Today the Church celebrates Cristo Rey: Christ the King. We remember our dear Carmelites at our neighborhood Cristo Rey monastery, founded by refugees from the persecutions in Mexico in the 1920s. Blessed Miguel Pro, a Jesuit priest who died by government firing squad on November 23, 1927, cried out Viva Cristo Rey one last time before receiving their bullets into his body, arms stretched out as on a Cross. He steadfastly declared to Mexico’s atheist president, Plutarco Calles, that Jesus Christ is our only King. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 after the horrors of World War I made it clear that universal devastation is the price we pay for denying God. “These manifold evils,” he wrote, “are due to the fact that the majority of men have thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; [with] no place either in private affairs or in politics: as long as individuals and states refuse to submit to the rule of our Savior, there will be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.” We have thrust God even further from us since he wrote those words, we who cannot mention the name of God in our schools, whose university students are taught that Christianity is essentially bigoted and hateful. We have thrust God from our politics and blaspheme his sacred name in public entertainment and discourse. We desperately try to stabilize our social order with nothing more than human opinion and the will to power. It will not work. Apart from God and his laws, there is no lasting peace.
In the Gospel Christ reigns from the cross below the inscription “Jesus Nazarenus, Rex Ideorum” (INRI). Pilate hung that sign above Christ’s crucified body to mock him with the “jeering” Roman soldiers and Jewish priests. Look how helpless is this “king!” How many armored divisions and fighter squadrons does he command? What global production and delivery systems does he control? How many high techn corporations does he own? How quickly can he move the needle of public opinion? Christ declared from the Cross that he could summon “12 legions of angels” to rescue him, but he chose rather to die for the people. He is the King of sacrificial love, not a king of dominating power. “The feast of Christ the King is not a feast of those who are subjugated,” writes Pope Benedict, “but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands” of one who loves them.
No Other King Beside Him
Fr. Miguel Pro was executed by the Mexican government two years after Pius XI instituted the feast of Christ the King, and his last words were Viva Cristo Rey. There is no other king, and there is no other God. It’s hard for me to say what I’m about to say, but as your pastor I must say it. Last month a false god was worshipped in a Vatican ceremony as the Pope looked on. The Holy Father seemed disturbed, but he did not stop the blasphemy. The wooden statue is known as the “Pachamama,” which Encyclopedia Britannica defines as the Amazonian “goddess of the Earth.” At least one Franciscan priest and many others bowed down to this pagan image of a naked pregnant woman. Now, all of us worship idols to some degree. We put the things of this world above the things of God. Any of us, for example, who chooses a prestigious secular university for a child whose faith is weak worships at the altar of success rather than at the altar of God. Let’s be honest that success in this world is more important to most of us than fidelity to God. But what happened in Rome last month made it clear that some church leaders have now publicly submitted to another god than Christ. Perhaps their intention was to honor the indigenous people, which is good, but it was a grave error to bow before their pagan god. We must pray that they admit their mistake and correct it.
The worship of idols quickly becomes the worship of demons, and so a group of exorcists have asked that December 6 be a day of Fasting, Prayer, and Reparation for these sins against faith in the heart of the Church. The worship of idols, along with the sexual crimes against children and seminarians by their spiritual fathers, clearly manifest the presence of the demonic within the Church. “Some demons,” Jesus teaches, “can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.” I urge you to offer more intense prayer and fasting on the First Friday of December atone for these crimes. Attend one of the three Masses that day and make the consecration to the Sacred Heart led by your priests. Pray the rosary with your family, or after Mass; spend an hour with Jesus before the Blessed Sacrament, which will be enthroned all day on this altar. To make our prayer effective we should also practice some form of penance that day: fasting from food, but also fasting from the internet and vain entertainment. We cannot pretend that the heart of the Church has not been invaded by the powers of the air. With Our Lady, let us call out to Jesus on the Cross, as did the good thief in today’s gospel. He had asked only that Jesus remember him when he came into his Kingdom. Jesus said, rather, “today, you will be with me in paradise.” Viva Cristo Rey!