(Editorial note: the comment below by Dr. Delaney is worth noting and, as he suggests, would have fit into my sermon very well. In addition, it was pointed out by one of the deacons at the parish that we in America do not actually have a true democracy but instead a democratic republic. Both of these mistakes find their origin in my own ignorance, which can be attributed to my always taking the easy way out in my studies earlier in my life. I am now trying to remedy that problem. I have left the sermon as is, though, because this is how I delivered it.)
Sermon for Christ the King Sunday
November 23, 2014
What is a king? This is the question posed to us by our celebration today. But secondly, and more importantly, what does it mean for Christ to be our King? Regarding the first question, in an absolute monarchy, the king is one who exercises complete political power over a specific group of people. And if these people are good subjects then they will obey the king’s decisions and follow where he leads. But, of course, this kind of monarchy only works if the king is good and has the good of his subjects always in mind. And this is why earthly kingdoms which have absolute monarchies do not work – because the concerns of an earthly king often devolves into either a concern for what is good for himself or other petty concerns that hurt his subjects. Because of this, when this country was founded, we chose not to have a king, but instead established a democratic system with elected officials. And even though at this time many of our elected officials act more like dictators rather than ordinary citizens who have been elected to represent the people, nevertheless, our choice of government seems to be the best model for a planet of fallen and sinful people. We are all sinful and selfish and therefore, no single one of us should have absolute power over the rest.
But this necessity of having a democratic form of government in our earthly realm has seriously distorted our understanding of Christ being our King. After 238 years of democracy in America, along with various faulty ways of thinking we have come to accept during that time, our society lives by the idea that we can legislate absolutely anything. The result is that things that are objectively immoral and sinful, and which used to be viewed as such by our society, have become commonplace and accepted by many people – even by many of the laity and clergy of the Catholic Church. But legislating immoral behavior is not a specifically American phenomenon. It is a problem that goes back to the beginning of mankind.
Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were made in the image and likeness of God. As such they had two options open to them. The first option, which they refused, is the correct and legitimate option – to love God above all things and to love one another as their very selves. And in the beginning Adam and Eve were able to do this without effort because to love God and each other is what they were made for.
But then there is the second and illegitimate option, which they choose instead of the path of love – that of usurping the position of God in their lives by attempting to become autonomous creators of their own lives. In other words, they were trying to take complete control of their lives – they were trying to become the kings of their own realm. And this rebellion against God is what each one of us inherits from Adam and Eve in the form of Original Sin. But when we reflect upon the coup they tried to undertake we see the impossibility of it. We are creatures and we can create nothing. True, we can make things out of the material world around us, but that world out of which we make things did not come into being by our willing it – only God can do that. The universe that we inhabit and out of which we make the various things we use in our lives was willed into being by God. And therefore, since we are creatures and not creators, the only thing we can do if we try to sit in God’s throne in our lives is take what He has given us and mess it up. By removing God from our lives the only thing that we can do is take Truth and turn it into a lie, take that which is Beautiful and make it ugly, take that which is Good and turn it into something bad. Because of Original Sin this is the state we are born into and in which we will continue for the rest of our lives unless we give the control of our lives back over to God.
And this is why Jesus Christ – the King of the universe – became Man. He came to bring us back to the only option that was ever legitimate for us to choose: the path of love. We were created out of and for love. And Jesus has shown us the way back to that original calling of our lives. It is a path that calls for getting down from the throne that properly belongs to Him and following where He leads. It is a path that begins by no longer putting ourselves at the center of our own little kingdom and realizing that we are called to genuinely love God and our fellow man, who was made in the image of God just like each one of us. And of course that is why our Lord’s parable today is so harsh. If we want to inherit eternal life then we must love and serve others, because that is the action of emulating what Jesus showed us in His own life. But if we try to retain the kingly power within our lives that belongs only to God then the only kingdom we will inherit is that which we have made for ourselves. But we must remember – only God can create anything that is good. The only thing we can do is take something good and turn in into something bad. Therefore, if we try to create a heaven for ourselves by simply following our own rules for this life then we will find that the heaven we have created is in fact hell. The only way out of that misery is to be good subjects of our good King Jesus Christ and follow His rule for our lives.