Sunday, November 24, 2013

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Today we liturgically celebrate the end of time, when Christ will return in glory to judge the living the dead and establish His reign. He will/can judge everyone because He, and He alone, is King. Nonetheless, as our Gospel reading demonstrates, He is not a king like other kings, like any king, who has ruled in this world over passing kingdoms. Even the most benevolent monarch pales when compared to kingship of Jesus Christ.

In addition to our Gospel reading of St. Luke's account of Jesus' death, our second reading from the first chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians also gives us deep insight into why Jesus Christ is a king unlike any other:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.(1:15-20)
It is important to note, in reference to our first reading, that the only reason Saul was anointed as king of Israel was because Israel wanted to be like the other nations and have a king, which, as the prophet Samuel pointed out them, constituted their rejection of God as king (see 1 Samuel 8, especially verse 7 "The LORD said: Listen to whatever the people say. You are not the one they are rejecting. They are rejecting me as their king").

The Church is the new and everlasting Israel. Jesus Christ is King of Israel. It is important as Western civilization becomes less and less Christian, or, de-Christianized, that we never lose sight of this fact. I believe that a lot of how Pope Francis engages matters concerning the state, which is deliberately less confrontational than his predecessors, at least going back as far as Pope Pius XI, who instituted today's solemnity back in 1925 to combat growing secularism and even the glorification of the state, is for the Church's witness to stand out in bolder relief. He is not making concessions to the world, acting as though evil is not evil, injustice is not injustice, but recognizing and seeking to foster our Christian call to joyfully live and give witness to what is good, true, and beautiful. As Pope Benedict XVI made clear in his first encyclical, Deus caritas est: "The Church's deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable" (par 25a).

This past week here in the United States we marked the fiftieth anniversary of our first (and to date, our only) Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. To mark the occasion, Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete wrote a brief piece that appeared on the English language page of Il Sussidiario- "Catholicism and the American Understanding of Freedom," which I makes a lot what I am trying to say quite clear. It seems to me that, when it comes to political matters, it is all too easy to get all crazy and engage reality from an imaginary position. The way I see it, the only true stance is to face circumstances as they actually are. not as we want them to be. In the end, whether you love, hate, or are indifferent to democracy U.S.-style, as Albacete observes, "The problem is whether all the public expressions of faith [have] to be respected, or only those limited to the area of worship."

Of course, the correct answer to the question posed, especially in the context of the U.S., is that ALL public expressions of our faith must be respected and permitted, which is why standing up against the terribly unjust HHS mandate is so important. But this serves as an excellent case-in-point for today's observance of Christ the King. Christ bids us not to be content to wage battle in the courts against the state's unjust mandate, but to return to complete fidelity to Him, that is, to the clear proclamation and observance of the truth. What is the truth regarding this matter? The intrinsic evil of contraception, the widespread use of which, even among Christians, as Pope Paul VI prophetically predicted in Humanae Vitae, has played more than a bit part in the dissolution of marriage.

I like very much the reading from Morning Prayer for today's glorious observance: "Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love" (Eph 4:15-16).

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