Clearing the Heart to See the Truth
We approach the end of time, at least liturgically, by celebrating the solemn festival of Christ the King. This marks the end. Only in the end do we see Christ revealed in all of His glory as King. Only now does His reign begin, unmasked and unhidden, previously existing only in the hearts of His disciples.
When confronted by Pilate upon His arrest, Jesus responds to Pilate’s interrogations regarding His own divine authority by stating, ‘Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.’ To which Pilate retorts, ‘what is truth?’ (cf. Jn 18: 37-38.)
The one precondition to receiving Christ as King is to desire and live in the truth. Pilate’s response reveals why people fail to accept Christ as their King: they don’t want the truth! Or maybe stated differently, they don’t want a truth when they can’t set the terms. Moderns will believe in the truth so long as it’s their truth, a truth either invented or agreed upon by them. Of course, this isn’t the truth at all but a confused counterfeit which is nothing other than what I want. This is precisely why Christ can only be revealed in full at the end, the termination of riches, status, power, and pleasure which tend to dominate human motivations. This is what fallen man calls the truth.
When opening the pages of the Bible, it’s true that we read God’s word to man. We read about God and learn who He is and how He acts in human history. This isn’t all we read, however. In reading the Bible we also discover us, the story of ourselves, the story of fallen humanity. The Bible is a fantastic study on the human psyche, with all of our flaws, fallen desires, and futile goals, and told with such irony. This is one of the features of salvation history not often talked about, its distinctive sense of irony!
For instance, in Numbers 16, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram revolt from the authority of Moses, claiming his authority for themselves. Then, Dathan and Abiram snapp at Moses’ summons to meet him, “We will not come up. Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us?” (Num 16:12-13.) They are not referring to the Promised Land, of course, but Egypt. The irony is that they were slaves in Egypt under Pharaoh, who ruled as a tyrant and abuser. They were starved there, beaten down, trodden under foot. By accusing Moses of assuming authority over them and by desiring to return to Egypt, they desired a return to slavery and tyranny, the very thing of which they accused Moses. Why did they want a return to Egypt? Because they were still spiritual slaves to the gods of Egypt, gods that represented honor, money, power, and pleasure. These gods abode no competition, and demand a slavish servitude very different from the service of the God of Moses. It is to these gods they desire a return, and the irony is that it is only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God revealed by Moses, who can save them from such a fate!
Elsewhere in the Bible, in 1 Samuel 8:4-22, the Elders of Israel approach Samuel and demand a king in order to be like the other nations. This rightly offends Samuel because he took that as a slight against his prophetic role as one of their judges. God corrects Samuel, “they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” (1 Sam 8:7.) He then directs Samuel to solemnly warn them regarding the ways that the king will rule over them, which Samuel does. He tells the Israelites that their king will demand land, servants, money, and sons and daughters from them. He will embroil them in wars, ruin their vineyards and orchards, steal their flocks and cattle, and make them his slaves. They paid no heed, but still demanded a king to be like the other nations. Everything Samuel predicted came to pass. This began the era of the kings as rulers of Israel, and with only a couple of exceptions, these kings were cruel, vain, lustful, and corrupt, eventually bringing the ruin of Israel as a nation.
Which brings us to Christ the King and why He is only revealed at the end of time. These examples (and there are many others found throughout this great tome of God-breathed insight into the drama of human psychology known as the Bible) provide us with all that we need to know as to why Christ is not yet the outward King of the world. Simply, we don’t want Him. We would rather claim some fanciful flirtation with freedom as our god, only to plunge ourselves even further into the abyss of sin and slavery.
Talk about irony. The perpetual irony. We want to be free from the One who offers us freedom. We claim freedom as our basis for choosing slavery.
We call into question the existence of truth, and at the same time rejecting Christ’s reign in our lives because we judge the claims on behalf of His Kingdom false. If there is no truth, then there is no reason to reject His Kingdom because it supposedly isn’t true. How strange!
And when we elect leaders precisely because they pander to our definitions of truth, or redefinitions, and because these leaders attempt to prove their power to constrain the Kingdom of Christ on earth by mandating that the Lord’s true followers violate their consciences, then we see the irony of the Bible story revealed yet again.
We want a king like ourselves to rule ourselves, knowing that the self-rule of the vicious always ends in tyranny. It reveals the selfish, immature, prideful and indulgent indolence of we fallen humans.
Viva Christo Rey! Long Live Christ the King! So exclaimed that great Jesuit martyr Blessed Miguel Pro whose feast we celebrate on November 23, just prior to the Feast of Christ the King this year. May this be ever on the lips of those who dwell in truth!