This weekend, our Liturgical Year comes to an end once again, as we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, or, to give the feast its full title, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” Our readings for this Sunday bring out an important point about how we understand this “kingship” of our Lord. In speaking of our Lord as King, or indeed of the Kingdom of God, we think not so much of a place, but rather of something all-encompassing and reaching beyond simple time or space. It might be more helpful then to speak of the reign or kingship of Jesus Christ: something dynamic, personal and that is at the very heart of our faith and who we are and what we do.

Our feast day was actually initiated nearly a century ago, by Pope Pius XI in 1925. The Church was struggling against various hostile regimes (when has this not been the case!). The Pope wanted to remind Catholic Christians that they belonged to the Kingdom of God first. It is worth reading his letter (Quas Primas), because in it, he describes what the Kingdom of God is like. Again, he speaks more about the reign of Christ and of how it is relational and personal. He reflects on how this Kingdom should reign in our mind, our heart, our will and our body.

Our readings this weekend also help us to flesh out this understanding of the reign of Jesus Christ through a series of striking images.

In the First Reading (Daniel 7:13-14) we hear from the rather enigmatic prophet Daniel. The book was written at a time of great difficulty and persecution for the chosen people. Daniel has a vision of the coming of God. The “Son of Man” (a favorite way that Jesus has of speaking about himself!) will be given a universal and everlasting Kingdom. This prophesied kingship is, of course, a pre-figuring or anticipation of the universal reign of Jesus Christ.

A further image is given in our Second Reading, taken from the beginning of the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1:5-8). Once again, the Kingdom is universal and everlasting, represented by the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega. Notice though that although the Lord comes amid the clouds, he is also the one who has been pierced for us. Our image then is also of a Kingdom built on the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for us. What is more, it is this sacrifice that provides us with the ability, or passport, to become citizens of his Kingdom.

Our Gospel Reading (John 18:33-37) may come as a surprise, as we read part of St. John’s account of Jesus’ Passion. We may feel puzzled as we find that we are back to the Gospel for Good Friday! Of course, there is a very good reason why this passage was chosen for our feast. Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate and we have a dramatic exchange between them. Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world, although it is certainly in this world. Our Lord then gives us a third and crucial image of his Kingdom: it is a Kingdom of truth. In an era of fake news, half-truths, narrow ideologies, or the sense that reality or truth can be whatever one decides it will be, our Lord reminds us of the truth that is found in him alone.

Our feast day and the readings invite us to reflect on our citizenship, or belonging, to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is truly universal; composed of so many people from every place, culture and time. Entrance into the Kingdom also involves an invitation from the Lord, as well as a journey and choice by us: one of faith, hope and love. It also brings about both a sense of belonging and an act of commitment. We are asked to imitate the sacrifice of the “one whom they pierced.” This entrance or citizenship is freely given: it is God’s gift to us, and one that we can accept and live, or reject and let wither. We can live in the truth, or we can live in a sort of twilight zone of half-truths or even of falsehoods.

Finally, like any country or kingdom, Jesus’ Kingdom or reign has its own customs, laws, characteristics, history and culture. What are these? Well, God’s Kingdom is one of: “truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace” (cf. the Preface in the Mass for Christ the King). We also realize that we are not only citizens of the Kingdom, but that we are called to be citizen makers! With God’s help, let us make sure that others will recognize these “citizenship” traits and qualities as they look at us, and so also desire to become citizens of heaven.