Reign of Christ Sunday began in 1925. Back then, World War I had ended only seven years previously and World War II was still simmering below the surface. Pope Pius the XI, head of the Roman Catholic Church, had heard just about enough of the nationalistic rants from Christians. “Great Britain is better than great!” “The best country in the world? Italy!” “Germany is the best!” (And we know how that one turned out. . ..)
Pope Pius (pictured here) would have argued that patriotism is fine; of course you love your homeland. Patriotism is devoted to its nation and wants what best for the people who live there. Nationalism is something different. It wants its state to rise above all others no matter who gets hurt in the process. Nationalism says “Me and mine are better than you and yours.” It’s basically The Big Head–but applied to entire countries. And no one likes The Big Head.
Pope Pius said Christians need to quit focusing on local citizenship. They needed to remember that all believers belong to one kingdom: The Kingdom of God. He called the celebration The Feast of Christ the King. Over time it’s come to be called Reign of Christ Sunday.
If you have been reading my blog very long, you know that I follow the liturgical (church) year. I also use the Revised Common Lectionary to choose texts for my Sunday sermon. I think it is critical that Christians focus on the Christian holidays through the year. That’s why we celebrate not just Christmas and Easter, but others as well. For example, we observe Advent, Lent, Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday, and Reign of Christ Sunday. It sets our practices apart from the secular celebrations that many people enjoy regardless of their religious convictions.
Today is Reign of Christ Sunday. It’s the day that we imagine that we are living in a world ruled by the teachings of Jesus. We dream big, picturing an end to poverty and the beginning of access to health care for all people. We picture fair and reasonable conditions for prisoners, and peace on earth, good will toward humanity.
It’s a lot, isn’t it?
But hear the good news! You can start right this minute, sharing God’s love recklessly and without counting the cost, giving legs to the dream. And when you do, you might just catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. Right here: on earth as it is in heaven.