hope. And it is this: Christ is King.
As Billy Joel sang, “the world’s been burning since the world’s been turning.” In any recent memory, whenever there’s been a recession, a war, a scandal, etc. it’s been good advice to grit through it, knowing it’ll be over sooner than you think.
But this time, I think many would agree, it feels different. The uncertainty that we feel right now isn’t just about the next year or two or three. It’s deeper than that. We don’t see when or how things will turn around. The economy has been slowly worsening over several years and still seems like it hasn’t hit its bottom. For the first time since the Soviet Union fell, there are two major military conflicts (Ukraine and Israel) at the same time, while other potential wars seem to be sitting on the edge of explosion. And American politics, while never friendly, is in such a state that for the first time in over a century, phrases such as “great divorce” have been used by serious thinkers. Meanwhile, all consensus on basic norms of family and social life seems to have vanished.
As our sense of control over the world around us slips from our grasp and that same world feels like it is crashing in ways fundamental and seemingly irreversible, our hearts and minds are disturbed.
Almost 100 years ago, when Pope Pius XI instituted today’s feast of Christ the King in 1925, things appeared to be just as bad.
The world after World War I was a place of immense tension, uncertainty, anger, and fear. The war had killed 20 million people and wounded 21 million more. There were towns that had lost nearly all young men of military age. The global Spanish Flu pandemic swept the world from February 1918 to April 1920. After the war, monarchies that had governed Europe for many hundreds of years fell. While we take for granted in America that democracy is a better form of government, the debacle of World War I and the rapid change of governments in Europe created deep uncertainty in its people, a situation that gave communists and fascists an opportunity to vie for power and popularity.
But Pope Pius XI called the world to remember that Christ is King, and we should remember that his kingdom “…is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away” (Daniel 7:14). The full name of today’s feast is also instructive; it is the “Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe”.
Let’s pause on that for a moment. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is king. He is the king. He is the king of the universe, of all existence, of time and space, of everything visible, invisible, physical, and spiritual. It is a reign that is unending and is a reign of love, in which the King calls his subjects friends.
Do you not feel the need right now, as the earth trembles beneath your feet and all the world’s “systems” shake, to reach up to the sky and cry, “Can’t someone just fix this?” Of course, you do. I dare say that it is an instinct, a deeply rooted desire to look to one figure that will save us and bring peace and prosperity. History is littered with savior figures. That instinct caused the Israelites to ask for God to give them King Saul. It led the Roman people to welcome Julius Caesar, transforming their republic into an empire. But like most natural instincts, we tend to aim it in the wrong direction, seeking material solutions to the anxieties of our heart. We confuse the end of our mortal lives with the end of the world.
When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king, Our Lord gave him an answer that would ring throughout time: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight… thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (Jn 18:36-37).Let us take courage. No matter how much it might feel like the world is ending, it is not. As difficulties and changes wound our hearts and cause us fear, let us reach up to heaven and cry out for a solution. But instead of trusting in the power of systems and other humans to make a materially perfect world, let us give our allegiance to the King of the Universe, so that His kingdom of love guides our hearts in truth, in this life and in eternity.