Christ the King
In Mexico City, there is a 72-foot bronze monument of Christ the King with its arms outstretched at the very heart of this city. It is one of the symbols of Mexican Catholicism, an icon of their faith. It stands as a powerful reminder to the Mexicans of the 1926-1929 Roman Catholic uprising against its atheistic government and its anti-catholic laws.
Pope Benedict XVI celebrated an open-air Mass there before an estimated crowd of 350,000 people. But more than 70 years ago, this was not allowed. Many other restrictions were imposed. For instance, wearing a clerical garb was punishable by a fine of P500. A priest criticizing the government can be imprisoned for 5 years. The government expelled foreign priests and missionaries. It also closed down many convents, monasteries and religious schools. The Mexican President in those days just did not want catholic teachings to be part of people’s life. In short, it was a crime to be a Catholic. Christianity was outlawed in Mexico. As a consequence took arms in defense for their freedom of worship. In the Cristero was that ensued, more than 90,000 people died according to historians. Their battle cry was: Viva Cristo Rey!
This persecution of the catholics produced many martyrs. Among them was the Jesuit priest, Miguel Pro. Because of the anti-clerical provisions of the 1917 Constitutions, Fr. Miguel went “underground.” He celebrated Mass clandestinely. He used disguises so that he could minister to people and offer them the sacraments of baptism, confession of marriages. Finally, as much surveillance on the part of the government, he was arrested. He was tried in court. And ironically he was given false charges of bombing and assassination attempt of the former President.
He was then sentence to death by firring squad. Upon his execution, he refused to be blindfolded. He faced his executioners with crucifix and rosary on his hands. He was telling to them “I forgive you. God bless you!” As the shots were fired at him, he shouted at the top of his voice: “Viva Cristo Rey!” He died with Jesus on his lips.
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. It marks the last Sunday of Ordinary Time. Next week would be Advent, the start of the Christmas preparation. It makes us realize that in our life’s story Christ is the “alpha and omega” – the beginning and the end.
This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as a reminder that in the end Jesus will triumph. He will reign. The book of Daniel in the First Reading, narrates the vision of the prophet. He saw a lot of creatures – symbol of temporal power that last only for a time. Then One like a Son of Man coming on the clouds would appear. He will be given glory and power. His reign will not end. This is Jesus the Messiah!
We may experience sufferings, trials and persecutions but God will be victorious in the end. Let us not be afraid! Our story will have a beautiful finale: it will not be a defeat! We will not be losers. We shall triumph. So let us be faithful and not lose hope.
On Cristero priest, Fr. Vega, remarked: “Do not allow the godless to take away our faith.” We make a conscious and intentional act to make Jesus King of our life!