As usual, the Liturgical year ends with the solemnity: Christ the King of the Universe. What message does this feast have for us? How does it illumine both our world and our personal lives today, especially regarding our fundamental choices?
Bible readings Daniel 7: 13–14 Psalm 93: 1–2, 5 Apocalypse 1: 5–8 John 18: 33–37
Christ the King, the feast in our time
There’s a history behind this feast. It’s significance however does not lie in the past, but rather, in the manner it speaks to us today. The feast was declared by pope Pius XI, in 1925, when world leaders, especially in Europe, were not only competing for power but also claimed absolute power, especially by the tendency to rule without God. They wanted to run their show. So, the declaration of this feast was a way of counteracting such human pride. (For more on the history, please, click following link: Homily For Solemnity of Christ the King, year C). Surely, today most those dictatorial regimes have given way to democracy; yet, the message of this feast remains pertinent. How?
Auto-determination, logic of democratic regime
We are in the society that values democracy -not to say romanticises it. People choose their representatives and have influence on the legislation of certain laws. This democracy does not limit itself to political scenario, its influence trickles down even to personal level. No wonder self-determination or self-accomplishment is a catch word of our time. At times, you would get the impression that it’s the only supreme law that binds -it’s about what I want, when I want it and the way I want it. No doubt, there’s something positive about it -especially responsibility. When someone makes a choice, most likely, commitment is also guaranteed. In a way, it’s about becoming an adult whereby one lives in the manner consistent with the freely chosen values. That’s Christian too, doesn’t God leave us to respond freely to his love? That’s why we talk of the freedom of the children of God. But just how far can this auto-determination go?
For some people it means severing bonds with anything to do with institution or social norms, which are considered as infringement on personal liberty. There’s a risk of such auto-determination degenerating into egoist tendencies where I begin to see everything and everyone around me in terms of my own gain. Unsurprisingly, others become stepping stones for my way up; I may not say it, yet, my behaviour may leave no shadow of doubt. It may happen even in a couple, instead of keeping esprit du corps as expected, but all you see are two room-mates engaged in a never-ending tug of war. So, how can this feast help us?
“I” mirrored in “we”
I’m because we are, one will certainly think of Buntu philosophy and so conclude, it’s African. No, it’s not necessarily African but simply human. Psychologists, philosophers and sociologists, to mention but just some, have no difficult demonstrating how one becomes aware of his individuality thanks to the initial experience of being with others. Belonging, be it to the family, circle of friends, or to an institution, is necessary for finding one’s voice in the world. This reminds me, if you can tolerate a little digress, of a conference that I attend recently.
Speaker remarked that he met quite often people whom he found to be affirming their autonomy in a manner a little too far. Although he normally doesn’t engage such persons in a debate, nevertheless, he has found a little trick to spur them to reflecting. He tells them, I have no quarrel with your 100% autonomy, but I only ask you for one favour: as you go out of the lecture room leave everything behind and bring with you only what you haven’t received from others, in some way. There’s more than just the risk going out naked; it’s even more serious if they leave behind also the life they have received from parents. There you gain the wisdom of affirming your anatomy with measure.
But what does this have to do with the feast of Christ the King of universe? Well, I just wanted to show that the pride, on the political level, which led to the declaration of this feast still reigns, perhaps much more on the personal level today. However, wisdom lies in recognising my need for others who back-up my growth into a kind of autonomy that is responsible and humanising.
What next then?
Here I can’t help thinking of psalm 90: “Teach us to realize the brevity of our life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Ps 90:12). There I come to appreciate that fulfilling my dreams as a young person is not necessary opposed to faith in God. In fact, it’s only a relationship of love that will enable me to become the person I want to be. When I think of those things about me that make me feel proud; I see also the role of my parents, teachers, siblings and friends who have been but a physical expression of the faithful love of God for me. I realise that the personal fulfilment I’m seeking will come to fruition only when I allow God to reign in my life. Besides, growing into legitimate autonomy doesn’t imply taking a distance from God, family or social norms. In fact, who’s a free person if not the one who’s capable of making a personal choice that surges from deep down the heart?
That’s why, for me, this Solemnity: Christ the King of the Universe is an occasion to exercise my liberty by reaffirming my autonomy in my choice: Jesus, I choose you; you are king of my life.
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