“Long live Christ the King!”
“Long live Christ the King”–a pregnant expression, an expression steeped in history. From the French Revolution to the Mexican Cristero conflict, Catholics have joyfully and passionately shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey,” as a proclamation of divine power over political power, of justice over oppression, of love over hate, of eternity over time. Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ, King of the Universe. The feast points to the end of history when our benevolent God will bring justice and peace to the world once and for all. All the longings of the human heart will find their fill on that great day. We will be changed!
Especially as a hospital chaplain, but also as a researcher in Honduras and Guatemala, I’ve witnessed tragedy and injustice. The poor and the sick clamor for life. Many times, it seems as if their pleas go unanswered. They die. They suffer. Nothing changes. Many today are like the Ancient Israelites in Egypt. They break under the heavy pressure of slavery. They wonder whether prayer matters, whether God is listening at all. They groan and weep in desperation, and their sighs reach the heavens. In Exodus 2:23-25 we read, “The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.” From this point in the narrative, everything turns. God calls Moses. Moses leads the Israelites into freedom. There are significant trials along the way, but something new has begun. God offered them liberation, that offer has been extended to us today through hope in Christ.
Christ, too, suffered unjustly. He was tortured and killed though he did nothing wrong. He cried out to God his Father for help like the Israelites did centuries before. His Father answered–even after Jesus had died–by raising him up. God has the last word. He is King.
This story of suffering, death, and liberation has continued throughout the history of the Church. I think of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, pictured above at the moment before his execution. A saint of the 20th century, Miguel stood up for his faith and for the poor in Mexico during an atheistic, oppressive government. The powerful, who stood against him, eventually falsely accused him (as they had done to Jesus) and executed him. Before Miguel’s death, he extended his arms in the form of a cross and declared, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Miguel died that day, and the government officials sent around photos of his gruesome death to intimidate Catholics around the country. However, the intimidation of the government had the opposite effect. Rather than being afraid, Catholics found hope and courage in Miguel’s example. People came to see Miguel as a saint; and, in fact, John Paul II beatified him a few years ago. Miguel’s message lives on, and I know that God will raise him up on the last day.
Christ is King. Let’s not be deceived. If Christ is not King, then love is in vain. But, yes, Christ is King, so let us live in love. If Christ is not King, then there will be no justice. But, yes, Christ is King, so let us live for justice. If Christ is not King, then there will be no peace. But, yes, Christ is King, so let us live in peace.
Best wishes from your brother and servant in the Lord,
David Inczauskis, SJ