Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
We come to the last Sunday of the liturgical year. We celebrate the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the universe. As we know, this feast was instituted by the Pope in the 20th century to respond to the totalitarianisms that so much harm have done and continue to do in the world.
In the face of ideologies that claimed and still claim to provide a comprehensive answer to every issue facing humanity and end up sowing the seeds of death, war, hatred and destruction, the Church proposes Jesus Christ as the Lord of history, who governs the universe with a strong hand and arm outstretched.
In the face of continued attempts by some to exclude the religious dimension from public life and confine it to the private domain, this feast reminds us that the God of Israel, incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ, has power and sovereignty over Pharaoh too.
God rules the entire universe. Divine providence orders everything for the good of souls. Even when God’s will allows that men act in ways contrary to goodness, respecting their freedom, the actions of men that may hinder the progress of the Kingdom of God will never prevent it from advancing in human history.
It is obvious that human history is the consequence of an encounter of two freedoms, that of God and that of men. Notwithstanding His scrupulous respect for our freedom, which is always limited and finite because it is human, God rules the entire universe.
Jesus Christ is God. His government is real, effective, but it is not based on ostentatious displays of power, trampling his adversaries underfoot or crushing human freedom. On the contrary, his power is made manifest in weakness, in his respect for human freedom, in his generous self-emptying, in his own submission to death, in his becoming poor to enrich us. He does not need to boast because in addition to the power of God, he has personal authority.
It is fairly common to find a distinction between authority and power in textbooks of Organizational Behavior or leadership manuals. It is said that authority emanates from the person, whereas power is the capacity to act that somebody may possess.
Jesus Christ has power and authority in an eminent degree.
On many occasions people who listen to the Lord are filled with wonder because unlike other teachers, he speaks with authority. There is something in his person that attracts people, namely his love, his respect towards others, even to those who persecute him.
The Risen Lord at the time of the missionary send-off of the disciples will tell them that he has been given all power. Indeed, his resurrection, manifests he has power.
The Lord’s public ministry reveals his authority, his resurrection reveals his power.
The way he lives, and the content of his message build up his authority. He preaches the salvation of men, heals the sick, comforts those who suffer, forgives sinners, invites to follow, draws near to the marginalized, offers his life as ransom for those who are captive under the power of death. He never imposes. He always invites. He does not need to overwhelm because he has all the power. He is God.
In the face of rejection, he responds with even greater love: the cross, the forerunner to his total, radical and definitive victory over sin and death. His resurrection is an admirable display of his sovereignty.
Ideologies, especially those dominating in the 20th and 21st centuries seek to dominate, subjugate, gain adepts, occupy positions of power. The Lord, on the other hand, comes to liberate, to heal, to create spaces for us to live a fuller life.
He invites us to discipleship. He does not invite us to affiliation. We, Christians, are not militants in a political party, we are disciples. We do not promote a partisan ideology. We announce the coming of the Kingdom of God.
The Church is a historical, hierarchical, visible reality, it is not a structure of power competing with worldly powers, it is the people of God, yeast, leaven whose mission is to transform reality, making Christ present in every place.
The social commitment of Christians is indispensable. It is an integral part of our being disciples, yet it is not ideological, it is based on the Gospel. We do not promote a political program, we announce a person, Jesus Christ, the Lord of history.
On November 23, we celebrate the memorial of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, a Mexican Jesuit who was executed during religious persecution in that country at the onset of the 20th century. His martyrdom was documented in a picture showing him with his arms opened in the form of a cross. His executioners thought that they were going to capture the moment when he would breakdown and turn away from Christ. The priest, however, opened his arms and shouted: Viva Cristo Rey!
His was not a rallying cry of a political party but an act of faith. Even though he was losing his life on account of his fidelity to the Lord, he entrusted himself confidently to the One who has power even over death.
During his visit to Mexico, Pope Francis asked the Jesuits to pray for the canonization of Father Pro. Let us ask the Lord to glorify his servant Miguel Agustin and to give us the grace we need to follow him as faithful disciples with the same joy characteristic of Father Pro.
Fr. Roberto M. Cid