Throughout the liturgical year we reflect on a variety of topics being presented and explained for our spiritual wellness and God’s glory. On this, the final Sunday of the liturgical year, on the feast of Christ the King of the Universe, let me try to simplify Christianity by reducing it to its basic components.
Let us call it Christianity 101.
Actually, St. Paul has already given this presentation in his Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:20-26, 28), but I will try to make it even simpler and plainer.
Q. How did Jesus Christ get to be King of the Universe?
Jesus Christ got to be King through obedience to the Father to the point of accepting even death on a cross. Jesus was given a Kingdom by the Father for his victory over all those enemies that have kept humanity enslaved for the time of Adam. The worst and scariest enemy of humanity is death.
Q. When did Christ’s Kingdom begin?
It began at his resurrection. That was the victory of Christ over disobedience, selfishness, pride, aloofness, hatred, exploitation, violence, unforgiveness, evil of all kinds and death itself.
Q. How do we get to belong to this Kingdom?
By being one with Christ; by sharing in his victory over disobedience, selfishness, pride, aloofness, hatred, exploitation, violence, unforgiveness, all sorts of evils and everything that leads us to be separated from him, i.e., to spiritual death.
Q. What is the law governing those who belong to Christ’s Kingdom?
It is a simple law; but one that can be observed only by living in Christ and by availing ourselves of God’s grace given us through the ministry of the Church. Here it is: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” John 13:34
So, it is a very simple law but, humanly speaking, it is impossible to observe without God’s help; and it is a law that will challenge us up to the very last day of our life on earth.
Q. What is the “admission test” that will be administered to us by the Son of Man, the King of the universe, when he will be seated upon his throne?
It will be exclusively on how well, or poorly, we would have recognized Him, the Son of Man, the King of the universe hidden in the least of our neighbors and how we would have assisted them concretely in their needs.
That concludes Christianity 101.
Now, it is time for some enlightening clarifications and useful considerations. Essential is our being one with Christ. Our belonging to his Kingdom hinges on our sharing in his victory over those enemies that keep us from loving each other including to the point of the ultimate self-immolation on our cross, whatever that might be throughout the course of our life on earth. That means that there must be concrete and sustained willingness to die to our sinful self.
Oneness with Christ means also living with an unquenchable hope of sharing in the Resurrection, i.e., the triumph of love also over all its enemies within our heart. The wise among us do not seek those things that the world deems important, but that are actually and clearly useless for admission into the Kingdom, such as wealth, sharpness of mind, glamorous diplomas, high ranks, honors, accolades, recognition and acclaim. The wise among us give also little weight to those things that seem praiseworthy, but which are not directly conducive to concrete and factual loving, such as piety, religiosity, and devotional practices.
This seems strange coming from a priest, but let me warn us again. In my 48 + years of priesthood, I have come across some who have forgotten that charity and love begin at home with their spouses, children and other members of the family. Some people spend long hours in churches, feeling very good and warm inside, convinced that they are on the right track while being impatient, rude, domineering, manipulative, arrogant, distant and cold at home.
Self-deception in this vital and daily preparation for the admission test would be clearly tragic.
None of us can afford to be shocked to find out that Christ, the King of the Universe, was hiding inside one of those whom God had placed so close to us, perhaps in our very family; and whom we might have routinely ignored.
In conclusion, if we are not going to be judged on our piety, religiosity, devotions and number of prayers that we would have said, but on factual and concrete loving, this is, precisely, on what we must focus our energies, skills, attention, interest and efforts. And, since we are so easily and repeatedly sidetracked, we should perk our “spiritual ears” all the time to capture God’s subtle messages of life.
He wants all people to come to knowledge of truth and be saved. He wants all to enter into the Kingdom of his Son Jesus. Thus, he never ceases to open our eyes to see his Son under his humblest disguises.
God the Father keeps urging us to die to our selfishness; he insists, ever so gently, on guiding us to consider others as more important than ourselves, and to place their well-being before our own.
It is up to us, then, if we are wise, to remain in a constant listening mode for the Word of life that prevents self-delusion. This listening mode is the type of prayer that would allow us to be members of the Kingdom that Jesus will hand over to the Father at the end of time.
Yes! We will be in the Kingdom where Love will be all in all, because God is love and nothing but love.