At the end of Mass in every church where this feast day of Christ the King continues to be observed today, Catholic congregations will be asked to renew the "Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus." This dedication of mankind was called for originally by Pope St. Pius X, and was moved to this day by Pius XI, when he instituted this feast of Christ the King in 1925. We also celebrate a feast day in honor of the Sacred Heart, every year two Fridays after Pentecost -- that feast is also relatively new, being given to the Universal Church by Pope Pius IX in the 1850s.
I mention the Sacred Heart, for the Church obviously intends to make a connection between these two feasts. The Sacred Heart, of course, represents the love of God; that infinite outpouring of divine love and the tremendous desire of God to be loved by His people in return. The Feast of Christ the King, on the other hand, represents the truth of God; the necessary knowledge of God and of the things He requires of us for our salvation. The two, clearly, go hand in hand, for it is impossible to love what you do not know; and it is just about as difficult to faithfully obey the wishes of one whom you do not love.
Our Lord tells us that His truth leads men to God. "This is why I was born," He says, "and why I have come into the world: to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice."1
And the scriptures say at that point, that Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, sarcastically muttered, "What is truth?" and turned and went outside to deal with the gathering crowd of the Jews who sought our Lord's death. What a shame! Had the man simply stayed and asked the question directly we might have had the answer to one of those questions that have been asked by philosophers down through the centuries. "What is truth?" Had he asked our Lord and taken the time to listen, he might have known.
And the answer that he would have received would have been no mere speculation, no idle conjecture by someone just trying to sound clever or intelligent for posterity. Because he would have received the answer from the one Person who can best be described as "Truth Himself." We hear that after every Mass: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." St. John is writing about "the Word," "the Logos" in Greek, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God's very understanding of God Himself. And that is precisely what we mean when we speak of truth: The understanding of a thing in the mind of God. And here, Pontius Pilate had the human incarnation of that very Truth Itself, standing in front of him, yet he turned and walked away.
Maybe that is one of our Lord's "hard sayings." Like when He told His disciples that He would give them His flesh to eat and His blood to drink -- many of them said, "That is a hard saying, Lord," and they ceased to follow Him.2 That was just too hard to believe. Maybe it is another "hard saying" of our Lord when he told Thomas (the doubting Apostle), "I am the way, and the Truth, and the life." 3
It seems to be a "hard saying," at least if we judge by the numbers who have rejected Christ as their King; if we judge by the number of those who flatly refuse to even consider God's commandments in their own lives; by the number of societies and nations that refuse even lip-service to Christian principles in economic, political, and social affairs. It seems, especially, to be a "hard saying" for those who are eager to compromise the Truth of Christ, in order to have friendly relations between the nations of the world; those who are willing to trade away the Catholic Faith in order to hold hands and get their pictures taken with those who reject Christ and His Truth.
"I am the way, and the Truth, and the life." That's pretty clear. Anything but the Truth leads people astray. Anything but the truth leads them away from eternal life, and makes life here on earth pretty miserable as well.
Our Lord's "kingdom is not of this world."4 He told us so Himself. The Pope has no military divisions to go around enforcing the moral law. Our Lord sends no legions of angels to coerce the unwilling to believe. He collects no taxes. Yet our Lord's kingdom is in this world: As Pope Pius XI tells us, it is the "kingdom set forth in the Gospels, which men prepare to enter by doing penance, and cannot enter except by faith and baptism." Faith: that is to say that they can enter only be belief in the Truth. "It demands that its followers be detached from riches and from the things of the world, that they be gentle-mannered, and that they hunger and thirst after justice; it demands that they deny themselves and take up their cross."5 And that is to say that they can remain in the kingdom only if they retain the Truth and act upon it.
On the night before He died, our Lord prayed for us: Father, "I do not pray that Thou take them out of the world, but that Thou keep them from evil. Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. I have sent them into the world. And for them I sanctify myself that they also may be sanctified in truth."6
Today we re-dedicate ourselves to the Love of God in the Sacred Heart. Today we re-dedicate ourselves to the Truth of God in Christ the King. Let us not be like Pilate who muttered about "truth" and turned away. Rather, may we be sanctified by following the Way, the Truth, and the Life, which is Jesus Christ.
1. Jn. 18. 2. Jn. 6. 3. Jn. 14. 4. Jn. 18.
5. Pius XI, Quas primas, 1925.
6. Jn. 17.