Most of us have some vision of how the world should be, and that vision dictates many choices and attitudes. Our perception of the present and future influences how we wrestle with who has the real power and whose wisdom we should follow. Many of us feel pushed and pulled between changing visions depending on who seems to be the most influential or powerful at the moment. This sort of flexibility or gullibility can make for an uncertain and insecure life. It seems important to decide, once and for all, who has the power and wisdom that will last forever.
Each of us has been created in the image and likeness of God, created with hearts that yearn for Him. We know that our greatest desire is to belong and have others who stay with us through good times and bad. Even in these most divisive times, there is still a yearning in each of our hearts for unity and community. That might be hard for us to recognize because of our own cynicism or the times that our hearts have been broken through infidelity and lies.
The encounter between Pontius Pilate and Jesus in the Gospel for the Solemntiy of Christ the King invites us to see who really has the wisdom and the power that lasts forever. Jesus is face-to-face with a person who has the power to kill His body. The fear that is produced by those situations is usually enough for us to change our allegiance. But for Jesus, it’s an opportunity to exercise the freedom to be the person He is meant to be. Staring in the face of physical death and public embarrassment, Jesus lives out of the real power that lasts forever. He knows His destiny and He is unwilling to let someone with earthly power take it away from Him. No matter the cost, Jesus knew that His destiny was worth more than anyone could offer Him.
On this Feast of Christ the King, it’s a good time for us to examine our lives and see whose wisdom and power we trust the most. Is it the wisdom and power of a government, an economic system, a group of people or even the fears and insecurities in our minds and hearts? Rationally, we know that none of those have the power to take our destiny away from us. We must be the ones who give it away if we do. Sometimes we give it away as a matter of habit. Maybe I do something that is not truly of my nature but I do it to fit in with a certain group of people. Sometimes we refrain from entering more honest relationships out of fear of rejection if people really get to know us. Sometimes we trade our destiny of being children of God for more dollars or a more prestigious position. Sometimes we trade off our destiny for the sake of winning an argument or destroying somebody through gossip.
If Jesus Christ is to be the king of our universe, then He asks to rule over every part of our lives. He asks that every choice we make reflect the virtues that He calls us to live. He is the ruler of our universe when we seek unity, compassion, forgiveness, generosity and understanding. If our life, family, church community, country or world doesn’t look like that, it isn’t God’s fault.
As we draw near to Thanksgiving, let’s start cultivating a deeper gratitude in our minds and hearts. If our vision of ourselves or our lives is one of victimhood, deprivation or hopelessness, we have somehow lost our way from the vision that Christ the King offers us. Cultivating gratitude will reawaken our sense of being cared for and blessed. Regaining a vision of gratitude can restore us to the vision in which the virtues of Jesus can be lived out in our own lives. We start with our own life and offer it as a sacrifice of love and truth for others to see and be encouraged by. Notice the blessings and be a blessing.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.