Christ Claims to be the Lord of History

Nov 26, 2017: Solemnity of Christ the King (A)

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalms 23:1-6
First Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus Christ makes an unambiguous claim to universal authority. He does not say He is one wise man among many, one philosopher among many, or one prophet among many. He tells us that all the nations of the world will come before Him to be judged; all the angels of heaven make up His royal court; He holds in His hands the eternal destiny of every man and woman of all time. Jesus is claiming to be the Lord and King of the entire universe, of all history, and of eternity.

That’s His claim; there is no other way to interpret today’s Gospel passage.

This means that for any honest person faced with deciding what to think about Jesus Christ, there are only two options. Either he is what He claims to be, the King of Life and History, as we celebrate in today’s liturgy. Or else He is a madman, a lunatic completely out of touch with reality. There really is no other option, for an honest reader of the Gospels. If that honest person continued to reflect, not just on the Gospels themselves, but on the history of Christ’s Catholic Church, he would have to conclude that the lunatic option is not really an option at all.

No lunatic in history has founded an organization that has not only lasted, but also grown, developed, and stayed faithful to its principles for two thousand years, as the Catholic Church has. That Church has also made an incomparable contribution of wisdom, holiness, and beauty to human history — even non-believers stand in awe of the Catholic saints, scholarship, and art.

Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords; He alone is the Holy One and the Most High, as we just proclaimed in the Gloria.

That is what we remember and celebrate today.

One reason Christ’s claim is unique is because he backed it up uniquely: by rising from the dead, as St Paul stresses so powerfully in today’s Second Reading. [“Christ has been raised from the dead,” he writes, “so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.”]

Nine years ago, Hollywood put out a movie-documentary in which American social commentator Bill Maher interviewed people who believe in God. The title of the movie is “Religulous” (a word-play on “ridiculous”). His whole point was to try to show that anyone who believes in God is a complete fool. One of his arguments is that Christianity was nothing new, that it was just a retelling of some ancient Egyptian myths about a god (Osiris) who was killed. The pieces of this god’s dead body were spread over the land of Egypt, and then he came back to life in the Spring, making the land fertile. Therefore, the documentary concluded, the story of Jesus dying and rising from the dead is nothing more than a plagiarized agricultural fertility myth.

Actually, however, this argument defeats itself (as do most of his arguments). In mythological religions, the mythic stories all claim to have happened long before the human race emerged. But the claim Jesus makes is exactly the opposite; He claims to be the one true God, Creator of all, who has entered right into the middle of history, taking flesh in Mary’s womb, working as a carpenter, suffering, dying, and rising again. Moreover, the small group of eyewitnesses that passed in this message insisted uncompromisingly, even to the point of martyrdom, on its historical reality.

Since Christ the King already conquered death once, we can be sure that when He comes again He will conquer it once and for all — no matter what the movies may say.

The uniqueness of Christ overflows into a uniqueness in Christianity — as, for example, when Jesus says to both groups of people in today’s Gospel, “‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did (or did not do) for one of the least brothers of mine, you did (or did not do) for me.”

This is another way of stressing the deep, inseparable connection between love for God and love for neighbor, something characteristic of the Christian worldview.

In other words, as Christians, as followers of the Lord of history, we are not just called to be nice; we are called to be holy. Being nice means not ruffling other people’s feathers; it is a comfort-centered virtue; it stays on the surface. Being holy means going out of our way to do what is morally right, and to serve others in need; it goes deep and always involves self-sacrifice, going the extra mile. Someone can be nice and still be completely self-centered — using niceness to gain popularity or defend one’s comfort zone.

However, if we are striving for holiness, we become God-centered, and that is the path to inner freedom.

The closer we come to God, the less we are controlled by mood swings, personality clashes, and pet peeves.

Therefore, the closer we come to God, the freer we are to overcome our selfish tendencies and see and treat others like the brothers and sisters that they are — reaching out to them instead of judging them, serving them instead of using them; not just being nice, but being nice and being holy.

Every day we have dozens of opportunities to serve Christ in our neighbors, but we will not even notice them unless we have already developed a friendship with Christ.

In today’s Mass, as we renew our commitment to Christ the King, let’s ask Him for the grace not only to admire Him once a week, but to follow Him faithfully by serving others all week long.

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