Last Sunday, the twenty-first Sunday of Year A, a priest challenged the congregation with two thought-provoking questions during the sermon. A friend of mine was among the congregation. When the mass was over, my friend asked me what I thought about the two questions. The questions were ‘Who is Jesus to you?’ and ‘Who is Jesus to us in this modern world?’
It seems these two questions are not very challenging. We may easily come up with short answers like, “He is our Lord. He is our shepherd. He is the Saviour of the world. He is the Messiah. He is the Son of God. He is the king of all kings.”
He is our leader. Besides Jesus, can we find another leader who can solve all our problems? Certainly no other leaders, no matter how good, intelligent, experienced, powerful, or popular, can solve all our problems. Jesus Christ alone is the only leader we need today. He is our leader, the King of all kings, and the Lord of the lords.
But His kingdom does not belong to this world. “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!” (John 18:36)
Although Jesus said his kingdom does not belong to this world, He is already the king of His loyal followers. However, not everyone wants Him to be the king. That is why we call the Church on earth the Church militant. Members of the Church militant must fight against His enemies until His kingdom comes. “For Christ must rule until God defeats all enemies and puts them under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:25)
Who are the enemies of His kingship? The first enemies were the Jews who did not want Jesus to be their king. ‘When Pilate heard this, he tried to find a way to set Jesus free. But the crowd shouted back, “If you set him free, that means you are not Caesar’s friend! Anyone who claims to be a king is a rebel against Caesar!” ’ (John 19:12)
In this modern world of ours, the followers of the three ‘isms’ are the enemies of His kingship. 1. Materialism, which is the theory or attitude that physical well-being and worldly possessions constitute the greatest good and highest value in life. 2. Secularism, which is a view that religion and religious considerations should be ignored or excluded from social and political matters. 3. Relativism, which is any theory holding that truth or moral or aesthetic value, etc., is not universal or absolute but may differ between individuals or cultures.
God does not change. ‘I am the Lord, and I do not change.’ (Malachi 3:6) However, followers of relativism think there is no such thing as unchangeable truth, no unchangeable principles of morality: what is wrong for you is right for me; what was evil in the first century is good today; what is wrong for the Christians is right for the society.
Many people today do not want Jesus to be their king. Many are loyal to drugs, alcohol, wealth, corrupt business practices, lust, etc. Loyal Catholics worship the Holy Trinity. Disloyal Catholics worship the unholy trinity: me, myself, and I. Disloyal Catholics do not submit to Jesus Christ the king, because they do not submit to the teachings and the rules of the Church. They have forgotten Jesus said to His apostles two thousand years ago, “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)
Many of these disloyal Catholics are indistinguishable from the atheists. They divorce, just like everyone else. They commit abortion, just like everyone else. They cohabit, just like everyone else. Many Catholics in Canada think they have recently lost a respected politician who was pro abortion and an advocate of same-sex marriage, just like everyone else. St. Paul warned us about this long time ago. ‘Do not conform yourself to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God ----- what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.’ (Romans 12:2)
There is a terrible and widespread ignorance of the fundamental teachings of the Church. Many Catholics have learned there is a God, but they live as if God did not exist.
Jesus is our king and their king. But how do we bring these non-practicing Catholics into the arms of our good shepherd who is also their leader and king? These people are not reading this article now but you are. You may be reading this article because I have sent it to you; or perhaps you are reading it on Fr. James Wan’s website; or perhaps you are reading it on the church newsletter. That means you are a person of faith. You can invite them back. You can make them realize that even if they have been away from the Church for thirty or forty years, Jesus has been waiting for them to come back. Jesus stretched His arms on the cross and He is always ready to embrace any prodigal sons and daughters with His stretching arms. Another very simple thing we can do is to always include the conversion of sinners as one of our intentions when we pray.
The first thing we need to do is to discipline ourselves. We may ask ourselves these questions: Do I pray only on Sundays? Do I read the Bible to learn about what God wants to speak to me? From the teachings of the Church, do I choose to believe only what I would like to believe? Can other people tell I am a Catholic by the way I speak and by my behaviour? Do I refuse to do what immoral people do simply because they are in the majority? Does my life reflect tangibly that Jesus is my leader and king?
Prophet Micah summed up our Christian duties concisely and beautifully, “What he requires of us is this: to act with justice, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8) By following Micah’s advice, we will jointly build the kingdom of God, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.