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Solemnity of Christ the King

November 26, 2023

Today’s Invitation

Today, we invite you to explore the Solemnity of Christ the King by examining the motives behind its establishment, with the help of an empire-critical analysis; compare Catholic Social Teaching and liberation theology, and the relationship to Christ the King; and consider the embodiment of empire-critical theology with theologian Ada María Isasi-Díaz.

Commentary by Abby Rampone

Solemnity of Christ the King

Reading 1

Ezekiel 34:11-12

For YHWH says this:
It is YHWH who speaks.
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends the flock when the sheep have been scattered,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place
where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Most High.
The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal,
shepherding them rightly.
As for you, my sheep, says YHWH,
I will judge between one sheep and another,
between rams and goats.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 23

Response: Adonai, You are my shepherd; I have no wants.

Adonai, You are my shepherd; I have no wants.
In verdant pastures You give me repose.
R: Adonai, You are my shepherd; I have no wants.

Beside restful waters You lead me; / You refresh my soul.
You guide me in right paths / for Your Name’s sake.
R: Adonai, You are my shepherd; I have no wants.

You spread the table before me / in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil; / my cup overflows.
R: Adonai, You are my shepherd; I have no wants.

Only goodness and kindness follow me / all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in Your house / for years to come.
R: Adonai, You are my shepherd; I have no wants.

Reading 2

1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28

But as it is, Christ has in fact been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through one human being,
in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one human being.
Just as in the first human all die, so in Christ all will come to life again,
but all of them in their proper order:
Christ as the first fruits,
and then the faithful when Christ comes again.
After that will come the end,
when Christ hands over the kindom to God the Creator,
having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power.
Christ must reign until God has put all enemies under Christ’s foot,
and the last enemy to be destroyed is death.
When, finally, everything has been subjected to Christ,
Christ will in turn be subjected to the God
who had subjected everything to Christ
—and so God will be in all.


Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to the disciples,
“At the appointed time, the Promised One will come in glory,
escorted by all the angels of heaven, and will sit upon the royal throne,
with all the nations assembled below.
Then the Promised One will separate them from one another,
as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats.
The sheep will be placed on the right hand, the goats on the left.

“The ruler will say to those on the right:
‘Come, you blessed of my Abba God!
Inherit the kindom prepared for you from the creation of the world!
For I was hungry and you fed me;
I was thirsty and you gave me drink.
I was a stranger and you welcomed me;
naked and you clothed me.
I was ill and you comforted me;
in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then these just will ask,
‘When did we see you hungry and feed you, or see you thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you as a stranger and invite you in, or clothe you in your nakedness?
When did we see you ill or in prison and come to visit you?’
The ruler will answer them,
‘The truth is, every time you did it for the least of my sisters or brothers,
you did it for me.’

“Then the ruler will say to those on the left,
‘Out of my sight, you accursed ones!
Into that everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and the fallen angels!
I was hungry and you gave me no food;
I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink.
I was a stranger and you gave me no welcome;
naked and you gave me no clothing.
I was ill and in prison and you did not come to visit me.’
Then they in turn will ask,
‘When did we see you hungry or thirsty, or homeless or naked,
or ill or in prison, and not take care of you?’
The answer will come,
‘The truth is, as often as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these,
you neglected to do it to me.’
They will go off to eternal punishment,
and the just will go off to eternal life.”

The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.



The Kin-dom of God

This Sunday, Catholics commemorate the Solemnity of Christ the King. Though this feast highlights ancient Christian themes, it is a fairly recent addition to the liturgical calendar. Pope Pius XI instituted the Solemnity of Christ the King in 1925 with Quas primas, an encyclical that countered secularism, relativism, and anti-clericalism. Christ the King was originally commemorated on the last Sunday in October, before the Feast of All Saints. In 1969, Pope Paul VI moved it to the last Sunday in the liturgical year, the week before the First Sunday of Advent. Paul VI chose this date to emphasize the feast’s eschatological dimension. In the Gospel text, we look forward to the coming of the Son of Man, interpreted as Christ’s second coming. As we prepare our homes and hearts for the birth of Jesus, we are also reminded that Christ will come again – “in his glory.” 

People in the pews may imagine the second coming as an ominous, apocalyptic event. Jesus himself tells us that the Son of Man will sit upon a glorious throne and gather all the nations before him – the world will never be the same. The reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians uses frightening, military imagery to describe the scene. Paul writes that Christ will destroy every sovereignty, every authority and power. 

The Roman Empire was the backdrop for Jesus’s life and ministry. As a Galilean and member of a minority religious community in a Roman colony, Jesus experienced marginalization and suspicion. Roman authorities regularly quashed unrest or dissent among their colonial subjects; in an empire-critical reading of scripture, or a reading that understands the events as taking place under the rule of the Roman Empire, this was a primary reason for Jesus’s execution. Referencing Psalm 110, Paul uses the language of his tradition to describe Christ’s victory over his enemies. In a time when followers of Jesus experienced persecution, proclaiming Christ as king had radical implications. If Christ is king, how can Caesar be king? 

The texts describe Christ’s kingship in militant, absolutist terms, but the parable of the sheep and goats also reveals counter-cultural underpinnings to his rule. This king would not structure society based on wealth, social class, religion, or proximity to power; rather, people will be judged according to how they treated their fellow humans. Did they provide for each other’s material needs? While this still presents a paradigm of judgment and authoritative rule, this is drastically different criteria for justice within the Christian kingdom. 

In her essay “Kin-dom of God: A Mujerista Proposal,” theologian Ada María Isasi-Díaz recognizes this context, explaining how “kingdom” may have been a compelling metaphor for early Christians. This metaphor was not centrally about the “end times,” however; many scholars believe that Jesus wanted his followers to build the “kingdom of God” on earth. As Isasi-Díaz writes, though, “the ‘kingdom of God’ was kidnapped from this world and taken to a world yet to come.” (177). She argues that kingdom metaphor is less useful today because it has been so thoroughly spiritualized and decontextualized. Furthermore, the alliances between Christian institutions and worldly empires makes the image a lot less palatable to people who suffer at the hands of empire.  

Isasi-Díaz instead proposes understanding “God’s world order” not as a kingdom but as la familia de Dios, or as a kin-dom. She uses biblical imagery as well as Latina/o family culture to demonstrate how this shift in metaphor might reveal new dimensions of the world that Jesus calls us to build. To her, this world must be an inclusive and non-patriarchal family. This family is not limited to blood ties. It is a family in which all members receive love, forgiveness, and reciprocal relationships.

The Solemnity of Christ the King bookends the Catholic liturgical year to point us toward the world to come, but the kingdom – or kin-dom – need not evoke apocalypse or devastation. Jesus’s life shows us the possibilities beyond empire, and theologians like Ada María Isasi-Díaz expand our understanding of those possibilities. 

Source: Ada María Isasi-Díaz, “Kin-dom of God: A Mujerista Proposal,” in In Our Own Voices: Latino/a Renditions of Theology, ed. Benjamín Valentín (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010), 171-186. 

Commentary by Abby Rampone

Abby Rampone works in campus ministry at DePaul University and lives at the Fireplace Community in Chicago, Illinois. She is from Vermont, has lived in two Catholic Worker houses, and holds degrees from Williams College and Union Theological Seminary. She likes to write, cross-stitch, hang out with cats, and make zines.

Engage Catholic Social Teaching

As I wrote in a recent piece for U.S. Catholic magazine, there’s a saying among progressive Catholics that “Catholic Social Teaching is the best-kept secret of the Catholic Church.” People decry the laity’s ignorance of important social encyclicals like Rerum novarum and Laudato si’. I argue, however, that since liberation theology is more radical in its sources and methods than Catholic Social Teaching (CST), it deserves more of our attention.

Furthermore, I wrote, CST is a mixed bag. Humanae vitae, which condemns contraception, is part of CST. CST is the church hierarchy’s response to their people’s needs and circumstances. Sometimes they get it right. At other points, they defend their own interests over the interests of the global laity. 

Relatedly, the liturgical calendar was not handed down to us from on high. Many people know that many Christian feasts coincide with pagan holidays – though there are actually many reasons for this phenomenon. A striking modern example is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. This feast was established on May 1 to coincide with May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day or Labor Day. Pope Pius XII instituted this commemoration in 1955. Does this sanctify the labor movement – or co-opt a communist, “pagan” feast day? The truth is probably a little of both. 

Pope Pius XI instituted the Solemnity of Christ the King to bolster his conception of a Christian kingdom in the 20th century. In the 1920s and the 30s, the Catholic clergy experienced repression in Mexico, the Soviet Union, and Spain. In the early 1930s, for instance, the center-left Spanish government secularized schools and took control of church property. Pius’s 1931 encyclical Dilectissima nobis would explicitly condemn this move. 

Within a few years, Spain was embroiled in a civil war. The fascist Francisco Franco waged a successful coup against the democratically-elected government. He would rule Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. Catholics around the world backed Franco because he supported the church’s authority in civil society. Their outrage was inflamed when leftist Spaniards committed atrocities against priests and women religious in the name of anti-clericalism. On the other hand, Franco’s victory led to decades of fascist dictatorship. Catholic nationalism became the law of the land, a tool of repression for a brutal autocrat. 

As we engage the Solemnity of Christ the King and the very notion of Christ’s kingship, I also invite us to engage the modern roots and contemporary implications of this feast. What concerns have shaped the very structures and rhythms of our Christian lives? Is it subversive to proclaim the kingship of Christ in the context of the American empire – or is it harmful? 


A Witness

Ada María Isasi-Díaz

Ada María Isasi-Díaz (1943-2012) was a Cuban-American Catholic theologian who made major contributions to the fields of mujerista and feminist theology. She received her MDiv and PhD from Union Theological Seminary, and taught at Drew University in New Jersey. Her scholarship centers the intersectional experiences of Latina women. She was also a fervent advocate for women’s ordination in the Catholic Church. For the last five years of her life, she became an unofficial pastor for Our Lady of Angels Church in East Harlem. When the Archdiocese of New York shuttered the parish in 2007, she joined a weekly gathering of prayer and protest on the sidewalk outside the church, delivering sermons to the community nearly every Sunday. 


“Cheers to You, Friendsgiving”

“Cheers to You, Friendsgiving” (2020) by Ariel Dannielle depicts ten people gathered around a table. They are arranged on one side of the table, echoing Da Vinci’s Last Supper. No single figure is elevated as Jesus. Celebrating “Friendsgiving,” a modified Thanksgiving, they evoke themes of chosen family.