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11/25/18 Christ the King - Fr. Reggie

We just listened to one of the Bible’s best known phrases. Jesus affirms that he is a king, but he also affirms that his kingdom does not “belong to this world.” This was important for him to mention, because Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who was interrogating, was worried that Jesus was trying to organize some kind of political rebellion against the Roman Empire. And Jesus explains that he was not.

But if Jesus is not a political king, what kind of king is he?

If his kingdom is "not of this world," what kind of kingdom is it?

On the Solemnity of Christ the King in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI explained the answers to these questions:

"[Jesus] did not come to rule over peoples and territories," the Pope pointed out, "but to set people free from the slavery of sin and to reconcile them with God."

Ever since original sin, this fallen world has been enslaved to selfishness and separated from God. Tempted by the devil, our first parents believed the lie that they could achieve the fulfillment, meaning, and happiness they longed for apart from God. That lie led them to disobey God's commands, to act as if they themselves were gods. That self-centered rebellion, instead of liberating the human race, poisoned it with suffering, death, and evil. By throwing off God's rule, we made ourselves into followers of the very first rebel against God: the devil.

Jesus came to save us, by bringing the light of truth back into our darkened, confused world.

And what is that truth, the truth that will set us free from sin?

That God is love.

By accepting God's love in our life, we accept the antidote to the poison and are reinstated as citizens of the Kingdom of God, where Christ is the everlasting King.

There are three ways to understand the word "truth."

And the fundamental truth that "God is love" fits into all three.

First, truth can refer to facts, to the way things are. Jesus on the cross bears witness to the fact that God is not primarily power, anger, or even justice. These are conceptions of God espoused by other religions. But Jesus showed, by his unstoppable mercy and his total self-sacrifice, that God's primary identity is love, self-giving, goodness.

Second, truth can refer to morality, to the right way of behaving. In this sense, Jesus on the cross bore witness to the real standard of our moral choices – not personal comfort, self-indulgence, or individual opinion, but following God's will. As St Paul explained, Jesus was glorified because he was "obedient unto death, death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). Obedience to God's will, to his commandments, is the source of our spiritual health and fruitfulness; it is how we enter into a loving relationship with him. Disobeying God's commands is self-destructive, as if a tree were to uproot itself from the soil in order to be "more free." Certainly it would be free from the soil, but it would no longer be free to grow and flourish.

Third, truth refers to dependability, trustworthiness. When we say a friend is true, we mean we can count on them. And Jesus on the cross proves without any doubt that God is trustworthy.  God is so faithful that he didn't abandon or give up on us even when we refused to believe in him and actively tried to destroy him.

God is love – it's a fact, a moral standard, and an invitation to trust.

That's the truth that will set us free from sin and lead us into the eternal Kingdom, if we accept it.

The freedom of Christ's Kingdom is an interior freedom, a peace and strength of soul that only his grace can give us.

If up to now we haven't experienced it as deeply as we would like, maybe that’s because we haven't fully accepted this truth, that God is love.

Fully accepting that truth, which Pilate refused to do, involves at least three things.

First, it means accepting it freshly every single day. Each day we remain free to decide how we will live. And so, each day we have to reaffirm our citizenship in his Kingdom, or else we will slowly drift away from him.

Second, accepting the truth that God is love means admitting that we need God. If we try to achieve perfect happiness by our own efforts, we will shut ourselves off from God's love. The most direct way to admit that we need God, to allow his love to be a part of our lives, is to come regularly to the sacrament of reconciliation. There is simply no better way to acknowledge his Kingship over our lives, and to acknowledge that the law of his Kingdom is mercy.

Third, accepting the truth that God is love means striving in our daily lives to love as God loves. St Paul summarized all the laws of Christ's Kingdom in one: love your neighbor as yourself (Romans 13:9). When we refuse to forgive, to serve, to treat others as we would have them treat us, we distance ourselves from the God who is love, refusing to accept his friendship.

As we continue with today's solemn celebration of Christ's everlasting Kingship, let's thank him for bringing us the truth that will set us free,

and let's ask humbly for the grace to accept that truth, that God is love, every single day of our lives.

 

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