It seems that we’ve forgotten what Kingship means.
It does make sense. After all, as a whole, we’ve been steeped in a completely different cultural worldview. We’ve grown up learning, before anything else, the concepts of individualism and democracy. From the first, we’ve been encouraged to decide on our own paths, critique authorities, be the masters of our own lives. And besides that, what contemporary example do we have of any person wielding absolute authority over us?
This past Sunday, having celebrated that great feast of Christ the King, we’ve heard the readings describe the King ascending His throne in majesty. We’ve joined in praying together that God’s “Kingdom come.” We’ve probably sung songs about Christ’s Kingship in our lives.
But despite all that, chances are, it doesn’t sink in. We go home afterwards, and continue with our own lives, the lives we’ve planned for ourselves. We give God a respectful nod a few times during the day perhaps, in morning and evening prayer for instance, but wouldn’t it be accurate to say that we’re still in the habit of living life on our own terms?
By so doing, we are living in hypocrisy. According to Bishop Barron, in his homily for this past Sunday, Christ’s Kingship over our lives is necessary; “If we say anything else, anything less than that, we’re horsing around with Christianity and not really living it”. (1:37-2:04)
What, then, does it mean to proclaim that Christ is King – over our lives, and over all the world?
Let’s start with the basics. What power does an earthly king – and, for the sake of proper context, an Ancient Near East king – posses? What is his role?
- He has power and authority over the land and all his subjects; everything in his realm is his own possession. He unites, orders, and coordinates his subjects and resources for the good of the kingdom.
- He sets forth commands and decrees that his people must follow, at the pain of death.
- He ensures justice for the kingdom, and acts as a final arbiter of the court.
- He protects his kingdom, having the authority to assemble an army to defend it against attacks.
The king’s subjects had to pay the proper respect to him, and his power was well known, and feared. Argument wasn’t an option; no one dared stand against him. In short, no one lived on their own terms; they lived on the king’s terms.
Now, that’s the power of an earthly king. But Christ said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mt. 12:17) What does it mean for God to be King?
Certainly not less, as we are apt to act, but far more. For Christ’s kingdom, as we’ve read in the Gospel, is “not of this world;” (Jn. 18:36) its reach is far greater. He is not merely a lord of a certain nation; He is Lord of the Universe. All of existence is His own rightful possession, and His dominion extends not only to the vast reaches of the Universe, but into the hearts of every human being.
If an earthly king can demand the external obedience of all his subjects, Christ has the right to the internal obedience of His people. If the one demands their loyalty, the Other has a much greater right to it. If the one must be shown respect, how much more must Christ, King of the Universe and Goodness and Justice Himself, be given respect.
If an earthly king has the right to run your life, Christ has the greatest and most intimate claim to that right.
Let me ask, then: is Christ the King of your life?
Or are you just pretending?
Holy Spirit, convert our hearts once more. May Jesus truly reign in us, in all the aspects of our lives. May we truly revere Him as King. And may we be found as His loyal subjects when He comes in glory.
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- Homily by Bishop Robert Barron (1:37-2:04): http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/what-does-it-mean-to-say-that-christ-is-king/4992/
- Historical Background: http://www.sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/TBv3i3_PowerKingship.pdf