Grace and peace to you, from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are in the sight of his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the leader over the kings of the earth, who has loved us and has washed us from our sins with his blood, and who has made us into a kingdom and into priests for God and for his Father. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Behold, he arrives with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth shall lament for themselves over him. Even so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.
– Apocalypse 1:4b-8, Catholic Public Domain Version
On 4 July, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was signed in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That was the day the monarchy of Great Britain died in the 13 former colonies. Since then, the ideals of republicanism and democracy have competed for supremacy in America. We have lived the conflict of our “noble experiment” ever since. In our day as government and culture have grown increasingly secular and hostile to religion in general, I am, as an historian, reminded of one of the rally cries of the War of Independence: “No King but King Jesus!” How different our times are from theirs!
We must remember that the Church of Jesus Christ is not a democracy and it is not a republic. It is a monarchy and an absolute monarchy at that. From the very beginning of our Faith, we have been mocked for our allegiance to our Monarch. Pilate asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” The Christians of the Apostolic and sub-Apostolic ages gave their lives rather than let Caesar share in Christ’s glory. One of the great saints of the Apostolic age, Ignatius of Antioch, actually looked forward to his martyrdom! He was so confirmed in his fealty to his King that he begged his brothers and sisters in Christ on his way to Rome not to try and save him or beg for mercy for him. A culture of willing martyrdom was one of the marks of the Church in that age.
But what about later? Martyrdom was, and still is, very much a possibility for any Christian. I once watched a Mennonite street preacher get violently attacked by a thug who had grown weary of hearing him. He calmly accepted whatever God was willing to send his way. Then he went back to preaching as soon as the thug grew weary of harassing him. The Twentieth Century produced more martyrs for the Christian Faith than all the 19 before it combined. The new onslaught of radical Islam, the Communist revolutions, the Cristero War, and other events took the lives of many dedicated Christians. The 21st Century is shaping up to match or surpass it. The million plus population of the Catholic Church in Iraq has dwindled to mere tens of thousands. The Coptic Christians of Egypt are now being actively persecuted and the president of Egypt says,”Amen,” to a prayer calling for the destruction of Jews and Christians. Communist China actively and aggressively persecutes any Christian who dares not register a church, passes out Bibles, or who protests human rights abuses.
But for all this, these are not the poorest Christians. No, not them. It is us, here in the west. We are the poorest Christians of all. In our safety we have grown complacent. We have invented the worst heresies to tickle the ears of the weak-in-faith. The so-called prosperity gospel, stage productions, popular music-style bands in mass, and so many other things that belittle and demean our liturgies. We wonder that there is no stability of parishioners in churches today and that so many fall away from their faith altogether and have started pantomiming the latest non sequiturs about faith. How often do we hear today, “I am spiritual, but not religious?” How does one have a spirituality that is not practiced? Spirituality is what we believe, and religion is nothing more than what we do about that spirituality. There simply is no way to be spiritual without also being religious.
This brings me to my next point. Many of us are so ready to die for Christ, we tell ourselves. Are we really? None of us knows for sure until we are in that position. But what about the other side of the coin? I mean to say, Christ already did the dying. He died for you and me and everyone else. Are we willing to live for Him? Are we willing to lay down our lives as a “living sacrifice,” to use St. Paul’s words? Are we willing to do the little things for our neighbors? Can we give up our comforts in order for others to have food and utilities turned on?
If you honestly answered no to this, then good, you’re off to a good start with that honesty. Now pray for God’s grace to change your heart to match His! No doubt some of you have answered yes to this. For you I go one step further: Did you just throw money in the offering plate or write a check to your favorite charity? Why? Why did you not instead go down to a shelter to help feed the homeless? Why did you not seek a relationship with the poor or shut-in person you helped? Why do you hide behind your donation? Lives don’t change because of your money, they change because you were there.
To everyone I ask when was the last time you said, “I’ll pray for you,” and actually did it? Have you gone before the Blessed Sacrament and forgotten yourself in order to pray for others? Take those requests for prayer as a chance to storm the gates of heaven for others. Make it personal. And those of you who have been on the receiving end of others’ help, pray for your benefactors as if they were your children! St. James tells us, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (Jas. 2:5, KJV) If He has given you this special grace of faith, use it! Make sure you pray for the salvation and sanctification of you benefactors.
What does all this have to do with the Kingship of Christ? It is nothing more than faithful obedience to the commands of our Sovereign Lord. The Great Commandment and the Golden Rule are about our love of and for God. For God in Himself and for God’s image in our fellow man. In the Sheep and Goat Judgment, we will not be challenged on what we believed, how much we knew, or what church we attended. We will be challenged on who we fed, clothed, housed, visited in prison, and so forth. It is what we did to bless others and build up the Image and Likeness of God in them that will be our final exam in this life. Why? Because the life lived out here and now is how we show our King, and those around us, that we really do love our King, that we really do believe Him, and that He really does reward those who seek Him diligently. Jesus’ own words were, “By their fruits you will know them.”
Many are willing to die for Christ, if called upon to do it. Very few are willing to live out their Faith in Him even though all are called upon to do so now. Are you? Is Christ your Monarch?