Monday, November 21, 2016

The King Who Rules Through Love and Makes Us Free

Jesus on the cross with aureole in the image of a crown. Ivory and metal, Kongo (Central Africa), 19th-20th century.

"Almighty ever-living God,
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the King of the universe,
grant, we pray,
that the whole creation, set free from slavery,
may render your majesty service
and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever."

~Collect, Feast of Christ the King

The Jubilee "Year of Mercy" came to an end yesterday with the final Sunday of the Roman Rite liturgical calendar, celebrated annually as the Feast of Christ the King. It is good to remember in faith that, whatever evils may be happening in the world, the ultimate victory has already been won by the Love that has overcome death.

The Kingdom of God is inaugurated in the Risen Jesus, and it marks its "beginning" as a transforming power in the history of human persons through baptism. Christ's kingdom is "not of this world" because it journeys the roads of this world on a pilgrimage. The Church is God's People living in this world, helping one another to attain the fullness of Christ by dying in Him so as to rise in Him to eternal life.

This does not mean, however, that Christ's kingdom has no connection with this world, with all the vast range of human problems and human aspirations of individuals, cultures, and societies. Insofar as they truly follow Christ in their Christian vocation, God's people embrace the depths of their own humanity in all of its vitality, with a capacity to appreciate the real meaning of things. Insofar as Christians are faithful to their calling, their lives in this world become a witness to the fact that at the heart of every real human interest and human longing is the Mystery revealed and given and triumphant in Jesus Christ, who is drawing all things to Himself.

Jesus "draws all things" in a way that is beyond our mind's power to comprehend in this world, which is why we walk herein by faith and trust. In particular He works within the heart of every human person on this planet by the grace of His Holy Spirit, with unfathomable mercy and love. But Love does not force Himself, or manipulate, or replace the human freedom that must allow itself to be loved and enter into a relationship of love.

We bear witness to Christ's Kingship with our preaching of the gospel, and also with our joyful conviction and our sharing of the vital experience of our own lives as they are being changed by Him. We must love our neighbor with all the vulnerability of a love that is personal, that is confident in the mystery of God's love for each person, and that does not reduce, coerce, or manipulate their freedom and dignity (recognizing that this is the "sacred ground" wherein God's most secret work of love unfolds itself). We must ask Jesus to manifest through our lives that He brings beauty and fulfillment to everything human, and that He overcomes our own sins and weakness and lifts us up even in the deepest darkness and most profound suffering.

Pope Francis addressed these points in his homily yesterday:

"The grandeur of [Christ's] kingdom is not power as defined by this world, but the love of God, a love capable of encountering and healing all things. Christ lowered himself to us out of this love, he lived our human misery, he suffered the lowest point of our human condition: injustice, betrayal, abandonment; he experienced death.... 
"Our King went to the ends of the universe in order to embrace and save every living being. He did not condemn us, nor did he conquer us, and he never disregarded our freedom, but he paved the way with a humble love that forgives all things, hopes all things, sustains all things. This love alone overcame and continues to overcome our worst enemies: sin, death, fear. 
"Dear brothers and sisters, today we proclaim this singular victory, by which Jesus became the King of every age, the Lord of history: with the sole power of love, which is the nature of God, his very life, and which has no end. We joyfully share the splendor of having Jesus as our King: his rule of love transforms sin into grace, death into resurrection, fear into trust."