Celebrate Christ the King (and a few superheros)
The Church year ends with a bang on Christ the King Sunday (last Sunday before Advent), or as we Catholics like to call it, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
In an age when kings and queens are better known through storybooks the feast might feel a little obscure to kids so here are a few highlights to help you explain. For one thing, the title “Christ the king” makes important connections to the Old Testament; it also directs our attention to Christ’s triumph on the cross—and ultimately, at the end of time. For another, Christ is “king” in ways very different than ordinary humans, and those differences can teach something important about the Christian attitude toward leadership and power.
A little background on the Solemnity (for the grown-ups)
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is relatively new, having been established in 1926 by Pope Pius XI. In his encyclical establishing the feast, Quas Primas, he explained the appropriateness of the title:
If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.
Of course, the very first person to call Christ “king” was Pilate, the Roman governor who ordered Jesus crucified and a sign posted above his body reading: “King of the Jews” (John 19:19). In this title, Jesus fulfills God’s promise to David that he would raise up a successor to David whose kingdom would last forever (2 Samuel 7:16).
The solemnity has an eschatological dimension, pointing toward the end of time when Christ will return to reign over all.
Read more about this feast at Wikipedia. And if you like celebrating Church feasts with food, check out Catholic Cuisine for recipes suited for the feast of Christ the King.
Talking points for the kids
Read about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11). What kind of king rides the colt of a donkey? Not a warrior-king (who would ride a war horse), but a humble ruler who brings mercy, forgiveness, and peace.
- Talk about the feast with questions like these:
- What is a king? What do they do, and what are they like?
- How is Jesus like a king?
- How is Jesus different from ordinary human kings?
Christ the King vs. today’s superheroes activity
The title “Christ the King” helps connect the Old Testament and the Gospel, making the “big picture” of God’s plan of salvation clearer. A ruler was to come from the line of King David.
Kids may have an easier time relating to their superheroes than to the kings and queens of old. The downside, in ways superheroes function as demigods for a secular culture that still yearns for God.
On the other hand, today’s superhero stories also point to the true and the good; Bishop Barron points out in Spider-man, Iron Man, Superman and the God-Man, they carry some theological heft:
I can’t help but hear an echo of the ancient Christological doctrine in the latest crop of films featuring Batman, Superman and Spider-Man. All three of these superheroes are hybrids—combinations of the extraordinary and the ordinary. In all three cases we have someone who, in his lowliness, is able completely to identify and sympathize with our suffering and, in his transcendence, is able to do something about it.
Have fun with this spin on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, by imagining how Jesus fits into the superhero genre. What if there were a Solemnity of Christ the Superhero?
Jesus and the superheroes Game
- Use the “Who’s the real superhero?” chart to compare Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, to favorite superheroes.
- Pick favorite superheroes and draw the heroes logo in the circles.
- Fill out the chart.
- In the first row, list the superhero’s alias (e.g., Jesus, Bruce Wayne, etc.).
- In the second row, list super powers. What are Jesus’ “super powers”? Some possibilities: healing; forgiving; calming storms; multiplying loaves and fishes; etc. Where does he get these powers?
- In the third row, list the superhero’s nemeses (enemies). For Jesus, possibilities might include sin and death; you can debate whether the Pharisees and other religious leaders who put him to death were really enemies or not. What does Jesus say about our attitude toward enemies? How would “loving your enemy” change the story of some of the other superheroes listed? Do any of the superheroes listed practice love of enemy?
- In the fourth row, list “sidekicks” and close friends. For Jesus, these might include the twelve apostles, the women disciples who helped support him, and/or the saints and all the baptized faithful.
- In the fifth row, write down the superhero’s mission or motto. For Jesus’ mission, see Luke 4 and John 3, among other possible Scripture references.
- Suggestion: let your kids use one of the blank columns to list themselves as an imaginary superhero, having fun naming their own mission, motto, name, and superpowers. Point out that they have certain “superpowers” they acquired through baptism.