This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe - or, as most of us probably say it, the Feast of Christ the King. Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925. It was a response to the fallout from the Great War and rising communism, secularism, relativism, consumerism, nationalism - in short, a lot of movements leading to injustice. The Feast of Christ the King is a reminder for Christians that earthly governments and kingdoms shouldn’t and don’t define us, because we are part of a kingdom that is “spiritual and concerned with spiritual things… it demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness.” (from the Encyclical Quas primas, 15).
I don’t know about you, but as a mom of two children who are often overlooked, underestimated, and disregarded and who sometimes face bias and prejudice, the Feast of Christ the King gives me comfort. After my daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, my eyes were opened to how many in our society - one built on fairness and justice - treat people with physical disabilities. When my son with Down Syndrome came along several years later, my eyes were opened even more, because this time I saw how people treat those with an intellectual disability. The countries of the West may have done much through legal channels to advance the principles of equality, but unfortunately people still choose to sin, and often they sin in the way they treat those who are disabled.
St. Lawrence lived during the third century and was martyred by the Roman emperor Valerian. The emperor had decreed that the pope and all of the deacons of the Church (of which Lawrence was one) be arrested and beheaded, but he offered Lawrence a way out. If Lawrence would bring to him all of the treasures of the Church, he would be spared. Instead of gold and silver, Lawrence brought him the poor and the disabled, declaring them to be the treasures of the Church. Whenever I recall this story, I can picture both of my children alongside St. Lawrence, loved and cared for by him but, more importantly, by God.
Although the Feast of Christ the King was still many centuries from being instituted, Lawrence bore witness to the same truth that Pope Pius XI did - that allegiance to Christ and his kingdom was more important than fealty to any ruler on earth. Lawrence paid for that allegiance to Christ with his life, but his witness led to massive conversions; Lawrence is credited with the eventual conversion of all of Rome to Christianity. The emperor passed into history, while Christ’s kingdom continues to reign.
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” The experience of parenting my two “treasures of the church” has been one of God’s greatest gifts to me - not only because all children are a gift (though they are), but because they are a constant reminder to me that we are all members of Christ’s kingdom.
Andi Sligh is a wife and mother of two children with disabilities and three dogs. She is a lifelong Alabamian, Dr. Pepper addict, Catholic convert, and former engineer who rediscovered a love of writing when she became a mom. You can find more of her writing at https://andisligh.com/