Christ is King - Signifying Something

Fr. Edlefsen's Sunday Column
Pic For Blog 11.24
“Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
(Shakespeare, Macbeth)

Life, time and history “signify something” only in light of a destiny revealed by God.  They make sense only in the light of Christian faith and hope.   Because of God’s word, we know something about our personal destiny and the world’s Beginning and End.  Faith teaches that God made everything from nothing – “ex nihilo.”  God’s revelation reveals that man and woman were made in the Creator’s image and likeness – something otherwise incomprehensible to us.  Christ the Savior came once as Man, to suffer and die, to save us from our sins.  He personally said that He will come again at time’s End to judge history.  The prophets foretold this, long before Christ’s first coming.  When Christ comes again to render the Last Judgment, He will raise the dead.  The saved will enter a New Creation and a Heavenly City.  This is hope’s substance and history’s meaning.  Christ also promised that He is always with us, even before his Second Coming.  “Behold, I am with you always until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).  He’s with us in the Eucharist, the “Real Presence” and the Church’s mission. The Eucharist is a silent Presence that prompts the Church to speak and act – to proclaim the Gospel – until the Second Coming.  That’s another kind of Presence: the life of the Christian.  Then, the final “Word” on everything will be spoken by Christ the King.   Judgment will be made on history’s every good and evil deed. 


Today, Christ the King Sunday, anticipates Christ’s Second Coming.  The Book of Revelation covers the topic.  “Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.  All the peoples of the earth will lament over him.  So it is to be.  Amen.” (Revelation 1:7).  The Risen Christ says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.  The one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).  “Behold, I am coming soon.  I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12-13).   Sacraments will cease at the Second Coming.  Christ will no longer be hidden under the appearance of bread and wine.  Nor will our life be “hidden” in Christ (Colossians 3:3).  We will see Him face-to-face.  We will see the beauty of our Baptism as it really is, rather than hidden in sinful and frail “earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7).  The powers of Darkness will be vanquished, and Christ will be seen as “King” of time and eternity.  But in history, Christ is known by faith, which demands complete rejection of sin and conversion of life.  “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). 


In history, before the Second Coming, God’s Kingdom is present within us by way of grace.  If you are in a “state of grace” – that is, if you’ve preserved (or restored by confession) your baptismal innocence and are free from mortal sin – the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.  It’s a matter of a hidden interior life.  “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).  Through prayer, penance and confession of sins, good works and giving alms, and receiving the Body of Christ in Communion, you nourish the divine Life that’s “hidden” within you,  to be revealed in all its beauty and splendor at the Last Judgment. 


Moreover, contemplating Christ’s Face prepares us for death and judgment.  Gazing upon his Face when we see a Crucifix and gazing upon his Face when we see a picture or statue of Jesus, prepares us for judgment.  The Face of Jesus consoles and strengthens us in times of pain and trial.   His Face moves us to love the poor, the suffering, the unborn and the vulnerable.  His Face inspires us to reject sin when tempted.  His Face helps us grow in virtue and love.  His Face helps us enter into our interior depths, where “the Kingdom of God is within” (Luke 17:21).  His Face is the Source and Summit of Beauty.  As ancient Christians said, He is the “Beautiful One.”  This is the Face we will see at the Last Judgment, when the King returns in glory.  


Christ is King and Priest.  A priest mediates between God and man.  Some people think this unnecessary, but apparently God doesn’t think so.  Melchizedek – king of “Salem” (Peace) and priest of “El Elyon” (God Most High) – blessed Abraham, who paid tithes to him (Genesis 14:18-20).  Thus, began Salvation History.  Under the Law of Moses, the “sons of Aaron” and the Levites offered Rites of Atonement to the LORD on behalf of the people (Leviticus 16).  When Jesus came, He was a priest “in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:11-28).  St. Paul said, “There is one Mediator between God and man:  Christ Jesus, himself a man, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Though always a Priest, Jesus perfectly and fully exercised his priesthood on the Cross, when he offered Himself to the Father for our sins.  He was not only the Priest, but also the Offering.  Christ is both “Priest and Victim.”  He is both Priest and Sacrifice.   The Letter to the Hebrews explains it: “In the days when he (Jesus) was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, declared by God High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:7-10).


The Catholic priest – through the sacrament of Holy Orders – participates in the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ.  Like Jesus, he’s a priest in the order of Melchizedek.  Tombstones of deceased priests often say, “A priest in the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110).  When a priest says Mass, he acts in the Person of Jesus Christ the High Priest, offering himself under the appearance of bread and wine.  When saying the words of consecration over bread and wine, he doesn’t say “This is Christ’s body” or “This is Christ’s blood.”  He speaks in the first person: “This is my Body,” and “This is my blood.”  When a priest says Mass, he’s preparing the world for the Last Judgment.


Like Christ, a priest should preach only what Christ was sent to preach.  He can’t just teach whatever he wants or please the crowd.   He’s not running for office.  As St. Paul said, “If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16-17).  He also said, “If even we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed.  As we have said before, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).   Jesus said, “My teaching is not my own but is from the One who sent me” (John 7:16).  He also said, “Whoever speaks on his own seeks his own glory, but whoever seeks the glory of the One who sent Him (the Father) is truthful, and there is no wrong in him” (John 7:18).  We should only take to heart the teachings of those who are faithful to Christ and his Church (Luke 10:16) and not heed those who tickle our ear with fads and partisan ideas.  As for the priest, he should imitate “Christ the King.”  He didn’t run for his office.  He was appointed by the Father.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      When we hear Church teachings, we hear Christ.  And when we hear Christ, we hear the Father.   If we reject the Church, we reject Christ and the Father.  Jesus made this point to the disciples whom he personally sent out to teach:  “Whoever listens to you, listens to me.  Whoever rejects you rejects me.  And whoever rejects me rejects the One who sent me” (Luke 10:16).  Some people excuse themselves from Church teachings and morals.  No offense to the profession, but I’ve known some lawyers who cross-examine Church doctrine, as if Christ and his doctrine were on trial.  “One of the experts in the law answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also’” (Luke 11:45). Others say that the Catholic Church needs to “get with the times” or conform to the world.   But Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).   “For my thoughts are not your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8).


Christ is a King and Priest who came to teach Truth.  The Catholic Church was commissioned by Christ to continue the same mission until the End of Time.  The Church makes Christ’s words to Pilate its own: “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” (John 18:37).  When Christ comes again, he will speak the final word of Truth that will resolve all of history.  Everything that ever happened – good and evil – will “signify something.”  And everyone who belongs to the truth will listen to his voice and enter his Kingdom forever.   In light of this, everything we do “signifies something.”


“In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare.  The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1039).