The image of Christ, King of the Universe, played a central role in my vocation story. I had sensed the call to quit my job, go to the seminary and begin my formation for priesthood in our religious congregation. The word that featured most in my prayer then was “My.” I constantly lamented to God about my life, my plans, my dream job that I believed I had then, my desires, my abilities and achievements, my family and their expectations, my comfort, my reputation, etc. It was an endless my this, my that during that period of discernment.
Then this question came to me during prayer: Is Jesus Christ truly my King and Lord? It was easy to say Yes to that question but my self-centered prayer and my fixation on all my “My’s” showed that Jesus was indeed very far from being my true king. If Jesus is indeed my King, He owns all things and I too belong to Him completely, together with all that I have and am. It was only when this truth went from my head to my heart that I had the freedom and courage to embark on my journey to the priesthood and religious life.
St. Paul reminded the Colossians why Christ is truly the King of the Universe. He is truly King first of all because of His divine nature, “For in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell.” He is King also because He owns all things, “For in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the invisible and the visible; all things were created through Him and for Him.” Lastly, He is King because He also freely chose to die for us on the cross to redeem us from the bondage of sin and death and bring us into His own kingdom, “He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.”
Because Christ, the King of the Universe by His very nature, the one who owns all things, has also freely chosen in love to be our Redeemer by the “blood of His cross,” and thus to make us His own, we too must freely choose Christ as our Sovereign king. This means that we must freely choose to belong to Him completely together with all that we have and are. We must freely choose to depend on Him for every need. We must freely choose to submit to Him and to please Him in all things by our loving obedience to Him. We must freely choose to do all in our power to extend His reign in our world.
What do we gain when we go beyond lip service and freely submit to Christ as our king? We gain the powerful freedom of God’s children, “To all those who received Him, who believed in His name, he gave power to become children of God.”(Jn 1:12) Freedom, God’s most gracious gift to us, is the power to choose God and His will for us always in our world and to do so with love. When Jesus Christ truly becomes our king, we share in the very freedom of Christ and the power that it bears.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we see this lack of inner freedom in our world today with disastrous consequences. I recently read the touching story of Lamar Odom, a two-time NBA champion, Olympic medalist, and reality TV star, who had been struggling many years with drug and pornography addiction. He had become so addicted to pornography that he lost the freedom to control himself. His story reminded me of what happens to us when we are so fixated on safeguarding and controlling our “my’s,” forgetting that Christ owns and guides it all.
Lamar’s fiancée, life coach Sabrina Parr, forced him to make a choice between her and his pornography addiction because she could not accept his out of control behavior anymore. Lamar chose to remain with his girlfriend and fight his addiction with her help. He had a choice to make and he wisely chose to love another human being instead of indulging in his addictions. This choice to truly love another person and to make God the center of his life set him on his journey of freedom. He said,
“God brought me back, hopefully for me to tell my testimony and help as many people I can. Just by sharing my story and telling them that they can overcome anything if they put God first and family first and I’m living proof of that.”
If a choice for another human person, a love that is always imperfect, can empower a person to set out on a determined course for inner freedom, how much more power for freedom will we have when we truly choose to belong to Christ, the King of Love. Jesus Christ is our king who wants us to be truly free as He is free, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to proclaim liberty to captives.”(Lk 4:18)
Sometimes we think that Jesus has come to take away or deprive of all that we hold dear. Then we lament about my this and my that. But in truth, Christ longs to free us from all that takes away or hinders our inner freedom and to “deliver us from the power of darkness.” Despite our ongoing struggle with sin now, we are already in the kingdom of Christ and enjoying the “glorious freedom of the children of God.” Yet we are called to grow in this freedom by freely choosing Christ as our king constantly over sin and selfishness.
St. Luke’s account of the Crucifixion shows us the power of Jesus’ freedom as He hangs on the cross. He cannot be tempted to prove Himself by coming down from the cross. They shouted at Him repeatedly, “He saved others, let Him save Himself if He is the chosen one, the Christ of God,” “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” But Jesus did not think of anything that belonged to Him but only focused on what leads to the Father’s glory and our eternal good.
Jesus on the cross received two prayer requests. The first one was from the thief who reviled Him, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” This thief only wanted relief from his suffering and he did not want to belong to Christ as King at all. We make such prayer requests too when we beg Jesus to save us from our sufferings and trials in this life but we are not ready to belong to Him as our King. Notice that Jesus does not give any answer to such prayer from the thief or from us.
The second request was from the good thief, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This thief was not just looking for relief from his suffering but he was actually longing to remain with Christ in His kingdom. Jesus, in the throes of death, replied to this prayer with painful gasps, “Amen, today you will be with me in paradise.” He thus set this thief free from both temporal suffering and eternal death.
The King of Kings freely offers us Himself today in this Eucharist. He freely shed His blood that we belong to Him. He also asks us to make a free choice: Are we going to freely belong to Him as our King or are we going to continue pretending to be our own kings?
Jesus owns all things, including us and all that we have and are; but as King of love, He will never force us to submit to His kingship. He will only continue to invite us to abandon our self-centered thinking, our constant my this, my that, etc. What would we gain by freely accepting to belong to Him as our sovereign king? We will surely participate in that powerful freedom of Christ that conquers all things, even sin and death itself.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!