There were pictures circulating recently on social media showing the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, partying with a large group of people packed into in an enclosed space in a prestigious restaurant without any of them wearing the mandatory face masks. This is clearly a gross violation of his own strict prohibition against such public gatherings. This is the same governor who enforces draconian policies with huge fines for violators, all in the name of checking the spread of Covid-19. This is the same governor who would not allow more than a handful at church on Sunday and who even prohibited singing and chanting in church services.
He is clearly another example of typical worldly rulers. They wantonly violate their own laws and rules. They live above the means of those whom they govern. They are completely disconnected from the experiences of their subjects. They are totally detached from the burdens and cares of their own people. While they live in luxury and party heavily, they do not care about what the common people are experiencing because of their policies and decisions.
Sadly, because of our many negative experiences, we Christians can easily project this dismal attitude of our world leaders into Jesus Christ. We easily claim Christ as our king but we can see Him as a strict and inconsiderate lawgiver who imposes laws and commandments at whim. We can see Him as one who cannot wait to punish us for our sins or failings. We can often perceive Him as completely separated from us, up there in heaven, or at the most, hiding in our tabernacles in church, completely detached from us and uncaring about our everyday life experiences.
This is why when Pontus Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king, He replied by vehemently dissociating Himself from any idea of a worldly king, “My kingdom is not of this world.”(Jn 18:36) He is singularly unique and transcendent over all earthly kings firstly because of who He is – the eternal Son of God, truly the second person of the Blessed Trinity.
He is also a unique king because of what He has done for us out of His love. He freely chose to unite Himself inseparably with His us by taking on our human nature so that He could share in all of our human experiences, and by so doing, communicate His own life and love to us. Christ the king is never aloof or disconnected from us as the Second Vatican Council affirmed:
For by His Incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin (Gaudium et Spes, 22)
There is thus no human experience that is foreign to Jesus, except sin itself. There is also no human experience that He cannot use to communicate to us a deeper share in His own life and love. By bearing in Himself what is traditionally called the “common nature assumed,” Jesus Christ does not only share in our experiences but also communicates to us through those experiences “the first-fruits of the Spirit.” (Rom 8:23) This Spirit makes it possible for us to live and love like Christ Jesus Himself and fulfill His command to “love one another as He has loved us.”(Jn 13:34)
One of the most painful, dreaded, and mysterious human experience is death, our death and the death of our loved ones. But even Christ has experienced this death already in its most painful, shameful, and unjust form of the Crucifixion and has brought us His own life through such a death, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.” If Jesus Christ can give us life through sharing in our own experience of death, there is no single human experience, no matter how painful and shameful, that He cannot share in and also use as a means to communicate to us His own way of loving and living.
Jesus has united Himself with every single person in a mysterious way because, being a divine person, His human nature embraces all humanity and all human experiences. This is why He can rightly say to us, “Whatever you do for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” He shares in all our experiences – hunger, thirst, alienation, sickness, nakedness, etc. – and uses them all as channels of His love and life. The righteous are those who live with Christ as King and thus share in His love by letting Him into their experiences. The reprobates are those who succumb to selfishness because they refuse to let Christ be their king through their experiences.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not have control over many of our live events and experiences. We may have personal persistent struggles with sin and addictions. Our health may deteriorate and our finances may dwindle. Loved ones may betray us. Church leaders may betray our trust in their scandalous behavior and teaching. Our civil leaders may be incompetent, uncaring, and insensitive to our needs.
But these experiences and those of others, painful and mysterious as they may be, do not mean that we have been abandoned by Christ the King. They also should not and cannot separate us from Jesus in any way because, by the ongoing Incarnation, we are so united with Him that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”(Rom 8:39)
Let us remember that we have a King, Jesus Christ, who is unlike any worldly ruler. He is never aloof or detached from us because He retains our human nature even in heavenly glory. Beginning with the Eucharist where He makes His humanity perpetually present to us, He is always drawing nearer and nearer to us in and through those experiences so that we too can live and love God and neighbors like He did no matter what we are experiencing. He who wept with Mary and Martha is the same one who renewed their faith in Him by raising Lazarus from the dead. In all that we experience, we too can love, serve, forgive, pray, endure, obey, etc. just like He did if we allow Him reign in us.
All He asks of us is that we allow Him to reign in us through all our experiences. We can do this by being rooted in His loving presence in and through all our experiences. We cannot recognize His presence in other persons and life’s events when we do not recognize His loving presence with us first. We are then to share with Him all these experiences and beg Him to let us sense His presence in us through them all. We remain united in Him and never think of Him as just being “up there” in heaven or “over there” in the tabernacles of our churches, completely disconnected from us.
Lastly, let us remain open to His grace and love that He is offering us in those experiences so that we too live and love God and neighbor by our actions until we hear Christ the King say to us, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!