Christ the King

Today we celebrate the great mystery of what God is doing in His creation. Fittingly this is the last Sunday of the Church Year. So the Church as it were steps back to take in that vast panorama.

This trumps the whole kitsch of politics and what to buy for Christmas and all the million things that get in the way of why we are here on this earth. The reason that we are learning about this today is to help us get our priorities straight.

God and his salvation come first; everything else comes fiftieth and fifty-first and so on. We are surrounded by all of the messages of equal options. Choose this or that. Buy this or that. Staying faithful to your spouse is equal to not staying faithful to your spouse. The list is endless.

But there is no option equal to choosing God and his salvation. Not a better position at work or changing wives or vacationing in Vermont. None of these weigh the same as this most fundamental choice.

We are free but in a way that we have to understand. “Choice” has been high jacked, as if “choice” alone defines freedom. But freedom as we find it in God’s revelation is that we have to choose good things, not things that we think are good. We have to choose things that God knows are good.

That is what demonstrates a properly functioning free person. The Church community is one of those good things we must choose. It is not a mere option but in fact a key to helping us gradually choose the good more and more often and choose evil less and less.

Let us not fool ourselves – we are sinners. This is why the Church community is so vital for our survival in the battle against evil. Which brings us to our readings today.

First, we hear from Daniel that One will be given “received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.” This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

As Pope Benedict XVI puts it: “no one is stronger than Christ, for he is with the Father, he is with us. We are consequently safe, free of fear.” Because of this fact we have a foundation on which to build daily life. Jesus Christ can help us to choose the good and avoid evil so that He becomes Lord of our lives.

             Christ the King by Hubert van Eyck (Ghent Altarpiece, c. 1420)

In the Psalm, we sing of the King, Jesus Christ, so all of these phrases are applied to him. The one that I want to mention is that we sing: “your decrees are worthy of trust.” God is leading us to the good. The decrees of Jesus and of course all of their implications that have been worked out in the Church by the hierarchy in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, are binding on us.

To contradict them is to sin and sometimes to sin gravely. This is a life and death matter so let us not be casual about it. An obvious illustration is abortion. Killing babies is a profound evil, one that can destroy the possibility of eternal life – a frightening but very real possibility. And it does not disappear because we don’t believe it or don’t like it or because someone says it cannot happen.

The reading from the Book of Revelation acclaims Jesus as King of all, even of your life and mine. He is not just a figure in history. He is not just a nice example to make us feel warm all over. He is the Lord of history whether we like it or not.

Now listen to this prayer: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever.”

These words describe the Church. In this community, he has given us grace to avoid sin and choose the good. Most Catholics don’t, of course, but that is each individual’s problem. In this community, which is His Body, we are being transformed into people who can worship God and who are worthy to worship God because they have confessed their sins.

Further, “he is coming.” This will be the theme of the whole of Advent. So we don’t just bounce from one decision to another until we finally die. We are living with the knowledge that the Lord of History will come again. So our decisions had better be good decisions, decisions for the things that God thinks are good, i.e., true freedom.

In today’s Gospel, we do not hear about Jesus in all of his glory but in his criminal trial before Pontius Pilate. He was asked about being a king and he says, because he does not lie even when it is convenient, that yes he indeed is a king. Hence the name of the celebration today.

And he goes on: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. This is the point that we have been coming to all through the readings. We are not just talking about someone getting power. We are talking about his power being based on the truth, something our politicians could learn from.

If we belong to the truth then we know what the good is and we choose that good. This is how we belong to Christ. This is how he becomes King of our Hearts and we enter into eternal life.