Many a massgoer last Sunday probably got the conventional Christ The King feastday homily, giving glory to the Lord, then calling on every soul to make Jesus truly his own ruler in life. Then the celebrant may lament that people today are ruled more by money in the bank, fun on the beach, or cellphones in the pocket than the Lord in heaven above.
If one’s gaze or mind started to wander at that line, no surprises. There’s got to be more to Christ’s kingship than bossing us around, the jaded might sigh. For starters, believers probably want to ask (but not out loud) what the Lord is doing about the messed-up world His Father made, if He’s really ruler of all and sundry.
After all, does Planet Earth look anything like a land lorded over by an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God of goodness, truth and beauty? Not many will nod at that, especially in ISIS-bloodied Paris or APEC-gridlocked Manila last week.
So is Christ really King? Or has He been dethroned by today’s potentates, from dollars and cents to science and technology?
‘Come down from the cross’
Here’s our problem in divining whether the Divine is control of the world around us. For God to convince us that He’s out there running things, He has to give us the kinds of visible signs that we expect to see from the Almighty. Not His signs, but ours. And not just what we want to see, but when.
The last time men pressed God to dance to their tune, so to speak, they crucified Him. The Jews of Year 33 AD expected heaven to send a messiah who would lead Israel to military victory against its Roman masters, and restore the nation to its past golden age under King David.
But the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity had a different kind of redemption in mind, one that liberated the soul, not the state, and defeated sin, not Caesar. So the Jews lost faith in Jesus and pressed Pontius Pilate for His crucifixion.
Today, God isn’t God in our eyes if He lets people die in calamities and carnage, suffer destitution and disease, and otherwise bear blows and burdens we don’t want. Plus: Learning and leveraging how the world works have made many of us think that this discovered order of things just came about on its own, not decreed by the Creator.
So when we ask whether God cares or even exists, are we looking for favors and miracles which prove to us on our terms at our time that He lives and loves us, and can bend natural laws at our bidding? Or as Calvary spectators muttered about the crucified Jesus in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, “He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.”
Sorry, but God is no circus bear performing tricks for us. At the same time, in His own way, at His own time, and for His own reasons, God has shown His loving kingship.
‘Who do you say that I am?’
To quote an earthly ruler in a completely different context, “You’re still alive, aren’t you?”
To believers, that means Somebody Up There is keeping you around. Ditto everything else, from inanimate minerals to intelligent men, from invisible neutrons to incandescent novas. That’s the whole point of Genesis: God created and sustains the universe.
You don’t have to believe that, of course. The late scientist Victor Stenger, author of the 2007 bestseller God: The Failed Hyphothesis, declared in his essay, “The Folly of Faith”: “At the current state of scientific development we can confidently say that no empirical or theoretical basis exists for assuming anything other than that we inhabit a universe made entirely of matter (and energy into which matter can be transformed, and vice versa).”
Mathematician James Lindsay, writing in the book Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails, a compendium of atheist writings including Stenger’s essay, asserts that based on scientific knowledge, God “almost surely” does not exist.
Yes, based on the thinking that anything science cannot empirically prove, you can “assume” and be “almost sure” that there’s no Creator behind the cosmos and the mathematical order scientists have found in it.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, among other leaders of faith, has also acknowledged that God’s existence and creation of the cosmos cannot be proved or disproved without doubt. Thus, he explains, one has to make up one’s mind whether this world was created and ordered by God, or just came about by the uncontrolled action of matter and energy.
Or as Jesus Christ challenged His Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?”
‘Take up your cross and follow Me’
As with believing in a Creator God, so it is with Christ The King. It is every human being’s choice to become His follower and accept His Kingdom in his or her life. And Jesus minces no words about what awaits those who heed His invitation to “take up their cross and follow me.”
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name,” Jesus told His disciples. “They will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death.” Those doubting that should recall what happened to the early Christians.
And in today’s highly secular world, espousing and living by religious faith is not only unfashionable, but even a cause of social disdain. Moreover, those practicing Christian kindness, truthfulness, and justice may be seen as too soft for the ruthlessly competitive arenas of business, politics, and many other spheres of human endeavor, even religion.
So, with all that, would you still make Christ your King?
That is the paramount question Christians must answer at the start of the new Advent season preparing for the birth of Jesus. Amen.