Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fr. Andersen Homily: Christ the King

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais

November 25th, 2012

Domini Nostri Iesu Christi Regis Universorum (Christ the King)

This week is the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year. Each year begins liturgically with birth and ends with death. At the beginning of the Liturgical Year, December is the month of Christmas, which celebrates the Nativity, or birth of Jesus Christ. At the end of the Liturgical Year, November focuses on the Four Last Things: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory and Judgment. Now, as we end the year, we meditate upon the end of all things. At the end of time, Christ the King will return to Judge all the nations. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast of Christ the King in 1925 to highlight the importance of recognizing Jesus Christ not only given to man “as our Redeemer, but also as a law-giver, “to whom” he said, “obedience is due” (Quas Primam ¶14). When we consider Christ as Judge, it is not only as Judge of all individuals, but Judge of all nations, including our own. By this, Pope Pius XI refers to the social reign of Christ the King. Obedience is due to Christ by lawmakers, governors, presidents, kings and all rulers everywhere. The reality in our day, as it was in the days of Pope Pius XI, is that there are many governments in the world that are atheistic, or are hostile to religion.

But governments are made up of individuals. Each individual is a creature of God. God created man for society. So society is also a creature. Government is an expression of the order which characterizes God. All acts of God bring order where there is chaos. Disorder or chaos are not of God. Where there is disorder and chaos, there is no peace. Where there is order, there is peace. So government is a means for bringing order out of chaos. Government is not an invention of mankind. Government was created by God. The very word “hierarchy” means sacred rule, or sacred order.

Authority in any hierarchy comes not from man, but from God. This is also true for secular government. “Those invested with the power to govern in the State derive their authority not from people who elected them, in the case of a democracy, but from God” (Davies. 22). Pope Leo XIII wrote that Christ’s “empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons…but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ” (Annum Sacrum. 1899). Pope Pius XI wrote: “In Him is the salvation of the individual, in Him is the salvation of society” (Quas Primas. 1925). All those whom God has created and given life have a responsibility to give back to God what He has a right to receive from us. The rights of God demand that all creatures worship and obey Him. Since the state is also a creature of God, the state also owes to God worship and obedience to the natural law created by God.
In this, we are not talking about the relationship between the state and the Catholic Church, but rather the relation between the state and Christ the King (cf. Davies 37). The state is given to govern all temporal secular matters. The Church is given to govern all sacred and spiritual matters. They should be distinct but should work together for the common good. A purely secular nation is not good for the welfare of the people. Law can be no law unless it conforms to the law of God.

We can see this if we look to the atrocities committed by atheistic nations such as Soviet Russia, Communist China, or Nazi Germany. One of the difficulties encountered at the Nuremberg Trials was that Nazi officials had acted according to the laws of Germany. Everything they did was legal according to the laws of the German nation. How could an international tribunal convict them of crimes against humanity? There had to be a higher standard for law above that of a particular nation. The court had to appeal to the natural law in order to determine that an objective moral code existed in order to prosecute the Nazis. The Natural Law is that which is laid down by God. The first principle of the natural law is to do good and avoid evil.

Legislators have no right to enact civil laws which conflict with the natural law, even if a majority of the people wishes them to do so. All authority in Church, State, and the family derives from God, as Our Lord pointed out to Pontius Pilate (22). Therefore a law is not a law if it conflicts with the natural law. The Natural Law is known by reason alone. Catholics are bound to the natural law, but also to divine law. Divine Law is revealed. It cannot be known by reason alone. So we as Catholics live under the rule of Christ the King. We must give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. We must give to God what belongs to God. We understand that a law which allows for something sinful does not allow us to commit that sin. The extermination of Jews under the Third Reich was legal in the 1930s and 40s. But it is not lawful according to the Divine Revealed Law of God. Therefore it was never lawful to exterminate Jews regardless of what German law dictated. Likewise, the extermination of unborn children is lawful in the United States, by means of abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, but it is not lawful according to the Natural law or the Divine law. Therefore, regardless of its “legality” according to the secular law, it is not lawful at all.
Our citizenship is in the United States and we should be patriotic and law-abiding citizens. But our citizenship is also in Heaven. We are responsible to be law-abiding citizens of heaven and its laws. Christ is our King. He is the King of all individuals and all nations. He will come to Judge the living and the dead. Let us live our lives now according to His laws. Let us be good citizens and help our nation to serve the common good according to Christ’s laws.  

Long Live Christ the King!

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