Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Who rules your heart? My annual question on this solemnity of Christ the King! Who rules your heart? More so than in years past, this question this year speaks to something deeper and more vital b/c the battle for our hearts and minds has intensified. We always live with the tensions btw the demands of the world and the demands of the Gospel. Btw being in the world but not of it. That hasn't changed this year. And it won't change in the years to come. What has changed – it seems to me – is the intensity of the world's demands; the vigor, the volume of those who clamor for us to denounce the Gospel and embrace the world. They no longer see us as quaint oddities to be indulged but as vicious enemies to be crushed. And to that end, we are challenged daily, hourly to dethrone Christ from our hearts and minds and install the spirit of the world on his throne. Meeting these challenges and resisting the temptations of promised comforts will be how we define ourselves in the coming years. This solemnity is meant to remind us that there can no one and nothing on the throne of a Christian's heart and mind but Christ. Christ is King and there is no other!
So, who is this King? What does he do? Ezekiel tells us that he tends his sheep. Rescues us from where we are scattered. Gives us rest in his fields. Seeks out the lost. Brings back the strays. Binds up the injured and heals the sick. He takes care of those who follow him, giving us life and liberty. Giving all that we need to come to him freely. And, he says, on the last day, “I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.” Kings take care, and they judge. They govern; they weigh good and evil, measuring bodies and souls so that justice may be found. Our King is Christ. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, he will sit upon his glorious throne, And he will separate them one [nation] from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” And how will he judge the nations? He says, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me. . .Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” The nations will be judged by how they choose to treat the least among Christ's brothers and sisters. How they choose to treat him in the persons of the undefended, the weak, the vulnerable, the sick and dying, the hungry and the homeless.
These are the sheep Christ the King shepherds. And those of us who willingly submit to his rule. Read carefully what Christ says here about the sheep and the goats. We are to help the poor, feed the hungry, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned. Christ does not say that his followers must work to eliminate poverty, hunger, homelessness, disease, and every injustice. Nowhere does he instruct us to sell our souls to the state so that we can accomplish these corporate works of mercy. Nowhere does he tell us that we must submit our moral laws to the judgment of the state in exchange for grants, loans, and permissions to be charitable. Nowhere are we obligated to pretend that we are not followers of Christ in order to do our Christian duty. We serve – you and I – we serve when and where we are. The tiny space and time when and where we have been planted by God to serve. Our individual mission is the corporate mission of the whole Body of Christ, the Church. And vice-versa. Christ does not charge us with “fixing the world's problems.” We are charged with loving God and neighbor; bearing witness to His mercy to sinners; and standing up for the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We are the flesh and blood of Divine Love in the world. To be who we are and to do what we do, we are not obligated to recognize any other king but Christ!
So, who rules your heart and mind? Have you put on the mind of Christ and found his peace? Have you discovered that you are created in the image and likeness of God? That while you are a citizen of this world, you are an heir to the Kingdom before all else? As subjects of the Divine King, his brothers and sisters in the Spirit, we are not made for this world but for the world to come. The powers and principalities need us to believe that their world is all there is. There justice is the only justice. Their love is the only love. Their peace is the only peace. But all of it, everything created, belongs to Christ. You, me, them, us – all of it. “When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.” This is the Truth the world desperately needs to obscure, desperately needs to distort. Otherwise, we might lay claim to our inheritance as sons and daughters of the Most High and deprive the Enemy of his temporary throne. He has lost. Christ has won. And we are victors with him. Christ is King and there is no other!
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