Inner Narthex, Church of the Holy Saviour, Chora, Istanbul; photo by “fusion-of-horizons” via

Fr Thomas’s message about the readings for Mass on the Solemnity of Christ the King (22 November)

When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations.

Today’s feast celebrates the absolute sovereignty of God over all of the universe. It was God who first created the universe, bringing it into being out of nothingness in order to have something to love — but something which would always be subjected to his power. We are told how, at the end of time, Christ will come and sit as judge over the whole of human action — over all the nations. This will mark the final coming of his kingdom. But as he speaks of that judgment, he gives criteria which are deeply rooted in our present lives — we should be building his kingdom here on earth right now, rather than simply looking forwards to the end of time.

We can see Christ’s reign at three levels: over the universe, over ourselves, and over our communities. The first is rather out of our hands — God’s ultimate control is there, and will be brought to final fruition in his good time. But when we contemplate the second and the third, we see that we have our own rôles within this rule of Christ.

To allow Christ to reign over our own lives is the first step – indeed, it is the first step of the Christian life. So many times in the Gospels we are told that he is a king, a master; we are told to keep his commandments, and so forth. Those commandments are summarised in the two ‘great’ commandments: to love God completely, and to love our neighbours as ourselves. They are given a set of practical explanations in today’s Gospel — to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, and so forth. But at the heart of them all is the simplicity of recognising that our lives come from Christ, and that they belong to him. Of acknowledging that he both knows and loves us all — and therefore his plans for us will be for our own benefit, indeed will be the best possible plans for us.

But it is not only as individuals that Christ wishes to reign. As Catholics we do not, we cannot, accept a view of the world which suggests that we are all atomised individuals who do not have an impact on each other. It is a truth long recognised by philosophy, and taught by faith right back in Genesis, that as humans we live in communities. In these communities too, Christ needs to reign.

We can consider this well be reflecting on the results of not allowing him to reign. Today’s collect puts this well speaking of us all as ‘divided and enslaved by sin’. When we look at so much of the division, the hatred, the suspicion which we experience in the world around us; this flows from that refusal to place Christ at the very heart of our lives and of our communities. If we are to submit to his reign, then this means leaving behind all of the destructive poison of sin and division. This is something which we have to begin in our own lives, but which we should allow to feed into our communities. Allowing that sin to be replaced by the rule of Christ — the ‘kingdom of truth and life; of grace and holiness; of peace; of love; and of righteousness.’

We cannot hope to change our communities unless we are not ready first to change ourselves. Through the grace of God, we can and should establish Christ’s kingdom in our hearts, and then allow it to flow out into the society around us.