Fr Martin Pender
You do not have to be wise to realise that the world is in a mess. And yet, in total blindness and with complete irrationality our messed-up world continues to speed along the motorway of madness, the freeway of foolishness and the highway of hopelessness. Governments and politicians, bewitched by the desire for power and infatuated with self-importance, have forgotten the noble foundations upon which democracy is built.
It pains me to say that democracy today has become a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The reason for its present perilous predicament is not difficult to discover. But, unfortunately, we are living in an age of cynicism where people are used to wearing Google goggles, Twitter tatters and Facebook frocks and so refrain from normal, rational thought! Therefore when people look at the problems of the present age, they respond with the cynical phrase “Sh** happens”.
Well, let me introduce you to a basic principle of philosophy. Sh** doesn’t just happen! It never just happens. Somebody does it. The world is the way it is because of the people living in it. It is as simple as that. We are living in a world no longer governed by the principles of Christianity, no longer obedient to the Truth revealed in the Bible, and no longer submissive to the will of God. The result? A world that is ruled by the Deceiver, the Prince of this world, a world no longer governed by Jesus, the Universal King.
When people replace service of God and neighbour with self-promotion, the result is a world of chaos and darkness. Only the Spirit of God can hover over that darkness and once again create order out of chaos. And that is what the Universal King came to do.
Jesus is the king who serves the other. He is the king who dies for the other. He is the king who is ridiculed, scorned, and mocked. Dying on his cross-throne, Jesus is taunted for the fact that he does not save himself. “You are a saviour?” they jeer. “Then save yourself.” Soldiers with their sour wine chide, “Aren’t you a real king? Save yourself.” Even a criminal scolds: “I thought you were supposed to be a Messiah. Prove it.”
But all Christian belief must culminate in service or else the belief itself will wither away. The Object of this service is not a cause but a Person – Jesus – to set forth Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the World.
At the time of the Apostles, the world was full of evil. Society was corrupt. The state was bad. There were many giant wrongs crying out for the reformer. The apostles might have devoted themselves to the causes of social and political reform with splendid success. But they believed that in the person of Jesus Christ they had a more powerful remedy for bad social and political conditions than any other remedy. In Christ they found a supreme object of service; for Him they were willing to give up houses, lands, position, and even life itself; for only through Him could the world be truly reformed. Why then potter with temporary and minor remedies when the permanent and great remedy was at hand?
Many things have changed in our world since the time of the Early Church, but for any lasting good in reform work Christ is still the great remedy. He must be at the centre of all social, political and temperance betterments or they are destined to fall short of real success. We are to feed those who are hungry, give water to those who are thirsty, clothe the naked, and visit all who are in need. Why? Because we serve God in others, we serve God in the tabernacles of people’s lives where the Holy Trinity itself has made its dwelling.
Just like I mentioned previously that bad things do not just happen, good things, too, do not just happen. Happiness doesn’t just happen. Everything real, good, true, and beautiful and every love, kindness, forgiveness and self-giving comes from somewhere – God’s active presence in the human soul! Everything unreal, bad, false, ugly, loveless, unkind, unforgiving, and selfish also comes from somewhere. Where? The deception of the Evil One.
This deception can be seen in our hunger for pre-eminence and our desire for dominance, which may well motivate our every choice and predilection. Christ, the Universal King, dismantles the triangle of desire, violence, and retribution. In Him there is no envy, greed, or lust for power. He, the innocent king who executes none, is executed. He seeks no vengeance. Christ the king is the only sovereign to embody such principles.
And so, as we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the Universal King, we need to ask the Lord to come and remove the stumbling-blocks within the kingdom
which is our soul, so that Christ may reign in it. Greed comes along and claims its throne in us; arrogance would dominate us; pride would be our king. Comfort and pleasure say: “We shall reign!” Ambition, detraction, envy and anger fight within us for supremacy and seem to have us entirely in their power. But when we acknowledge Christ as God and King we accept his reversal of the violence that dominates humanity. Our non-violent God can only signal his existence to the world by having himself driven out by violence in the Kingdom of Violence. Jesus is the sole/soul King who saves fallen humanity from its twisted wish. In this respect, he is truly original, truly exceptional, the divine challenge to a world which imagines kingship to be the enslavement of the other.
Why did Christ the King not change the world and make things perfect? He did, but not in the way we had expected.