Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christ the King - actual

Even though Jesus was referred to as Christ the King in the earliest centuries, Pope Pius XI initiated the Feast of Christ the King in 1925.  At that time, secularism and nationalism were on the rise.  He also noticed than many people denied Christ as king.  And many Christians, even Catholics, were doubting Christ's authority.  This led to people doubting the Church's authority, and even doubting the existence of Christ. At that time, around 1925, many dictatorships were coming into power in Europe.  Many of these dictators tried to control the Church and her teachings.  Mussolini had just claimed supreme power in Italy.  And a little further north, Adolph Hitler, the most infamous of these dictators was coming on the scene.  And we know the horrible things he did against the Church and humanity.

Sadly, many of the faithful were being taken in by these earthly leaders. I recently heard that Hitler received over 90% of the vote in one of his elections in Germany.  So we see that the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning, when the feast was most needed.

Celebrating Christ the King is still needed today, as these problems have not vanished, but may have worsened. Pope Pius XI hoped the institution of the feast would do three things:

First, he hoped that nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state. The state doesn’t control the Church that Christ the king founded.  This should have special meaning for us today as our own religious freedom is being chipped away by immoral government mandates.

Secondly, Pope Pius XI hoped that leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ.  St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading that Jesus is ruler of the kings of the earth.  The king of kings if you will.  The Church has a history of many great and faithful kings who promoted the faith. And there are many bad ones who became drunk with authority.
The third thing Pope Pius XI hoped for was that the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast of Christ the King.  Individually, the King of the Universe is our brother.  Collectively as a Church, the He is our Spouse.  This is cause for great rejoicing.  Everything He has is ours.  We just have to respond.  We are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, in our minds, in our wills, and in our bodies.  Either He is King of all, or He is not King at all.

A general distrust of authority still exists today. Individualism has been embraced to such an extreme, that for many, the only authority is the individual self.  Our Gospel reading today ends Jesus bringing up “truth” to Pilate.  The next verse that we don’t hear today is very famous. Pilate asks Jesus: What is truth?  Doesn’t that sound like so many of us today?  How convenient it is to make our own truth.  And because of this individualism, not even almighty God is a welcomed authority in the lives of many.  I can do whatever I want without regard for anyone else.  We see many anti-life practices in the world today because of this.  It’s also the cause of all sorts of exploitation such as slavery, and whatever else objectifies the human person.  The idea of Christ as ruler is rejected in such a strongly individualistic system. That makes us Christians counter-cultural.  We acknowledge Christ as our king and ruler.  We believe that God the Father and Creator gave him all authority in Heaven and Earth.  And he exercises his authority through his Church.  He gave his apostles the authority to bind and loose.  He gave St. Peter the keys of the kingdom.  And just because these apostles died, does not mean that the authority Christ gave them died also?  No. It is passed on through the generations to the bishops who are their successors.  How sad that many in the world take offense at Christ the king with universal authority.  These individuals miss the point:  The kingship of Christ is one of humility and service, not oppression and power.

Jesus reminds us today once again that we are pilgrims passing through this world.  He tells Pilate, His kingdom is not of this world.  Nor are we of this world.  Our true homeland is with him in Heaven for eternity.  Are we willing to fight for the Kingdom of Christ?  Peter and the apostles were.  They were all willing to die for Christ.  And all but one were killed for following Christ.

Jesus commanded his followers to be humble servants as well.  His teachings spell out a kingdom of justice and judgment balanced with radical love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness.  When we celebrate Christ as King, we are not celebrating an oppressive ruler, but one willing to die for humanity.  Christ is the king that gives us true freedom, freedom in Him. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that by calling ourselves Christians, we are calling ourselves followers of the King.  It is central to who we are as believers.

Jesus tells Pilate that he came to testify to the Truth.  Then we know what happens.  He sets out to take his Kingly Throne, the Cross.  He offers his life in service to us that we may have life and have it to the fullest.

It is fitting that the feast celebrating the kingship of Christ is observed right before Advent, when we liturgically await the promised Messiah and King.  We get a great opportunity this week to make a new year’s resolution.  The Church’s liturgical year ends this coming Saturday and new one begins next Sunday with Advent.  We can ask ourselves:  What will I do to help bring about the kingdom today?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Christ the King jumpstart

Some of the reactions of fellow Catholics in the wake of yesterday's election have given me good fodder for the beginnings of a homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King in the not-too-distant future.  The first thing that must be said is that we acknowledge not only that Christ will be King, but that Christ is King.  All other kings fall short and are sure to disappoint.  This is no time to fall into despair because someone or another may not have been elected.  On the contrary; it is time to renew our resolve to fight for religious freedom, the right to life, and natural marriage.  What lies ahead for us is a plethora of opportunities for persecution.  And the Church has always thrived in the face of persecution.
This being the case, I want to point out that we rely too much on our earthly kings who are sure to disappoint.  As Christians, we must be in the business of bringing hearts to conversion.  This is the linchpin of this entire post, so I'll type it again: We must be in the business of bringing hearts to conversion!
This work would not be finished even if a constitutional amendment were ratified guaranteeing the right to life from the time of fertilization.  This is the goal of the pro-life movement in this country.  But even if an earthly king were to make abortion illegal, our work would not be done.  We must change hearts, bringing people to the truth that life, marriage and religious freedom are sacred.
Here's proof.  Too much dependence on earthly kings is causing the same thing to happen in reverse in another important area: Christian charity.  The required conversion of heart is not only for the three big non-negotiable principles I mentioned above.
All Christians have a mandate from Christ to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and welcome the stranger. If we refuse to do these things, the consequence is Hell. (See Matthew 25:31-46.) Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia recently pointed out that this is the mandate given to all Christians, but it does not have to be the job of the government.  We are called to do these things out of love, desiring the good of the other. That is true Christian charity. Since human beings are made in God's image, we have the command to love all other human beings.  Once we take care of their physical needs, we can preach the Gospel to them, which is the ultimate charitable act.
People are forced to pay taxes to government at all levels.  State and national governments then turn and give what they collect to others whom they deem as needing it more.  In this country, we have a government that has taken it upon itself to replace Christian charity.  Actually, we placed it upon government one vote at a time.  Did this happen because Christians were not stepping up on their own?  Was there not enough conversion of heart?  Nature abhors a vacuum, so government steps in.  And a nanny state is not a Christian ideal.
The problem is, this same government does not produce anything but only takes from one and gives to another, often times against the will of the one from whom things are taken.  Thus we see that our opportunity to love has been taken away.  "Charity" was not done because of Christian compassion or conversion of heart, but forced.  And if it's forced, it ain't love. 
I am convinced that in this country, we get the exact government we deserve based on how we are doing in our all-important task of bringing hearts to conversion.  We've got a long way to go and a lifetime to get there.  We must work for the conversion of hearts every single day of that lifetime.