The year was 1968, Vatican II had concluded a few years before and dramatic changes were being adapted in the mass. A new Roman Missal in English was in use. Contemporary Music was the norm at all masses. People were more involved in the liturgy and the priest was now facing the congregation instead of having his back toward them. The one change I found most interesting was the homilies were more interesting and centered on God’s love instead of his wrath.
I remember a young priest in our parish in Charlotte, N.C. – Fr. Dash. Each week during his homilies he preached about Jesus. I honestly had not remembered hearing a homily about Jesus during my 30 years prior to hearing Fr. Dash preach. His preaching and the energy of the community of St. Ann’s in Charlotte left me feeling deficient in my own spiritual life. Those two things, Fr. Dash’s love of Jesus and the visible faith of the community, were the seeds that fueled my quest to discover the Jesus they knew and followed.
That was not the reaction of everyone at that time nor is it today for many considered the changes of Vatican II has destroyed the “mystery and majesty of the mass.” One parishioner said to me one day that she enjoyed Fr. Dash’s homilies but he spoke too much about Jesus. Too much focus on Jesus was a big problem for her. Can we have too much of Jesus?
The reason we have this Feast of Christ the King is because in 1925 the world was turning away from Jesus and more towards secularism. If we had too much secularism back then, what would Pius XI say about today’s world? If we ask people today about why they go to mass what would they tell us?
Let me ask you that question.
Why are you at mass week after week? What is it you are seeking, what do you take away as you leave each week and what is it that keeps you coming back each week. If we are honest with ourselves some of us are here out of habit, some out of duty, some only for the Eucharist, some to grow spiritually and some are seeking for a meaning and purpose of their lives. I say those things because that is exactly what the most recent surveys reveal about why Catholics go to church each week.
More importantly what happens to you each week while you are at mass. Do you hear about Jesus and his gift of reconciling us to the Father? More importantly are you changed or challenged by your experience of being in church or have you found a comfortable place where you do not feel the need to change?
Pius XI thought the people of his day needed something to help them connect with God.
Pius XI in establishing this feast in 1925 said Jesus must reign in our minds and we must show this through a firm belief in the truths about Jesus. He continues by saying Jesus must reign in our wills in order that we could surrender to him our very selves and die to self and live for Christ. We also are to give Jesus reign of our hearts in order to turn away from our natural tendency to sin. Once we give him our hearts we will seek more and more of his presence and we will more and more surrender to his desire to change us. Then he will reign in our lives in a manner that has us serving others so they also can know the depth of the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus.
I have taken some liberties in my use of the words of Pope Pius XI wrote to establish this feast in order to capture the concepts of Vatican II in Pius XI’s call to surrender to Christ and allow him to reign in our lives.
John Paul XXIII called for a Vatican Council to make the mass a place where we would encounter Jesus Christ and be able to open our hearts, our minds, our wills and our lives to his transforming love. Mystery and majesty are wonderful visuals but they are only effective if they lead us to knowledge of and surrender to Jesus Christ. My experience in the pre-Vatican II church was we were more captured by the visuals than the reality of Jesus.
The words ” The Feast of Christ the King” do capture the concept of his rule over all things and his willingness to put his glory aside to become one of us. However, his words tell us so much more about how he does not demand honor but allows us to freely choose to give it to him. His actions show us that he does not demand obedience but instead he is willing to go to where we are in order for us to know his desire for us to listen and follow him. His promise to send us the Spirit to “teach us and remind us of all he said and all he did” (Jn. 14:26) shows us he has not left us without the ability to know him as redeemer and savior as well as Lord.