A reflection by Fr. David Warren, S.F.M. on the Feast of Christ the King: Daniel 7.13-14; Revelation 1.5-8; and John 18.33-37
My hometown of Peterborough, Ontario, has made the news. On the night of November 14 someone set fire to the local mosque. The mosque was not destroyed, but the fire caused more than $80,000 in damage.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that Christians and Jews in Peterborough have offered their facilities to the Muslim congregation so that they may continue to pray. On top of that, local residents have donated more than $100,000 towards the repair of the mosque.
“Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more,” says St. Paul (Romans 5:20).
War in Iraq and Syria is creating the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War. More than 650,000 people are living in refugee camps in Jordan. Nearly 700,000 more—including children—have crossed into Europe so far this year. All are fleeing violence, lawlessness and religious persecution in their homelands.
The Canadian government plans to accept 25,000 refugees by the end of the year. Some people are afraid that agents of ISIS will pose as refugees in order to come to Canada. (Actually, there are faster and easier ways for ISIS agents to enter Canada than by posing as refugees.) But where fear abounds, generosity abounds all the more.
“However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads.” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 276)
“Often it seems that God does not exist: all around us we see injustice, evil, indifference, and cruelty. But it is also true that in the midst of darkness something new always springs to life. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not an event of the past; it is a present event. Where Sin and Death seem to reign, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an irresistible force.” (The Joy of the Gospel, 276)
Christ is king!
When Jesus says that His kingdom is not of this world, He does not mean that He is king only in our hearts; He means that His kingdom is not based on worldly power and glory.
Christ is the king of the world and of every dimension of human life, including the social, the economic, the political, the cultural, and even the ecological dimensions. Christ wants to transform every aspect of life. And He will transform every aspect of life by the same power through which He was raised from the dead.
We are called to be the sign of humanity transformed—to bear witness to a new way of living, a new set of values, a new way of thinking. The lives we live bear witness to the mind and teachings of Jesus.
In today’s gospel, Jesus says that His mission is to bear witness to the Truth—the truth that God is offering us a new life in His Son. The mission of Jesus is our mission, too. Jesus made Pontius Pilate think about who Jesus is. Our mission is to make people think about the deeper meaning of life. Our mission is to make people have second thoughts.
Not everyone is going to accept our witness. But that’s no reason to feel resentful. Pilate didn’t accept the witness of Jesus. This made Jesus sorrowful but not resentful.
Christmas is a great time for some Christians to feel resentful at the world. We’re apt to feel resentful that North American society no longer wants to say “Merry Christmas!” We’re apt to resonate with the sentiments of Mr. Donald Trump, one of the contenders for the Republican nomination, who said recently, “If I become president, we’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again. That I can tell you! That I can tell you! Unbelievable.”
It is hard to believe. But it’s true. North America is less Christian than it used to be. In a few decades we have gone from being a society that was Christian—at least outwardly—to being a secular society. (The process of de-Christianization is even more advanced in Canada than it is in the United States.) We have less influence on public life than we used to have. Some Christians feel threatened by our diminishing influence on public life. And they feel resentful.
North American society may no longer want to say “Merry Christmas.” But our mission is not to restore a bygone age; our mission is to redeem the present age. We redeem the present age when we post signs that Christ is King. We post signs of Christ the King wherever we are—in our homes, in our schools, in our places of work, in our community, and in society at large. We post signs when we welcome the stranger. We post signs when we care about the poor. We post signs when we try to build more just relationships.
Will we see results in our lifetime? Maybe. Maybe not. But it doesn’t matter whether we see results or not. The results are in God’s hands. Bishop Kenneth Untener composed a well-known prayer that says, “We are prophets of a future not our own.” We are prophets of a future that is God’s. Our first reading from the Book of Daniel and our second reading assure us that the future is in God’s hands.
“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view,” Bishop Untener says. In the long view, Christ is going to win. And, along with Christ, we’re gonna win, too!