25 November 2012

Truly, a good King

Being something of a medieval at heart I'm rather fond of J.R.R. Tolkien's political preference, which he described, saying, "My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) - or to 'unconstitutional' Monarchy."  As someone else has said (I cannot recall who), "Better a good King than a corrupt Republic."

It should then come as no surprise that today's Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe is one of my favorite liturgical celebrations.  Certainly there is no ruler more worthy of the distinguished title of the "Good King" than Jesus Christ.

I can, however, understand why some would view the notion of kingship with some hesitation or even fear, especially given the present situation in Egypt with President Mohamed Morsi, who seems recently to have set himself up as some sort of king.

When we begin to think of Jesus as this sort of King, we should remember the words he spoke to Pontius Pilate: "My kingdom does not belong to this world" (John 18:36).  Too often we forget that the Kingship of Christ is revealed in his crucifixion.  His kingdom is not established on power, but on love and truth.

The insignia of his reign are not the orb and scepter, but the Cross and the wounds he still bears in his hands, his feet, and in his side, through which he continually invites us to encounter his grace and mercy.

This is why Saint Andrew of Crete calls the Cross "honorable", "because it is both the sign of God's suffering and the trophy of his victory."  It is the trophy of victory, the insignia of a new reign, because "it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world."  In Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, there is nothing to fear, but everything to be honored and adored and worshiped.

In his Message for the 28th World Youth Day, thinking of the great statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: "Christ's open arms are a sign of his willingness to embrace all those who come to him, and his heart represents his immense love for everyone and for each of you.  Let yourselves be drawn to Christ" (1)!  Looking upon the insignia of his reign, which are manifested in his extended arms, who would not willingly place themselves under his rule?  Who would not pledge themselves to his service?

It was his encounter with the mercy of God that led to Saint Francis of Assisi to declare, "I am the herald of the great King!"  Saint Francis placed himself entirely under the banner of the King of Heaven and Earth and in his faithful service found the joy and peace that each of us seeks each day.

We might well ask, "What does it mean to serve Christ the King?  How do I let him rule over all of my life?"

When he established this liturgical feast in 1952, Pope Pius XI put forth this important reminder:
He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God (Romans 6:13)" (Quas Primas, 33).
Let us strive each day to be found worthy members of his Kingdom by remembering always the foundation of his reign: love and truth.

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