25 November 2018

We cannot belong to this world

Christ the King
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Every year on this solemnity I ask you (and myself) the same question: who or what sits on the throne of your heart? Who or what rules your life, my life? You might think that a priest and Dominican friar wouldn't need to ask himself this question, but you'd be wrong. It's a question that needs asking every day, every hour of the day by every man and woman who claims to follow Christ. Who rules me today? Who will rule me in the next hour and the next? We get to choose. And who or what we choose to rule us defines us, tells us who we are and where we are going. As men and women vowed under baptism and bound together in the Holy Eucharist there is only one answer to the question of who rules us: Christus Rex! Christ the King! And you know and I know that b/c we are not yet the saints we were made to be – loudly proclaiming Christ as our King and living under his rule as subjects are two very different things. Shouting to him “Lord, Lord!” may feel like enough to get by, but to be ruled, to be weighed and measured by his Word and Deeds, well, that's something else entirely. Jesus says to Pilate, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” And if we are to be subject to his rule, neither can we belong to this world.

So, what does it mean not to belong to this world? What does it mean – right here and now – to belong to God's Kingdom? At the very least it means that we live for another kingdom, another citizenship that transcends the powers of this world. It means that we look far and beyond the daily cares of being in the world and see these cares in the light of another Kingdom that far surpasses this one in glory and splendor. It means that all we do and say are judged against the perfection of God's final end for us, His Kingdom of Heaven. It's not that all we do and say here and now is useless but that we bear up under the obligation to bear witness to His perfection while we are here. What does it matter if we are rich and beautiful and successful and talented, and die without Christ? All that wealth and beauty and success and talent goes into the grave with us. It is wasted on a six-by-three foot hole in the ground. Never to rise. Lost to the tides of time and rotting in place. But if we place Christ on the throne of our hearts, if we put him over us to rule, then our God-given gifts will bear infinite fruit, eternal rewards. You are created and recreated to be vessels of Christ, carrying his Word and Deed into the world to bring his sacrifice of mercy to sinners.

Our question this evening – who sits on the throne of your heart? – isn't a rhetorical question. It's not just a way to start a homily. It's a deeply serious question and demands an answer. Right now, in 2018 America, you and I are being called out by the world. We are put against a wall and ordered to choose. Serve Christ or serve Mammon. This sounds a bit overwrought, I know. But it is nonetheless true. In centuries past, our ancestors in faith were ordered to choose Christ or the Roman Emperor. Choose Christ or the King. Choose Christ or the State. Choose Christ or Capitalism or Socialism or Relativism or the Mob or Ideology or Being on the Right Side of History. The choice is always the same for us. Choose Christ or choose something or someone else – Diocletian, Cromwell, Napoleon, Mao, Hitler, Republican, Democrat. Whatever. Fill in the blank. Blindfold in place, hands tied, back against the wall, gun to your head – who sits on the throne of your heart? Who rules you? You don't have to tell me. I'm as obligated as you are to answer the question. Christ the King wants to know. He's not interested in punishing us. We're free to choose. But our choice defines us. Are you a Christ in the world for others? When Christ the Just Judge stares through you on Judgment Day will he see himself in you?
Talking about the stark opposition btw Christ and the world may make you uncomfortable. A little nervous. That's understandable. We've become accustomed to accommodation and compromise with the powers of the world. Many in the Church – clergy and laity alike – have traded their right and responsibility to bear truthful witness for the temporary comforts and glories of position and power. This is nothing new. Judas was the first. But he wasn't the last. Even now, we are living through a betrayal of Christ – the scandals consuming the Church. We can plainly see what happens when the followers of Christ place the things of this world on the throne of their hearts: deception, secrecy, corruption, and treachery. How do we recover? A new policy? A new procedure? Some new committee made up of perfect human beings? No. We re-enthrone Christ in our hearts and recommit ourselves to preaching, teaching, and living the Truth of his Word – the Whole Truth, not just the parts that get applause from the world but everything he has taught us. We must rededicate ourselves to becoming Christs for others.
We do this by turning again to Scripture and Tradition. What does Jesus say and do in the Gospels? What has the Church taught since her founding at Pentecost 2,000 years ago? What wisdom have the great saints and doctors of the Church given us? The Early Fathers? The medieval mystics and theologians? The bloody witness of our Body's martyrs? What about the practical wisdom of Christian family life we've received from our mothers and fathers? The practical holiness of our monks and nuns? We can reorient and rededicate ourselves to Christ by placing ourselves squarely and forthrightly upon the foundation stone of the Church – “I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” If Christ rules your heart, you listen to his voice. You hear his truth. And you are unafraid to proclaim, “The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty!”

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->