The great wheel of the Christian liturgical year is turning once again.
In the Catholic tradition, we mark the end of the church year—and all the good and bad that occurred therein—by crowning Jesus Christ as King. We go all out on the Feast of Christ the King to name and proclaim
that there are no temporal authorities—religious, political, economic, or otherwise—that own us. As Christians, we are owned by one alone—and that is Jesus the Lord.
On this day, we are also a triumphant people. This triumph is not human over human or even religious system over religious system. Instead it is the victory of truth over the dehumanizing illusions spun by powers and principalities of this world. In our Christian freedom, we tear off the masks of the death-dealers and expose their stratagems to the light.
In the liberty of this victory, we proclaim with Paul: “death hath no more dominion” (Romans 6:9)! Death, fear, and scarcity are the reins used by the little gods to control human lives. But as followers of Christ we stake a claim that “death hath no more dominion over us” either.
Secure in this truth, we are respectful of the little gods of the world—governments, economic systems, religious institutions—for the roles they play in the organization of human society at a particular moment in history. But we do not worship them; we do not offer sacrifices to them; we do not place them before the Lord our God.
I spend all this time pontificating on Christ the King because, in an election season, it is easy for us to get confused. It can be exhausting to separate the religious and political rhetoric that’s been flying all around us—somewhat unique to the American context—from deeper foundational truths.
Make no mistake: A new American presidential administration, at this time in history, can lead change of great consequence. By advancing an agenda that promotes human dignity and the common good, a leader committed to integrity and possessing a love for the fundamental ideals of democracy can create a better life for the poor both here in the United States and around the world. For our part, as citizens, we should work to see that this agenda is advanced at every level of governance.
However, Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr reminds us that the church has a unique role in a pluralistic society. “There must be a realm of truth beyond political competence,” says Niebuhr. As people of faith, it is essential that our first allegiance be to that “realm of truth.” This year the Feast of Christ the King can clarify and restore for us the proper order of our worship. It is the last Sunday of the church year. Advent awaits.
DURING ADVENT, I’LL BE POSTING DAILY REFLECTIONS. These are super short, but hopefully will keep us all in the Advent spirit. If you want to get them sent directly to your e-mail box, then add your e-mail address to the “Follow Me” box or set up an RSS feed.
Gather your evergreens. Go buy (or make) purple and pink candles. Get wire to make your wreath and a few simple purple and pink ribbons to weave together the greens. Clear a space on the kitchen table or anyplace where your household gathers. Write down a short Bible passage on an index card – something from the Prophet Isaiah would be great – and keep it near the wreath. Now that we’ve cleared a space for prayer and quiet celebration at home, we can begin clearing the same kind of space in our heart.