Christ’s Kingship and Earthly Powers

The one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship;
all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.

The final Sunday of the Catholic liturgical year is devoted to Christ our King. It is the culmination of the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ. We come together to honor and praise Jesus Christ as the King of all creation and to recognize His dominion as both universal and everlasting. No doubt, this title of Christ may sound very odd to non-Christians, and perhaps even to many Christians today living in democratic societies. But we nonetheless confess that Jesus Christ is, in fact, the only true King of divine right in the strictest sense, for his kingship comes ultimately and directly from the divine will, and his authority over mankind is truly absolute. Indeed, since Christ is both God and man, who or what could possibly limit or put and end to his sovereignty and power?

The answer to that question is, of course, only Christ himself, and surprisingly his brief response to Pilate’s questioning of his kingship is just such a self-limitation of his kingship. Christ agrees that he is a king, in fact the king, but still his kingship is not what men normally think of in terms of kingship or absolute power in this world.  He answers that he is a king, but he states unequivocally that  “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” Now we might reasonably wonder whether that answer means that this world does not belong to His kingdom? If we take it in that way, however, then his kingship would be reduced to just a metaphor; he would only be something “like” a king, and he would have no sovereignty over this world in any form.

But that is clearly not what Christ meant, and it is not what the Church means by honoring Christ as Universal King.  What Jesus meant surely means, at least in part, that his Kingdom cannot be understood as limited to this world. Since He is the God-man, his kingship also extends to the angelic world and in fact it extends to the whole universe which according to John, Ch. 1, He Himself has created. In addition, we know that it also means that his kingship, which extends to all creation, does involve any political ambitions, and thus it is no way a competitor with or underminer of, the earthly powers. He did not allow his followers to push him into an earthly form of political kingship, but he also does not see earthly powers as having any real authority that does not derive from his own, for all power and authority comes from the Father, through Him.

No, Christ’s kingship is superior to all earthly powers, and limits all earthly powers, yet not by virtue of political or military force. Indeed, earthly rulers are accustomed to use force to limit lesser political powers subject to them; but Jesus limits them only by the force of truth. In defining his kingship to Pilate in this Gospel, Jesus simply says, “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” As Paul says in our second reading today, Jesus is in this truly peaceful way,  “ruler of the kings of the earth.

Thus Jesus’ exercises his dominion over earthly rulers and powers simply by the force of truth. Everyone, by virtue of their human nature is subject to the truth, and cannot ultimately escape from truth without destroying his humanity. Truth is the measure of man and likewise the measure of all earthly powers. To deny truth is effectively to degrade and eventually destroy one’s humanity. To deny the place of truth in the political arena is to destroy the right to rule and eventually to destroy the state itself, which becomes based upon self-destructive falsehoods. When an individual bases his or her existence upon falsehood, that person ceases to be the ruler over himself, and becomes a slave to evil. And the same is true in the political order; states which are based on lies end up being slaves to a more powerful power. Their true ruler becomes the one whom Jesus said was a liar from the beginning, the evil one who deceived out first parents and used the lie to subject them to his power. So also, the state based upon lies eventually becomes a pawn of the Prince of Darkness.

Truth sets man free, and it also sets the political order, the state, free; falsehood enslaves both the individual man and the state to the Father of lies. It is no little thing, then, when political leaders lie, just as it is no little thing when we base our lives on lies rather than on the truth. The greatest threat to this country today is not from without, from other earthly powers, but from the lies, the lies in election campaigns, lies in passing legislation and legislative debate, lies in judicial decisions, lies in the cover-ups of administrative malfeasance, lies in the media, lies in the universities. Lies are becoming the foundation of our culture and our political order. These lies lead inevitably to the dominion of the Evil One, the Father of lies who feasts on lies.

The truly pure kingship is that of Christ alone, and it is dominion only by force of truth and not by raw force of the state which is always a lie. His Kingship is thus essential for every other form of authority and power in this world. Jesus rules simply by rulers subjecting themselves to his reign, which is not political as such, but simply the reign of truth, justice and peace, the reign that assures real freedom for both individuals and for states. His reign is a threat to no one but Satan and the powers of evil in this world, for his truth unmasks these evil forces, shows them for what they truly are, and where they truly insinuate themselves in our societies, and His rule gives us an opportunity to free ourselves from those powers. When states reject the rule of truth, they self-destruct as do individuals; Christ alone can deliver us from that self-destruction.

How joyful it is that Jesus Christ is our true King. The Book of Revelations describes Him gloriously as seated on his throne in Heaven forever and ever, surrounded by all his loyal subjects, both saints and angels who it says, “cast their crowns before the throne, singing, ‘Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power’”. We hope one day to be among their number in Heaven, and the seer of Revelations assures us, that “He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  May we always be his true subjects on earth, and always submit our souls completely to His gentle reign, and may we always promote his reign among the nations, so that we may come to know His freedom in this world and share his Kingship in the Heavenly kingdom, Amen.

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Categories: Articles, Homilies

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