Recently, Saint Paul hit me with an arrow straight to the heart. This arrow still lodged deep inside, keeps nagging me with the question….Is Jesus the King of my heart?
What Saint Paul said in Philippians 3:18-20 is this: “For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The sting of this arow raised many questions. When my mind wanders during prayer to what snacks might be in the kitchen or as I walk over to the donuts a kind parishioner dropped off, am I making my stomach my god? When I reminisce about a wild night out with friends back in college, do I make my glory my shame? If I am distracted by what color to paint the house, where to go for dinner, or whether to adjust my 401-K contributions, is my mind just occupied with earthly things? Saint Paul, are you telling me that my end is destruction? Are you telling me I conduct myself as an enemy of the cross? What’s a girl to do?
Mother Church (Don’t you love how the Church cares for us like a mother?) knows we struggle with these things and in her wisdom, she helps us to remain citizens of heaven and of the Kingdom of God. The last Sunday of our liturgical year, when we celebrate the feast commonly known as Christ the King (officially named The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe), Mama Church helps us stay on the right track. In case it’s been a while since you looked at one of those circular, colorful liturgical calendars in Catholic grade school or CCD, the Church begins a new year on the first Sunday of Advent, not on January 1st. As we end our liturgical year, the readings at Mass get ever more intense and ever more concerned with reaching our ultimate and permanent citizenship in Heaven.
All the talk of forgotten oil, being locked out of a wedding banquet, and wailing and grinding of teeth can make us fear we might never measure up to what Saint Paul writes about. What this feast reminds us of is who is in charge and that whatever earthly powers might ask of us, Christ is always the true king. Let’s face it, our modern culture doesn’t cheer us on for submitting our personal, political, or eternal lives to Christ. Our modern culture for that matter, doesn’t cheer us on for submitting to anything, because submission and obedience are viewed as failure and weakness. Mama Church knows what we’re up against, so she gives us this feast to reinforce for us who reigns.
Pope Pius XI instituted this feast almost one hundred years ago in the aftermath of the First World War, in a time when secularization, atheism, and communism were on the rise. Does any of this sound familiar in 2020 too? In his encyclical (that’s a fancy word for a letter from the pope), Quas Primas, he said that "...manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.”
While the world was increasingly telling Catholics to keep their religion to themselves and give their allegiance to a secular government, Pope Pius XI said: “If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth;……He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things and cleave to him alone.” (Quas Primas)
How do I yank that arrow Saint Paul hit me without of my heart? I seat Jesus on the throne of my heart. I worship and follow Him above any law, nation, or political party. I submit in obedience to His will, His plan for my life, and His sovereignty. Will it make the snacks in the kitchen or the donuts less tempting? No! Will I have to ask for God’s help to combat the vices and passions that I still struggle with? Yes! But, as a daughter of God, with Him on the throne, I know I’m His princess and I know my end is not destruction when I make Jesus the true King of my heart.
Written by: Birgitt Hacker