Sunday, November 20, 2011

What It Means To Be King

"Men...dream of being king, without knowing what it means to be king, or to be man" (Pascal).

Pascal wrote in the age of kings, although by his time the political office of kingship was already well on its way to degenerating into the nexus of a controlling and suffocating centralized bureaucracy --one that spent beyond its means, kept borrowing money, and eventually went bankrupt. Sounds creepily familiar....

What does it mean "to be king"?

Catholic Christians of the Roman rite celebrate today--the last Sunday before Advent--as the Solemnity of Christ the King. We celebrate Christ's Lordship over the whole universe, over the world, over peoples and nations, and--yes--over governments, because governments exist to preserve the public order and foster the common good. Governments are responsible for human beings, and Christ--who has assumed and redeemed the whole of human reality--is concerned with everything that is human. Whatever the complex structural machinery of a government might be, it exercises authority over human persons, and therefore it is ultimately subject to Him who is the Supreme Man, the Man who renews, transforms, and "sums up" (anakephalaiosis) all things in Himself (Ephesians 1:10).

How could it possibly be otherwise?

If we believe that He has conquered death itself, that He truly reigns in glory, that He is directly involved in shaping the destiny of every human person, then how can we imagine that we might be able to carve out some sphere of human existence that is "neutral" with respect the this Man, Jesus Christ?

Let's try not to think here about the role that religious authorities ought to play in society. Just set that question aside. Let's ask another question: do we believe that Christ is real? Do we believe it? This does not mean, "we think it might be true, maybe, sorta...." This does not mean, "we think its true for us personally, or for our culture, but...." This does not mean, "we think its a good idea...."

If I say, "I believe that Christ is real" I am saying that I know that He is real. To "believe" in the sense of Christian faith means "to know, by the power of the Holy Spirit and on the authority of God." The reality I affirm in faith is mysterious; it can only be grasped by the supernatural elevation of my mind and heart, by grace. But this does not mean that I "don't really" know it. And what I affirm in faith is not just a "worldview," or a way, or a set of rules; it is the affirmation of a fact about a man in history. I "believe" in Jesus--that means that I affirm, with certainty, that this man is God. That is what it means to be "Christian." It means to say, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:16).

It is a matter of fact.

Either He is...

or He isn't....

Clarity, if nothing else, would be served immensely if we could just keep ourselves focused on this point. "This man is God." Yes or no? If we say, "yes," a lot of other things fall into place. If this man is God, He is Lord of the cosmos and of history.

Whatever it means to be “king,” He is certainly that and more.

As for the politics of this world? Much could be said about that. Suffice for now to say that those who claim to be “kings” in this world have no business fighting against Him, have no business playing about with the dignity of the human persons who belong to Him, who are created in His image and redeemed by His mercy.

Christ’s Kingship is first of all His freedom to be the Lord, to be the Lover, of hearts, minds, and lives. No earthly power has the right to infringe upon that freedom!

In the words of the Hispanic martyrs of the twentieth century, as they were put to death for their faith–for the freedom of Christ–by the rulers of this world:

iViva Cristo Rey!

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