The ancient Hebrew people had a very strong sense of the king as the one who determined the health of the nation. If the king was corrupt and cruel then the nation would suffer at his hands, and officials beneath him would be corrupt themselves. If the king fulfilled his role in dispensing justice and in protecting the widow and the orphan, then the nation as a whole would benefit. Not only would the vulnerable be protected but the administration would be conducted with integrity. Everyone would benefit. We do not have to look to ancient kingdoms to find that same truth in our own times. Those who run big corporations today carry enormous power and influence. If they run their businesses fairly then the managers beneath them take their cue from this and the whole institution is the better for it.
When we celebrate Christ the King we have to remember that he is the one who guarantees the integrity of the Church. Christ is very much a present king, whose influence is felt throughout the whole of the Church. As a human institution the Church is sometimes frail, and makes mistakes. If we are tempted to be disheartened by this, then we need to remember the presence of the King in our midst. It is he who makes sure that errors are corrected, that laxity is challenged and that what is good, right and holy is encouraged. Nothing essential for salvation can be lost.
This governing influence of Christ the King is made known through the Holy Spirit, and through our communion with him in prayer and the sacraments. There is also the example he sets us in the gospels, where he is always a present inspiration. It is part of the role of a king to inspire affection, trust and commitment. This is our response to Christ the King. He touches our hearts because we know that the heavenly glory of the Lord is matched by the earthly poverty and the pain of the cross which he endured for our sake and for our salvation.
One last thought. Traditionally, a king leads his people in times of battle. Over the years I have always shied away from the image of spiritual warfare. I have found it too militaristic, too dualistic, not suitable for today. More recently, however, I have become to wonder about our times. Sometimes you sense a struggle between good and evil. Christ our King leads us through this and assures us that victory is already his.