Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (C) – November 24, 2019
St. Margaret Mary – Wichita, KS
2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122:1-5; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43
Today we celebrate the great solemnity of Christ the King. And it’s always important to remember that when Pope Pius XI instituted this solemnity in 1925, he did so (in part) because of the turmoil in Mexico, because of the events that led to the Cristero War—Pius XI was already responding to them with this feast. And Pope Pius XI said that “these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives” (Qua Primas). Think about that. The problem of all of the evils in the world is not that there is one bad person, it is not solely because the government is bad—it’s not any of that. The problem is that we—me and you, all of us—we have rejected Jesus Christ as our King, we have removed Jesus Christ from the center of our life. And what happens is that instead of clinging to the King who promises to give us everything (c.f., Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”), instead of clinging to Jesus Christ—instead of that, we give ourselves over to the tyrants and dictators of the world, give ourselves over the infinite multiplication of partial answers that will never truly satisfy (c.f., Carrón, Disarming Beauty)—and then we wonder why we’re not happy, and why our life isn’t perfect, and why we feel so empty inside. And this isn’t new. This is the story of all of history. And that’s why kingship, that’s why Christ’s Kingship, is so important!
I don’t have time to go through all of the elements of kingship in the Bible—believe me, I’m a nerd, I want to. But let’s look at what is given to us today. The first reading we have is from the Second Book of Samuel. The two books of Samuel chronicle the rise of David as the king of Israel, the rise of all of Kingship in Israel. But right before the books of Samuel, right before we hear about the rise of the King, we hear why the king is so important. The very last line of the Book of Judges is this: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
We hear that and we think, “Awesome! No king, we get to do what we want!” It’s like when both of your parents are gone from the house: no kings, do what you want! You grow up and you don’t have to listen to your parents? “Awesome! No king, no one to tell me what to do. I get to do what I want to do. I can do what is right in my own eyes.” But, but—“no king” is not good news. In fact, it’s bad news. Parents, what happens when you leave the house, and your kids do whatever they want? It’s chaos! They eat candy for dinner, they sit on their phone the whole time, kids get hurt. When your children grow-up and live by their own rules, what often happens? Nothing good. Do you see my point? “No king” is not a good thing. “No king” and the world falls into disarray, everyone does what is right in their own eyes. We see it all the time.
Sooner or later, we give ourselves over to something, something becomes our “king.” And since there is only one King, since it is Christ who is the King, anything or anyone else who makes claim to the kingship is really only a tyrant. As humans, we need the order and meaning a “king” provides. We need it. But look at your life, take an honest look—what gives your life order and meaning?
We think—and we’re right—that we find it when we have a desire satisfied. Think about it. When you’re sixteen, and you want to go hang-out with your friends, you want to go to the dance, and you ask your dad, and he says “yes”—how do you feel? You feel great! Your dreams come true! Life is perfect! You feel alive! But then Monday comes, and you’re just as empty as before. The satisfaction of that one desire was not enough.
Every day you drive home from work, and you have to drive past those new cars. And that brand new Chevy Silverado is there every day. Every day you drive past it. And then one day, a miracle: it is $10,000 dollars off. And you think, “Wow, if I would have bought it yesterday, I might have paid too much. But look, reduced, just for me.” And you buy it. You feel great driving it around. But then each month, the bill arrives. Little by little, the truck doesn’t seem to satisfy you. The new model comes out, and your truck feels old.
We apply this logic to our whole life! “Once I have the right car, and new clothes, more possessions, once I look a certain way, once I have a certain job, once I don’t have to listen to my parents—once all of these little desires I have are fulfilled, then I will be happy, then my life will be in order and it will all make sense.” We’re constantly tempted to seek what will satisfy our desire in the places it is not going to be found. We’re constantly willing to submit ourselves to the tyranny and dictatorship of material things, parties, what people think about us—and yet we pretend like we don’t need or want a king.
Like I have shared before, when I was growing up, Jesus Christ was at the center of everything. The Church teaches that the family is the domestic church, the Church in miniature. And so my parents took that seriously. Church wasn’t the building we went to on Sundays, the Church was family life (Vita Familia). Everything we did was centered on Christ and the family. My mom and dad would wake us up every morning and take us to mass—at 7:00a.m. Then we would come home and have breakfast together as a family. At the end of the day we would have dinner together. We would prayer the Rosary every night as a family—every night. Sunday was not just a day we went to mass, but then we would also have lunch together. And Sunday was not for sports or movies or hanging out with friends: it was for family. My mom has told me that all of her big decisions in life were prefaced by the question, “Is this going to help my kids get to heaven?” My dad would say, “Is this going to lead to their ultimate happiness?”
I didn’t learn that Christ is King because I read the Catechism, or because a priest taught me, or because of this Sunday’s feast. My mom never told me, “Jesus is the King.” But by the way we lived, by the way my parents made decisions—in effect what my parents taught me and all my siblings was, “This is how we live. And we live this way because Christ is King.”
And then that wonderful day came. I went to college. And I didn’t have to listen to my parents anymore. It was the book of Judges all over: “In those days, there was no king of Mike, and he could do what was right in his own eyes.” I could sleep in, stay up late, eat whatever I wanted, hang-out with my friends, I didn’t have to go to mass every day. Wow! Just so much better, right? Well, not really. Life became very difficult. And I couldn’t understand why. I could finally live my own life, do what I wanted—but I wasn’t very happy.
It’s kind of funny. When I went to seminary the next year, I remember driving there with my dad and he asked, “What are you most looking forward to?” And I said, surprised at the words coming out of my mouth, “I’m looking forward to the structure of the day. Waking-up, praying, school, mass—all of it.” In other words, I was looking forward to having my life determined by another—I was looking forward to having my life determined by Christ.
Until Christ is King in your life, in your house, in your marriage, in your family—everything will continue to fall apart. Until everything is centered on Him, determined by Him—you will continue to look for happiness and order and meaning in all of the places you will never find it. This is where it has to begin.
Remember, when we stop clinging to the King who promises to give us everything, we instead give ourselves over to the tyrants of dictators of the world, to stuff, to what people think about us, to how many “likes” we get, to how many streaks we have—and then we wonder why we’re not happy, and why our life isn’t perfect, and why we feel so empty inside. God wants to give us everything. And he has already given us so much. This is Stewardship. This is the Stewardship Way of Life: it is our grateful response to all that God has given us, and it our sharing of these gifts in love of God and neighbor.
Tithing is the easiest example. There is a parishioner who died not too long ago. He was very poor, could barely buy himself food. In a wheelchair and couldn’t even leave his house. But every week, this man continued to tithe to the parish. And now that he has died—now, based on the average that people here in this mass give each week, it would take ten families, ten families in order to give what he gave. Again, this man could barely buy himself food, he couldn’t even come to mass—but he gives as much as ten families put together.
In our Gospel, we heard the story of Jesus’ coronation as king—his crucifixion. The thief on his side knows all of the ways that he has looked for happiness and order and meaning in his life—and how he never found it. But now, in the last moments of his life, and he is literally dying because his search has taken him to all the wrong places—here at the end, Jesus Christ, God-made-man is placed in front of him. And he says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And to this man he says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
When Christ is the King of our lives—when He is King, everything will fall into place, paradise will be given to us, today.