In our liturgy of holy Mass for the Solemnity of Christ the King the sacred Scriptures take us back to the day on Calvary’s hill and into the presence of Our Lord who, dying on the Cross, accomplishes the perfect will of the Father for our salvation. We hear once again of those who stood, unbelieving, and watched Him breathe his last without a hint of sympathy and, much the opposite, sneered and ridiculed Him in most egregious acts of blasphemy which Our Lord forgave even with His last few words.
What is royal or kingly about this One who dies the death of a criminal, abandoned by those He loved, ridiculed and derided by those who pass Him by? Jesus Christ is the perfect Suffering Servant because His Kingdom is of justice, love and peace.
"Finally, the People of God shares in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection. Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came 'not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.' For the Christian, 'to reign is to serve him,' particularly when serving 'the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder.' The People of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ. The sign of the cross makes kings of all those reborn in Christ and the anointing of the Holy Spirit consecrates them as priests, so that, apart from the particular service of our ministry, all spiritual and rational Christians are recognized as members of this royal race and sharers in Christ's priestly office. What, indeed, is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God? And what is as priestly as to dedicate a pure conscience to the Lord and to offer the spotless offerings of devotion on the altar of the heart?" (CCC 786)
Today the sneerers and the revilers are still among us. These are the host of ridiculing unbelievers, some among the elite and ruling classes: kings and king-makers, politicians who claim the mantle "Catholic" or "Christian" but who spurn the moral teachings of Christ and do as they please in disposing of human life through crimes such as abortion or embryonic stem cell research and take part in the ridiculous and laughable pretense that holy matrimony can ever be anything other than a lifelong union between one man-husband and one woman-wife. There are also those who in pride stand aloof from the Lord and His Church because of the sinners in her midst, who ridicule Him dying once again in His martyrs such as we have recently witnessed in Baghdad, who are indifferent to Him as He suffers once again in the starving and choleric poor dying in Haiti, who blaspheme once again in the attacks on our holy Faith, who malign the Pope and believers without examining the facts.
But there are also those, though physically within the body of the Church, who also sneer in a reenactment of the first Good Friday. The Lord who, dying destroyed our death and rising restored our life, speaks today in His Church. It is the Lord’s voice we hear through the power of the Holy Spirit in the praying and teaching Church. The revilers of today are those who attempt to intimidate the priest, for example, when he seeks to teach what the Church teaches so that the voice of Jesus Christ the King will be heard in our world today. These are the ones who attempt emotional blackmail, walking out of Mass in protest or leaving the community when the parish provides information on electoral candidates as directed to do so by the bishop, claiming falsely that the Church is “telling people how to vote”.
Some stoop to personal attacks upon priests and others who seek to do what the Church does, whether in celebrating the liturgy or in teaching faith and morals. The sneering and reviling is manifested as intimidation in various forms when what is very easily verified as the authentic orthodox teaching of the Church is doubted, attacked, undermined or opposed in various ways. Some suffer from the malady of thinking that Vatican II gave Catholics the right to malign and reject every custom or tradition that was handed down prior to the Council as less than Catholic and, on the other hand, to naively adopt every practice advanced after the Council whether legitimate or not, whether authorized by the Church or not, or promoted as unauthorized innovations or abuses. Some simply refuse to change when faced with the evidence of their errors and, instead, adamantly and childishly insist that the Church change, or that the priest be silenced.
Unbelievers today still mercilessly attack the Church, as if the Mystical Body of Christ the Suffering Servant is the source of the problems the world faces. Pope Benedict tirelessly and patiently reminds those who will listen, however, that it is neglect of God and the things of the Spirit that are the source of the problems that afflict the human person and the human family today. Man and woman seek purely material pleasure and comfort and neglect their spiritual well being to their own peril.
Jesus is "the way, and the truth and the life". He is the ONLY way, truth and life. He cannot change who He is. And in the same way and for the same reason the teachings which really and truly bring Him and His saving life and grace to us today through the Church cannot change or be changed either. These matters of which we speak are the truth and morals which simply make it possible for men and women to live in the grace of His love which offer the life of the Kingdom of grace now and in eternity. It is to these truths that the Church must remain faithful. The Church does not make up who Jesus is. It is Jesus who made the Church so that through it He might be the light and life of man. A do-it-yourself religion, Pope Benedict teaches us, will not sustain us in times of crisis. Our human weakness must be met with God’s power when our finite resources are strained to their limits. Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God”. He gives Himself ordinarily, and thus is available to all, through the Church in the sacraments. It is in this manner, then, that we must receive Him.
We see new martyrs raised up around the world today who remind us that we, like they, must not be intimidated. We must confess the truth and speak of God and His will to everyone, this true Lord of love whose Kingdom shall come and who “desires that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!
Photo: Volto Santo in the Cathedral at Lucca, Italy.
(Visit Meeting Christ in the Liturgy for teachings from the Catechism of the Catholic Church paired with the Scriptures of Holy Mass for every day of the week. Fr. Cusick blogs at A Priest Life and you can e-mail him at mcitl DOT blogspot DOT com AT gmail DOT com.)