By John Paul II
Homily in the Sistine Chapel (1978) Aparticular reason for my joy is the fact that we meet on the feast of Christ the King of the Universe, which, of all the days in the liturgical year, is perhaps the most suitable one, also because of some traditions, to assume the duty of our collaboration.
We are undertaking this collaboration of ours, dear Brothers and Sisters, in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice in order to return in this way to the Upper Room, which became, both on Holy Thursday and on the day of Pentecost, the extraordinary place of the “sending of the apostles”.
The divine word of today’s liturgy, which we are listening to with the utmost attention, brings us into the depth of the mystery of Christ the King. All the readings speak of it. I wish particularly to call your attention to St Paul’s words to the Corinthians; he makes a comparison between the two dimensions of human existence: the one that is our participation in Adam and the one we obtain in Christ.
Man’s participation in Adam means disobedience: Non serviam – I will not serve. And that very “I will not serve” in which it seemed to man that he could hear the signal of liberation and the challenge of his own greatness pitted against God himself, became the source of sin and death. And we are still witnesses how that ancient “I will not serve” brings a multiple dependence and slavery in man. It is a subject for deep analysis, which it is difficult to make now in all its extension. We must be content with a mere reference.
Christ, the new Adam, is he who enters man’s history just “to serve”. “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life” (Mt 20:28): this is, in a certain sense, the fundamental definition of his Kingdom. In this service, according to the model of Christ, man finds again his full dignity, his marvellous vocation, his kingliness. It is worth recalling here the words of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium on the Church, in chapter IV which is dedicated to the laity in the Church and their apostolate: “Since he wishes to continue his witness and his service through the laity also, the supreme and eternal priest, Christ Jesus, vivifies them with his spirit and ceaselessly impels them to accomplish every good and perfect work. To those whom he intimately joins to his life and mission he also gives a share in his priestly office, to offer spiritual worship for the glory of the Father and the salvation of man ... And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God” (Lumen Gentium, 34).
To serve God means to reign. In this task, which expresses the attitude of Christ himself and of his followers, the inheritance of sin is broken. And the “kingdom of truth and life, the kingdom of holiness and grace, the kingdom of justice, love and peace” is initiated (Preface for the feast of Christ the King).
Today’s liturgy lets us see, as it were, two stages of serving-reigning. The first stage is the Church’s life on earth; the second one is of judgment. The true meaning of the first stage becomes understandable through the significance of the second. Before the Son of man presents himself before each of us, and before all, as Judge who will separate “the sheep from the goats”, he is always with us as the Shepherd who looks after his sheep. He wishes to share the same solicitude with us, with each of us. He wishes his service to become ours in the widest meaning of the word. “Ours” means not only the service of the bishops, priests and religious, but also, in the widest sense of the word, of the laity. Of all.