Monday, January 30, 2017

Reflections on Matthew: Christ is King

Like many of you, I watched some of the Presidential Inauguration a week ago. What a spectacle it was: the precision ceremony,the pageantry, and the show of power and force with all of the military honor guards. 

Is the president the most powerful person in the world?  Well, that depends on what you mean by “power”.  If “power” is measured by economic and military strength, then yes, one could argue that the President is the most powerful person in the world.  The United States is ranked number 1 in both of those categories.  If power is measured not by money and weaponry, however, but by phenomena such as love and truth, then billions of people would now also be in the running for “most powerful”.  That kind of power is found in the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is not so much a geographical area like the United States, or New Jersey, or England.  It is more the sense of the “kingship of God”.  It is not so much a piece of land but rather a group of people who accept that God is King and allow His power to govern their lives.

What does the President do?  We hear about it every night on the news.  Today he talked on the phone with five foreign leaders.  This past week he signed a number of executive orders on such issues as abortion, immigration and federal employees. 

What does Jesus the King do?  “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness of the people” (Matthew 4:23).   Jesus’ kingdom “is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things” (Pope Pius XI, encyclical Quas Primas (1925) paragraph 15).   

What are Jesus the King’s top priorities?   The Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12):  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.” 

I am by no means putting Jesus and the President on the same level by comparing the two – one is infinitely greater than the other, of course - I am simply describing the nature of God’s Kingdom by comparing it with an earthly kingdom/country.

Earthly kings are limited and flawed.  Christ the King is infinitely powerful and perfect.  In 1922 Pope Pius XI noticed that even though the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I was signed several years earlier, there was still hatred among the leaders of the previously warring countries:  

Peace indeed was signed in solemn conclave between the belligerents of the late War. This peace, however, was only written into treaties. It was not received into the hearts of men, who still cherish the desire to fight one another and to continue to menace in a most serious manner the quiet and stability of civil society. (Pope Pius XI, encyclical Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio (1922), paragraph 20).

This story is a reminder to us to continue to put our trust in Christ.  Until Jesus Christ reigns in our world, we will never have complete peace.  Approximately 2,000 years have passed since Jesus walked the Earth and St. Matthew wrote his gospel.  In many ways the world is as dangerous today as it ever was, if not more so considering the level of sophistication of the kinds of weaponry that people and countries wield. 

As we continue to listen to God’s word in the Gospel of Matthew in this liturgical year, may we continue to accept Jesus’ Kingship rather than the world’s in our hearts.  May we continue to pray to God:  “Thy Kingdom come!”

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