Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christ the King

The founders of the United States had a very basic and important insight about how governments should rule over peoples. Thomas Jefferson articulated it in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote that we are "endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights." The rights that we hold dear as a free people - the right to free speech, the right to worship and the right to free assembly, among others - are not given to us by the government. Rather they are given to us by God. It is because we are made in the image and likeness of a good God that we have these rights. The government cannot give them to us and neither can any government take them away from us. They are ours because of who we are as human beings. All the government can do is recognize them and protect them.

Government, therefore, is not the ultimate authority. The ultimate authority is God himself.

The same is true with our laws. If they are to ensure that we live well as a society, then the laws that governments enact must be reflections of the truth and justice of God.

We are all familiar with the law of gravity. We call it a "law" because it is a foolproof guide to how the world works. What goes up must come down. And we know that if we try to ignore the law of gravity by jumping from a bridge or dropping a boulder on someones head it will have disastrous consequences.

Just as there is a law of gravity, there is also a moral law, a law that guides how we should live as human beings and the choices we should make. It is as foolproof a way of guiding our lives as the law of gravity is. If we ignore it and act contrary to it, then it will also have disastrous consequences for ourselves as individuals and for our society as a whole. The laws enacted by our government, if they are to truly benefit us, must be taken from this moral law which comes from God. Just as the government cannot give us our rights or take them away, so it cannot create laws that are contrary to the law of God and expect them to serve the common good. It would be like trying to walk off a cliff or jump from a bridge and hope to come out of it unharmed. Sadly, we have seen over the past decades how laws and policies that are contrary to God's law have damaged the family, young people, the economy and our society in general.

Each of us knows how true this is from our personal lives. We have all tried making our own way through life. We have lived under the delusion that life is whatever we make of it, that truth and reality are whatever we decided they should be. However, instead of giving us a sense of control over our lives, this attitude only confused us. We became unsure about what choices were right for us. Our lives began to lose their purpose and direction. It wasn't until we submitted ourselves to God and his plan that we regained a sense of meaning and started to make good choices again. When we put God at the center of our lives, when we make him our King and let his law rule over us, we can go forward with confidence, peace and joy.

What is true for each of us as individuals is also true for us as a society. Only when Christ and his truth are at the center of all we do can we be assured that history will make real progress toward a future marked by peace and justice.

The feast we celebrate today - Christ the King - is a proclamation of this central truth: that Jesus is the ultimate authority. Each person, no matter how great, will stand before him one day and be judged for the good or the evil he or she has done in life. We will all be accountable to the one who created us for the choices we have made.

Saint John says it beautifully in the second reading from the Book of Revelation. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Alpha and omega are the first and last words of the Greek alphabet. What Saint John is saying is that Christ stands at the beginning of the world and its history as its creator and also at the end of the world as its judge. All things come from Christ, and all things are leading toward him. Whatever exists exists because of Christ. There is no part of our world and no part of our individuals lives that does not fall under the shadow of his mighty arm.

Jesus is our King. However, his kingdom is not of this world. It is not a kingdom we can see. It does not have an army, a flag or any territory. It is a kingdom of faith whose territory is the hearts of believers and whose flag is the Scriptures. But that does not mean that this kingdom is not real. In fact, history tells us that it is the only real and lasting kingdom that has ever existed. Every earthly power, no matter how mighty, has faded from the scene. Many of them are unknown to us today. But God's kingdom has endured through the centuries because it is based on his law which never fails.

At our baptism, we made vows that we believed in God and that we rejected sin. We promised to place ourselves under the rule of Christ our King. Our presence here today is a testimony to that commitment made in faith. Let us also commit ourselves today to spreading the word about the justice and peace that can only be found in God's word. Only by making Christ king over our hearts will our society stop its descent into wickedness and will we as a country know the true meaning of peace and the freedom that the founders of the United States envisioned for us.

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