Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Christ the King Year C 2019

Habermas, a German philosopher, said something to the effect that systems, especially political or economic, take on a life of their own and they will cannibalise whatever they can in order to survive. We have witnessed this in totalitarian systems. For example, Communism literally “devoured” its young to perpetuate itself. Red Sparrow, the movie starring Jennifer Lawrence is one good example. Black Widow of the Marvel series is another example as she was the product of a self-absorbed state[1]. It just means that the system no longer serves man but instead the art of statecraft goes, he is sacrificed at the altar of political expediency or in a command economy, he is sold at the market of supply and demand. Today, as we celebrate the Kingship of Christ, it might be good to reflect on the meaning of His reign or His rule both in heaven and on earth. In relation to His sovereignty, what role do the governmental or economic systems play in the Kingdom of Christ?
In the arena of politics, this idea of kingship is not alien to us living as we are under a monarchy. Some praise our unique arrangement because we have a paramount ruler within a rotational system. He is King of a federation, voted in by the individual sovereigns from the states that have hereditary rulers. Lest I be accused of lèse-majesté, let me categorically state that, on the whole, the history of the monarchy here and elsewhere leaves much to be desired. King David may have been an exception as we heard in the first reading. He was in every sense of the word, a regent, a man who acted for God. He was described in the Book Samuel (1 Sam 13: 14) and quoted in the Acts (Acts 13:22) as a man after God’s own heart. But even he stumbled in his later years when, consumed with lust, he murdered Uriah, his general, so as to commit adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. The sins of his royal loins were like scarlet and red as crimson.

One can safely surmise that our experience with earthly royalty is at best patchy or spotty. There have been saintly rulers in Christendom, both kings and queens—Edward the Confessor of England, Louis the Pious of France, Margaret of Scotland, Elisabeth of Hungary and Elizabeth of Portugal. But by and large, royalty is just another word for excesses, honour, privilege and being entitled. And in many cases, corrupt and depraved.

The Gospel for Year C is profoundly interesting. Here we are introduced to an unexpected notion of kingship—a concept that shatters our received wisdom.

This is a King who hangs unglamorously on a Cross in the unsavoury company of two thieves. Yet, He is King as indicated in the 2nd Reading. For by virtue of His sonship, the Incarnate Son of God is King because He is the very image of the Invisible God. As the Credo proclaims, begotten from the Father from eternity, He is King by right. But, hanging repulsively on the Cross, He is also King by virtue of our redemption. If according to our profession of faith, the Credo, He is King by right, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, then in the Gospel, stretched on the Cross, He is King by conquest. By His wounds we have been healed. By His death, the gates of heaven are thrown open for the children of Adam and Eve to enter. Either way, on the throne or on the Cross, He is our King.

How should Christ be King? Is He supposed to be a King in a spiritual sense only? We have established that by right, yes, but by conquest, no. Hence, He must be King in every sense of the words, spiritual and temporal for nothing in life is outside the purview of His rule.

Our major challenge is we have accustomed to living compartmentalised lives—a bit schizophrenic if you like. Science has done a great job at excluding religion from the public realm. Religion as a public expression has been reduced to a private encounter. So, on the one hand, it is easy to imagine the reign of Christ using the terminology of spirituality. As a spiritual King, He established on earth the Church and through a hierarchical system, He rules as head of this mystical Body. On the other hand, both the state and the market are domains where religion, since it is a private matter, should not interfere. We witness this in Catholic politicians, especially in the USA, who are proud to publicly declare their religious affiliation while at the same time are quick to insist that their religion is nothing more than a private matter. 

However, the word Christendom connotes the idea that Christ’s reign is much more comprehensive and therefore inclusive rather than being restricted to the spiritual realm. The relationship between Church and State cannot be mutually exclusive where the Church is confined to serve our spiritual end whereas the state and the market have a role devoted to the temporal affairs. Supposedly, the Church leads us to heaven whilst the state and market provide for the material well-being of the people.

The state and the market do not exist solely to fulfil the material needs of the people but must always have as their goal to provide space for the practice of virtues so that its people can make their way to heaven.

The last King to die in Britain on a battlefield was the Scottish James the IV, from the House of Stuart, who was killed in 1513. In those days, it was an occupational hazard for Kings because they led their army to war and were often the first to fall. This illustration gives us an idea that to rule is to be at the service of the people. The master is first and foremost a servant. And hence, whatever system we can devise, it must be our servant rather than our master because it serves to assist us in our pilgrim journey to heaven. Christ, our Lord and Saviour, stretched on the Cross, our King, ruled through His service, giving up His life so that we might gain eternity.
We all know that Christendom no longer exist and whatever vestiges of it, many of the Christian nations are doing their best to eradicate their Christian past. In some Christian countries, the civil authority is opposed to religion especially to Christianity, the very foundation of its civilisation. Hence, where Christ cannot be King, it is left to His soldiers. We are called Church Militant for a good reason. We have a task at hand which, is to make Christ known, if not through our words, then through our actions. Let the world know that Christ is King through each one of us.

As the preface rightly reminds us, “…as eternal Priest and King of all creation, He offered Himself on the altar of the Cross, as a spotless sacrifice to bring man peace, so that He might accomplish the mysteries of human redemption, and making all created things subject to His rule, He might present to the immensity of His Father’s majesty, an eternal and universal Kingdom, a Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace”.

It does not matter whichever systems we are inserted into; the task remains the same—that Christ be known and love. Hence, let us all be the soldiers Christ our King can be proud of. We have a heavy responsibility, and may the Lord bless us all.

[1] When a state, under the guise of providing relief, removes a child at the age of 3, from the care of its principal providers (parents), that is a good example of a nanny system that cannibalises its young. The child will be indoctrinated with state or rather the most current philosophy, thus perpetuating the state’s survival.