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Christ, the King

In 13 Today's Church on 2014/11/23 at 12:00 AM

From the mid-17th century until the end of the 18th century most of Europe and even our American Colonies were caught up in the philosophical, intellectual, and cultural era we now call The Enlightenment.

• The great irony of this era is that we call it “The Enlightenment,” when in actuality it was a period that truly darkened and impoverished the great intellectual and scientific advances mankind enjoyed in previous centuries.

• I say this because the Enlightenment advocated reason, completely separated from faith, as the primary source of intellectual authority. The intelligentsia turned its back wholesale on the immaterial world, deciding instead that only that which is material was worth believing in.

• Of course this was a radical departure from the intellectual milieu common to the medieval and Renaissance periods, which understood Creation as a happy harmony of material and non-material elements.

• Ever since the Enlightenment, we have witnessed a growing antagonism between the sciences and religion in Western society. This is a sad development because it was the Church who gave rise to the sciences in the first place.

• Physics, chemistry, astronomy, and so many of the scientific disciplines were borne out of the patronage, intellectual inquiry, and hard work of Holy Mother Church and her members.

• But even sadder than the divorce of faith and reason is the loss of belief in and appreciation of the spiritual and non-material world by so many people.

• Every week at Mass we profess our faith in God with the Creed, acknowledging Him as the Maker of all that is, seen and unseen. Very clearly, our Catholic faith professes belief in and relies upon both visible and invisible realities.

• Understanding fallen mankind’s weakness of faith and need for concrete, visible realities, the Church makes the invisible realities of our faith visible through signs and symbols woven into our art, architecture, music, and most especially the liturgy itself.

• So part of the maturation process as a Catholic is learning to look beyond these signs and symbols to see and believe in these invisible realities.

• So well did our Lord understand fallen mankind’s need for material realities that He became man in the Incarnation, as St. Paul says: “the image of the invisible God.”

• But even though Jesus became man, in His humility He kept His divinity hidden for most of His life on earth. Of course we got glimpses of His divinity at His baptism, at His transfiguration, and through His miracles.

• Our Lord gave mankind these glimpses of His divinity in order to elicit faith and to build a body of believers who would become the nucleus of the Church that would continue His work after His ascension into Heaven.

• Interestingly, never was Jesus’ divinity more hidden yet more visible to the eyes of faith than in His suffering and death. At the same time, never was Jesus more “kingly” than in His suffering and death. As we consider today’s feast of Christ the King, we must strive to look beyond the visible reality of Calvary to see Jesus as king.

• His crown is a crown of thorns, but no less of a crown. His throne from which He reigns is a cross, but it is no less a throne. Rather than fine silk or linen, He is appareled with bloody wounds, but they are regal vesture nonetheless.

• There is a sign above His head that reads “Jesus, King of the Jews”, and yet there is nothing about Him that would suggest that He is a king. But we know by faith that “in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible.”

• Our faith teaches us and St. Paul reminds us today that Jesus “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.”

• And we must recognize Jesus as such not for His sake, but for our own!

• Seeing the rise of atheistic communism and secularism as a result of people denying the sovereignty of Christ, Pope Pius XI instituted today’s feast of Christ the King in 1925 to remind people of the absolute authority of Christ and His Church.

• The whole point of today’s feast is to draw us closer to Christ so that we might allow Him truly to rule our hearts. We must learn to be His loyal subjects so that He might save us from our sins.

• Being the gentle and humble king that He is, Jesus invites us to take joy in Him, to love Him, to honor Him, to serve Him, and to obey Him.

• Christ’s kingship is a spiritual sovereignty; it’s not a coercive sovereignty. His sovereignty is a gentle invitation to holiness – an invitation that must be accepted if we hope to go to Heaven.

• While we know by faith that Jesus is Lord over all creation, over all things – seen and unseen – He did not come to rule on earth, but rather to establish the Kingdom of God within the hearts of all men so that we might one day share in eternal life.

• But in order for this to happen, we must be willing to look beyond that which is visible and material to see the invisible realities our Catholic faith professes, especially with regard to today’s Gospel, which presents us with a great paradox.

• By all appearances the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is defeated upon Calvary, but it is His death that gives us life.

• So be not duped like Pilate, the Pharisees, the centurions and the mocking crowds that surround Him on the cross. This paradox is at the very heart of the Gospel!

• In order to save our lives, we must first lose them!! We must die to self, and Christ fulfills this paradox in His very body.

• The good thief, whom Tradition tells us was named Dismas, was not duped. He looked beyond the visible reality of the crucifixion scene and saw the regal majesty of Christ reigning from the cross.

• And like Dismas, we must look with the eyes of faith and see the truth that we were created by and for Christ. We were created to live and love as Christ lived and loved, and we were created to reign with Him forever.

• And so, my friends, let us pay homage to Christ our King, by living and loving as He did. Let us honor Him, not by waving palm branches, but through our charitable acts toward one another.

• Instead of throwing down our cloaks before Him, let us lay down our very lives and die to ourselves. My friends, surrender to our King. Get rid of whatever is in your heart or in your life that is keeping you from serving Him as you should.

• And have no fear of Him. While it is true that He is the mightiest of kings, He is also the most gentle and loving. And as we surrender all to Him, my friends, let us know that someday, like Dismas the Good Thief, we will be with Christ forever in Paradise.

Copyright 2010 by Reverend Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC

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