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Apostolic Movement

Solemnity of Christ the King: The meaning of the word “reign”

Fr. Carlos Padilla

I like this feast in which the Kingdom of God is at the center. Jesus reigns over me, on Earth, in Heaven: “Christ must reign until God makes of his enemies a footstool under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death. For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” [1] A Kingdom at the end of the road in which God will be all in all. Is this possible? For God nothing is impossible.

I place myself in God’s hands so that He may reign in me: how hard it is for me! I often do not want God to reign, because I want to rule myself. The power, the blissful power. The possibility to be in charge, to have others do what I want, adapt to my plans, and serve me. This is how I have been taught the meaning of the word “reign”. The one who reigns commands, decides, governs, has influence, is respected, admired, followed. This is the concept of power that has been transmitted to me for years. That reign is what I imagine when I think of a king. But Jesus is not like that.

Jesus puzzles me

His way of reigning baffles me on this feast. His throne is the cross, his crown is made of thorns, his army is composed of angels, his power is love. Today I do not celebrate Jesus’ power, but rather his impotence manifested throughout his earthly life. I recently read: “Jesus comes from God, not with power and glory, but as a helpless and defenseless lamb. He will never impose Himself by force, He will never force anyone to believe in Him. One day he will be sacrificed on a cross. Those who want to follow him will freely accept him” [2].

His power becomes service. His omnipotence becomes a sad impotence. His sovereignty is a slave’s surrender, a service that leads him to death and to be the most insignificant of all. A power centered on love, the one who loves the most is the one who serves the most, the one who reigns the most. Everything is so different from the images I have kept in my soul. Those images of powerful kings. I have remained in that game of thrones in which the strongest is the winner and subdues the rest. The most powerful king, the one with the most influence…

When we have power in our hands, how do we act?

Nowadays we talk a lot about the abuse of power. The power they have given me, the power they have placed in my hands. I always remember a phrase I heard a long time ago: “Give power to a man and you will truly know what he is like”. True. When I have power, when I can rule, the best and the worst of my soul comes out. I can use my power to serve the people entrusted to me, or I can use my position, my rank, my status to oppress the weak, to take advantage of the vulnerable. The best or the worst will come out of me, depending on how I have understood it.

There are people who live bitter lives because they never have as much power as they would like. There are others who hate having power and prefer to occupy lower positions and not assume the responsibility of power. Learning to lead is an art, a responsibility. Learning to serve is a path of holiness. Using my power well when I serve is the right path. Not to expect others to listen to me, to obey me, to take me into account, to do what I want them to do, to obey my orders. The human heart is so basic, so simple.

I need to be listened to and to be followed – the power of influence. When I am not valued, when I am not sought after, when I am not respected, I feel my life is worthless. I forget that the real power is in my love. There is a hidden force in my love that overcomes all. The true reign is that of love, a love that serves, that exalts the beloved, that seeks him and places him at the center of everything. When I seek the happiness of the one I serve, everything changes. I do not seek myself; I am not at the center.

To reign is synonymous with serving

Those who are powerful on Earth seem to be the ones who rule. Those with money and respectable positions. Since I was a child, I have been told that I have to seek those places in order to have an influence, to change this world. It seems that only from those important places I will be able to do something. Everything is vain, everything passes away, it is of little use.

The power of Jesus, his kingdom, was at stake in that hour of pain, in that dark night in the dungeon, in those shouts that condemned the one who had loved them. And they responded with hatred to the lover. The truth will only be known in Heaven. In the meantime, I only have to serve. Not to expect others to accept everything I do and say. Let them respect my positions of power. Let them value my generous service. That is not in my power. What I can do is serve from my position.

Out of the respect that others have for me, I begin a path of service to mankind. I do not want to take advantage of my power. I do not intend to benefit my own. I do not want my opinion to always be respected and followed. The Kingdom of Jesus is that of poverty, meekness, lowliness, and abandonment. The power of Jesus is manifested in his death on the cross. In that solitary love that gives itself into the hands of his Father. Such is the true kingdom to which he calls me.


*Father Carlos Padilla Esteban, excerpt from the homily of November 22, 2020. To read the full text, in Spanish, click here.

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:25-26.28
[2] José Antonio Pagola, Arturo Asensio Moruno, The Path Opened by Jesus.


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