We all know the story of the Three Kings who journeyed from the East to pay homage to a king born in a stable in Bethlehem. But this wasn’t any king. It was Christ the King.
Their story, which evolved over the centuries, centers on the account in Matthew 2:1-12. The wise men heard of the prophecy and followed a star. They went to King Herod in Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”
Herod was distraught. This was a threat to his kingship. Matthew wrote: “After their audience with the king, they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.”
Father Dwight Longenecker, author of “Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men,” said, “The three kings joining the humble shepherds to worship the Christ child symbolize the equality of Christians in the eyes of the God who became poor for our sake. The kings worship the King of Kings, and the shepherds adore the Good Shepherd.”
That brief encounter with a newborn baby changed them forever. They spent their lives spreading the news about the King of Kings and were martyred for their faith. They realized Christ’s kingship was infinitely greater than Herod the (so-called) Great’s…and any other temporal power on Earth.
There’s a lesson here, and the lesson is simple. We should give homage to Christ, not to political leaders, especially when governments increasingly promote agendas that violate our beliefs. For many Catholics, politics has become a fake faith.
At the end of the liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, which Pope Pius XI established in 1925 in response to the growing and pernicious influence of secularism. In his encyclical “Quas Primas,” he reminded the world that Christ is our real King, and to him alone we owe allegiance—not to a monarchy, not to a prime minister, not to a dictator, not to a president.
Living in the aftermath of World War I, Pius XI knew that kings rise and fall, leaders come and go, but Christ is forever.
In his encyclical, he said that “manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics…. And as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace.”
During these troubled times, we should remember that no matter the storms that rage across this land, ignited by political agendas, Jesus is in control. Jesus has always been in control and that everything is unfolding according to his plan.
A novena to Christ the King clearly states what our priority should be:
“Christ, our Savior and our King, renew in me allegiance to Your Kingship.
I pray for the grace to place You above the powers of this world in all things.
I pray for the grace to obey You before any civic authority.
I pray for the grace to fervently bring about Your Kingdom in my family and community. I pray that You will reign in my mind. O Prince of Peace, may Your reign be complete in my life and in the life of the world… Christ the King, may your kingdom come!”
Like the Three Kings, there was another martyr for Christ 2000 years later. A 14-year-old Mexican boy named Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, was shot in the head by government soldiers because he refused to renounce Christ. His crime? He was a Catholic.
The soldiers told him, “If you shout, ‘Death to Christ the King,’ we’ll spare your life.”
It was a simple choice— renounce Christ or be executed. He cried in pain from wounds they had inflicted with a machete, but he did not give in, and his last words were “Viva Cristo Rey!” Long live Christ the King! (Joe Pisani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)