As Americans we can find it very difficult to relate to this feast because we have no experience of living with a “king.” A king is much more than a president, because the king could have utter dominion over a person’s life. So, perhaps a little historical context would help. This feast, Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. The world was riddled with dictators — Stalin, Mussolini and, in a few years, Hitler. They were not called kings — they were totalitarian despots with life and death authority over the populace. Pope Pius XI wanted to reassert that for Catholics, the only true sovereign is Jesus Christ. Christ, his word, his way, his law of love is above every other ruler and rule of law.

Flash forward to 2022. The world still abounds with oligarchs and dictators who rule by violence, fear and propaganda. The reminder that Christ is the ultimate authority is still so vital. Americans might not have tyrants in power, but we do bow before another tyrant — consumerism. We are reminded that consumerism should not hold kingly sway over our lives, our thoughts, our decisions. Only Jesus the Christ should rule our hearts and lifestyles. Our readings explain why this is so.

Why should Jesus, the Christ and the king, have this awesome power in our lives? First of all, he is in the royal line of David. The First Reading describes how David was anointed King of Israel. David is God’s chosen one; he is shepherd and commander. In the New Testament, 17 verses refer to Jesus as the “son of David.” This is linked to the Messianic promise of 2 Samuel 7:12-16 that David’s house and kingdom would last forever. Jesus fulfills this promise. But God offers so much more — Jesus, the resurrected Christ, has become king of the ages and the whole universe!

The authority of the Christ is illuminated in the beautiful Christological hymn of the Letter to the Colossians. St. Paul calls us into the light of Christ’s kingdom: we have been “transferred” from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. And who is this Son who redeems and forgives? Paul describes Jesus the Christ in a sweeping cosmic narrative — he is the image of God, firstborn of creation. All things were created through and for him. The Christ holds everything together, gathering up the whole of creation in the loving embrace of God. He has overcome death. The Christ is the fullness of everything — all heavens and earth are in his domain. Hence, he is the cosmic ruler! He fulfills the ideal of every noble ruler because he is the ultimate peacemaker.

How does the Christ obtain this kingdom? The Gospel tells a very different “coronation” story. Jesus is not hailed as David was. He was “sneered and jeered at” by the rulers and soldiers responsible for his crucifixion. He was even reviled by one of the criminals who was dying alongside him. From the agonizing throne of the cross, Jesus’ love continued to pour out in a regal manner. He forgave the “good” thief and promised him paradise. Jesus’ kingdom is hard won by his sacrifice and death. His resurrection completes his victory over darkness, violence and sin. Jesus is the Christ — the first born of the dead, the all-powerful son of God!

But what does this “power” of Jesus Christ the King consist of? I think this is beautifully explained by Pope Francis in his Sunday Angelus Address on the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe on Nov. 25, 2018: “Jesus wants to make it understood that above political power there is another greater one, which is not obtained with human means. He came on earth to exercise this power, which is love, bearing witness to the truth … and He wants to establish in the world His Kingdom of love, justice and peace. This is the Kingdom of which Jesus is King, and which extends until the end of time. History teaches us that kingdoms founded on the power of arms and lies are fragile and, sooner or later, collapse; but the Kingdom of God is founded on love and is rooted in hearts … conferring on one who receives it peace, freedom and fullness of life. We all want peace, we all want freedom and we want fullness. And how does it come about? Let the love of God, the Kingdom of God, the love of Jesus take root in your heart and you’ll have peace, you’ll have freedom and you’ll have fullness.”

Can we accept the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe? Jesus said, “Where your heart is, there is your treasure.” We need to examine our hearts and honestly admit who or what rules there!