This is a feast that was instituted in the 1925. In the years following the first world war, while the fighting was over for a time, there was not a sense of peace. Lingering anger still existed among the nations, and interior divisions continued from within. Thus, Pope Pius XI instituted this solemnity to remind ourselves where are true allegiance lies. Whatever nationality or ethnicity we may be here on earth, our ultimate allegiance it toward Jesus Christ, who rules for eternity both heaven and earth.
What does it mean to say that Jesus is King? It means that he has authority, it means that he rules, not just one group, but over all creation.
A king is responsible for the welfare of their subjects. It was expected of the kings of old to not simply sit in their courts giving commands. As leaders and rulers, they went out personally into the fray, to fight against their enemies, and lead their men to victory. Jesus does just that. Not with violence, but through humility.
He does not rule with human power, but with love and service toward others. He goes to battle against sin and evil, his adversary is the devil, and he defeats him through the cross. It is through this offering of his life that his victory is attained, and through sharing in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we too share in that victory.
Jesus is a King who seeks to gather what is lost, to bring together those who have wandered away. He is a King who desires to bring to life that which was dead. He is a King who will destroy all enemies that cause people to lose their way and lead to death. He is a King who has laid down his life for his people, so that they might receive life through him. On the last day, he will destroy death itself, and gather all who are united with him to eternal life.
Are you a subject of Jesus Christ? Do you recognize him as Lord, as Savior, as King? If so, then you are to serve Him. For Whoever belongs to Christ, he will gather, and whoever does not belong to Christ will be cast aside.
Since Jesus is King, this also means that we must serve our King. How are we to do that? Of course, there is offering our prayers and worship to him, to give him praise and adoration. But it is more than that. The parable in today’s gospel shows us how to serve him through others. How we treat others is the same as how we are treating Christ. To serve others and support them, is the same and serving and supporting Christ. Failing to serve others is the same as failing to serve Christ.
We must not forget, then, that as King, Jesus also serves as Judge. We will be judged based on how we have served Christ, and served him through others. It is Jesus who has destroyed the power of sin and death, not us. It is Jesus who grants freedom and restores us to life, not us. Acknowledge this fact, allow God to gather you to himself, and live that life in accordance with God’s commands.
When establishing this feast, Pope Pius XI had this to say.
"If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God."