Christ the King. Today is the last Sunday of the Catholic liturgical year, which ends with the celebration of the feast of Christ the King of the Universe.
Jesus told us His “kingdom is not of this world.” He was not establishing a territorial nation with rules enforced by imprisonment or armies. But He did not say or mean that His kingdom would “have nothing to do with the world.” Rather His kingdom, and kingship, would reign above the world and in men’s hearts, minds and souls, and so transform the world.
Because of this, the Church has always recognized a legitimate understanding of the “separation of Church and state.” It is true that some nations have been, or still are, officially “Catholic” nations. Some say this blurs the lines of that separation. But it all depends on what you mean by “separation.” If you mean, on the one hand, that the Church should not dictate the particular laws of civil society, while still having a strong influence on those laws, especially in promoting true morality, justice, virtue and charity, and on the other hand, that civil leaders and laws should not interfere in the spiritual, moral life or conscience of the Church and its members, then you have something approaching the historic Catholic understanding of separation.
This understanding is entirely compatible (though not identical) with the type of “separation” the American founders established for our nation, enshrined in the first amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The principle effect of this clause is to guarantee that the government can’t make laws that unnecessarily impinge on the rights of religions or churches, or interfere with people practicing their religion freely. There is nothing here, as some people claim, that denies the right of religion, Churches, and/or religious people to influence civil government and laws. In fact, the founding fathers believed that religion had an essential role in guiding the nation and its laws. As George Washington wrote: “Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports…. [R]eason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Nowadays Islamic extremists (“Islamists”) are using despicable violence against the innocent to try to establish a world-wide theocracy in which the state and “church” (so to speak) are one, with no separation at all. We see something similar in Iran, where the Supreme Leader is the highest ranking Muslim cleric.
The Catholic Church has never sought to do this. It simply believes that it has a critical role in influencing public policy, and that its individual members have a right to live according to their faith-formed consciences and, especially through the right of free speech and the right to vote, to enact laws consistent with their understanding of right and wrong, good and evil.
Today, on the feast of Christ the King, we remember this, that while His Kingdom is not of this world, it reigns in the hearts and minds of all Christians. So that while Christ does not seek to establish His own worldly kingdom or nation, He does call all peoples living in the worldly kingdoms and nations to follow Him so as to live in true justice and virtue.
Does Christ the King reign in our hearts—or does something else rule there? And do we allow our King to rule the way we live in the worldly kingdoms, in both our day to day life with family, friends and customers, as well as in the “public square” of public speech and civil laws?
Thanksgiving. This Thursday is, of course, Thanksgiving Day. This is not a religious holiday, but it does clearly illustrate how the sense of the importance of religion is deeply rooted in our national self-understanding. As President George Washington wrote in establishing the first Thanksgiving Day in 1789:
“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.”
This week, remember Who you are giving thanks to. It’s fine to thank your family and friends for all their kindnesses, but in the end it is “Almighty God”—Christ the King—to Whom we owe our unending thanks. May He continue to bless us, and our beloved nation.
And what better way to begin Thanksgiving Day than by coming to our 10am Mass? After all, Eucharistic comes from the Greek word eukharistia, which means thanksgiving. I hope to see you there.
Impeachment Hearings. And as we give thanks to God, I also encourage you to pray that He bless our Congress and President, especially during the impeachment process currently taking place. I don’t want to share my personal opinions on this, but I do think we all need to beg God to guide our leaders at this difficult time, and pray especially that His will be done.
Advent. Next week we begin the season of Advent, beginning our new Catholic year with preparation for Christmas. I realize Advent coincides with the very hectic celebration of the worldly and commercial “Holiday Season,” but please don’t let that lead you to forget that Advent belongs to Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, Who was born in a lowly manger. To help in this regard the parish will offer many opportunities to help us keep focused on our spiritual preparation for Christmas. To this end, in this week you’ll find our annual insert with the full schedule of Advent and Christmas events. Please look this over carefully, mark your calendars, and keep it in a prominent place to remind you of parish opportunities to make this truly a holy season.
Fr. Jordan Willard. Please join us today (Sunday) after the 12:15 Mass for a welcome reception in the Parish Hall for our new Parochial Vicar, Fr. Jordan Willard. All are invited.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles