Monday, November 23, 2015

"Viva Cristo Rey!"

Each liturgical year concludes on this potentially vexing note: the celebration of "Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe."

Why this focus on Lordship and Kingship?  What relevance does this really have to those of us living in post-monarchical and democratic times?  Three important movements in the Gospel passage for Christ the King Sunday point toward responses to such questions (Jn 18:33b-37):

  • "Are you the King of the Jews?"  In different ways, and at different times in our lives, we all stand like Pilate in judgment of Jesus.  If he really is the Anointed One who fulfills God's promises to his chosen people, then my lordship over my own life must come to an end.  My plans, my will, my autonomy, my almighty self must submit to Christ's kingship.  Otherwise I, like Pilate, will have to eliminate him.  There is no neutral middle ground, no path of compromise: I either join forces with those in a permanent state of insurrection, or I bow down in the presence of the King.
  • "My kingdom does not belong to this world."  If we would be his followers, Jesus calls each of us to abandon the illusions to grandeur presented by this world.  God or mammon?  Christ compels a choice.  Nations and multinational corporations typically present a facade of benevolence even as they trample weaker competitors under foot.  History is replete with earthly kingdoms which have risen and fallen; their thirst for wealth and power and honor and pleasure defined them for a time, and then fueled their demise.  The kingdom of God, however, refocuses us on the eternal in our midst, paradoxically liberating us to attend to the temporal needs of those nearby.  No more wars, no more fighting to maintain status or status quo, no more striving for domination.  An other-worldly Dominion has arrived and beckons us to help transform earth into the image of heaven.

  • "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."  Jesus wants us to face the question of whether our hearts are open to belonging to something bigger than our all-important selves, bigger than our precious opinions.  Not just "truth for me" or "a truth" that I think is worthy of me: Jesus asks whether we are willing to belong to "the truth", the very truth which both relativizes me and liberates me.  After all, "the truth" puts me in right relation with all of reality.  Belonging to the truth means that we see ourselves not as somehow superior to others, but as intimately connected to all people. We are not more worthy or  more deserving; we are all equally unworthy and undeserving--and yet gifted by our belonging.  If we live in such openness to the One who has loved us into existence, then our ears become more and more attuned to the voice of the Lord.

Along with St. Miguel Pro and a host of other faithful subjects of the King of the Universe, let's continue to resist the powers and principalities of this age with this timeless exhortation:  "Long live Christ the King!"