02 December 2013
Building a Kingdom of Justice
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
One of the great things about being Catholic, is that we have form prayers to say. If you’re at a meal and you’re asked to pray, you can fall back on “Bless us, O Lord…” If you can’t find the words because of joy or sorrow, you can always seem to get out, “Hail Mary, full of grace…” Or maybe you’re trying to find the perfect prayer, so you use the one the Jesus taught us: “Our Father…” The blessing is that when we can’t find our own words, we can use words that others have given us over the centuries. But the difficulty is that sometimes when we say a prayer so often, we miss the words that are in the prayer, because it is so easy to rattle off the memorized formula.
In the Our Father, for example, we pray, “thy kingdom come.” If we go to Mass every Sunday and Holyday like we should, we pray that prayer at least 57 times a year. My guess is we’ve said it many, many more times than that. And yet, each time we say it, we are affirming that we want God’s kingdom to come. Not the kingdom of the world. Not even my own kingdom. But God’s kingdom.
Today we celebrate Christ the King of the Universe. Not just king of a part of the world. Not just the king of one faith. He is the King of the Universe, of all things, whether His kingship is acknowledged or not. Whether we like it or not, Jesus’ kingdom will come. Whether we mean it or not, Jesus’ kingdom will come. But, our judgment will be much easier if our will is already approaching the will of our king, and if the words we speak in the Our Father do not merely come from our vocal chords, but from our heart.
In the end, there are only really two kingdoms: the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the Evil One. Dichotomies don’t usually hold true. Life is rarely as simple as either A or B. And yet, at the end of time, there will be those for Christ, or those against Him; those in Heaven or those in Hell. Our life work, the sign that we are faithful citizens of the Kingdom of God, is that our will is lined up with, and really subjected to, the will of God. The more we insist on our own will over and against God, the less we are true subjects of the King of Kings, at least beyond in name only.
Jesus never forces us to be a part of His kingdom. And His reign often doesn’t look very enticing. In our Gospel, Jesus is reigning from the cross. He is being sneered at and mocked. This isn’t the way we’re used to seeing kings. Yet the good thief, whom tradition names St. Dismas, recognizes Jesus and says, “‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’” And Jesus, the good King, offers salvation to St. Dismas that very day. Jesus’ kingdom sometimes doesn’t look so appealing. It is sometimes hidden in external failure. It is clothed in meekness. And it is never forced. If we want to build our own kingdom that is against God, Jesus will let us, because He allows us to use the gift of free will that He gave us, so that His Kingdom is not forced on us, but welcomed with love.
To check ourselves, to examine the conscience, we can ask ourselves whether or not we want Jesus’ kingdom to come. We can ask ourselves if the words of the Our Father ring true in our hearts, or are just empty words. And we can see the beginning of that in how we respond to the teaching of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. In particular, the parish council and Fr. Jerry are asking all of us to focus on the Church’s teaching (therefore, Jesus’ teaching) on social justice.
That term is pretty loaded. I don’t think I would shock anyone to say that this location in our one parish tends to be associated, accurately or inaccurately, with a particular political party. And the other location in our one parish tends to be associated, again, accurately or inaccurately, with another political party. Social justice tends to be associated more frequently with one political party. But, as far as our faith goes, there is neither Democrat, nor Republican, Libertarian or Socialist. Christ calls all of us to practice social justice.
The Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Society ensures social justice when it respects the dignity and the rights of the person as the proper end of society itself. Furthermore, society pursues social justice, which is linked to the common good and to the exercise of authority, when it provides the conditions that allow associations and individuals to obtain what is there due.” In practice: how do I assist the poor? How do I ensure that I do not value capital over the human person? How do I show solidarity with those who have less than me? How do I promote the dignity of work and encourage others to use their gifts for the benefit of the city, State, and country? How do I defend the innocent, especially the baby in the womb and the elderly? How do I defend the family as the building block of human society, and promote a culture that ensures that children have the best environment in which to develop: a loving father and mother? How do I vote so as to promote the Gospel? How do I work for peace?
In our parish we have people who work hard for social justice, on both sides of Burcham. We have business leaders who leave extremely generous tips to waitresses who didn’t think they would be able to provide Christmas gifts for their children. Our Food Bank at St. John feeds many people. The Giving Trees, organized by the St. Vincent de Paul Societies, and that will soon be up, provide necessities and niceties for families in need. Our school children have had the opportunity to work in soup kitchens. Our right to life group marches in DC as a witness to our legislators to defend life in our laws. There are so many other ways. St. John Church & Student Center does not have a monopoly on social justice. St. Thomas Aquinas does not have a monopoly on social justice. We each do things well, and we each need to be challenged in the areas in which we can grow. As one parish family, united in one Kingdom of Christ, we need to work together to work for social justice: not as one side of the faith, or the work of a political party, but as members of the Kingdom of God who are called to do our best to make this City of Man look more and more like the City of God.
Will we cooperate with the grace of God, without which we cannot build the City of God, that city that only Christ can truly complete? Will we be members of Christ’s Kingdom? Or will we rather build our kingdom? May our hearts and our actions reflect the words we say today: thy kingdom come.