We live under the Kingship of Christ. This is where the true character of the Catholic is to be found. We are subjects and disciples and must follow our King. What does mean for us though? If Christ is our King HOW are we to follow Him? How do we serve as His subjects? To fully understand we will start with a cursory examination of the Kingdom, move into a look at our King and end with what our role is as disciple and subject.
Where is the Kingdom of God? Is it merely what comes next? Our we living in expectation of something? Is the kingdom detached and separate from this life, waiting for us on the other side of death? No! "Do penance: For the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2) Christ is our sovereign NOW! His reign is current. We are meant to be his disciples and subjects now, in this life and establish His kingdom here. While it is true that we await the COMPLETION of the kingdom, we must continue in building the foundation here and now.
If we are to build this foundation now, we must look to our King for guidance and can take the greatest example of how to build the Kingdom by His crowning and ascent to the throne. What WAS the crowning moment of His life? Why did He descend from eternity to live and walk with us?
He came so that we could place the crown oh His brow. A crown of thorns woven by our sins. He came to ascend to His throne. A throne on high where he waits with open arms for us. The throne of His cross.
This is where we are to follow our King. We follow Him to the cross.
Today we see our King make His ascent. Today we see where we are to follow; how we are to live and what Our Lord wants of us. Today we also see what Justice and Mercy look like. The mercy of Christ does not come free. It is freely given by God (we receive mercy not because we are worthy of it but out of the Divine Goodness) but it comes at a high cost. The cost of mercy is the sacrifice of the King. The crucified King asks us to turn from our past, turn from sin, turn from ourselves and gaze at Him as He sits, crowned and on His thrown. We see His Face, bloodied and beaten. A face that shows us the cost of our sin. In this Face, we see what God demands through His Justice. Mercy is not free. The cost of Mercy is Justice. If we are to accept the sacrifice, we too must accept the cross.
"Come to me, all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light." (Matthew 11:28-30) This is what our discipleship is. We are to accept the cross of Christ. We go to Christ, not as we go to a teacher; we are not just to sit passively and listen. We are to live as subjects and have an active faith. We are to take up the yoke of Christ FIRST and through it we learn of Him. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)
We cannot follow what is absent. We cannot walk with what is dead. If Christ tells us to FOLLOW, He is asking for our active participation in His life. He is not sitting and waiting for us. He is marching. We are not walking towards Him but WITH Him. We must do this in the present; under His Kingship NOW!
How do we accomplish this? What does it ACTUALLY look like? It's very easy to nod our heads and say that we will take up the cross and follow but without practical steps we will be lost. To quote Archbishop Fulton Sheen from The Seven Words of Jesus and Mary, "In what does your life consist except in two things: 1) active duties; and 2) passive circumstances. The first is under your control; these do in God's name. The second is outside of your control; these submit to in God's name. Consider only the present; leave the past to God's justice, the future to His providence. Perfection of personality does not consist in knowing God's plan, but in submitting to it as it reveals itself in the circumstances of life."
We follow the known Will of God: the commandments and precepts of the Church form our foundation. Upon that foundation we build our vocation. This is made fruitful in the beatitudes and teaching of Christ. These are what we control. Beyond them, we accept the circumstances that come our way as showing us the Hand of God. Whether joyful, sorrowful or glorious, we know that God has placed them before us for our good. We find our joy in the circumstances God placed before us because He has put them there.
First, we form our lives by following the known Will of God. We have the commandments and the precepts of the Church. These set up our boundaries along the path of life. These boundaries are not placed arbitrarily and do not move. They are not traffic laws that may change by vote or by administrative change. They are not softened when no one is looking. The moral law is like the law of gravity. We are free to ignore it but that will not change the fact that it is. I can declare my independence from the law of gravity but as soon as I act into my declaration by stepping off a cliff, I will find that the law is very much intact. If the commandments form the boundaries of our moral life, the precepts of the Church form boundaries of our spiritual life. We are bound to hear mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation, to fast and to receive communion AT LEAST during Easter.
After we establish that these boundaries are put in place, we must live our vocations. Our vocation is how each of us fit into the Kingdom of God here on earth. As a husband and father, I must build a foundation for my family on the moral and spiritual life that stands in the tradition of the Church. I form my life around Her precepts and live in accordance with Her commandments. It is my duty to then bring lives into the world and to bring them up to also be good disciples and subjects (by the Grace of God they will be better disciples and subjects than I am). Everything in my life points to this duty. Work, leisure, material goods, all is to be put in service of this vocation.
In all things we look to our King for guidance and example. The beatitudes and teachings of Christ show us how we are to consider and treat our fellow disciples and subjects. We all walk together on this path. We all walk together with Christ. We walk together in charity and humility. We are to consider our fellow disciples before ourselves. We are to help each other along the path.
Through all of it we look to our King, crowned and enthroned upon the cross. This gives us the character of our lives. We live a life of sacrifice. Christ came so that we could place the crown on His brow. In return He asks us to wear the one He has made for us. He came to ascend to His throne. A throne on high where he waits with open arms for us. The throne of His cross. He asks us to carry our own cross that we may walk with Him to Golgotha and accept His embrace.
This is where we are to follow our King. We follow Him to the cross. We will all carry the cross given to us. Whether we acknowledge the cross or not we WILL carry it. Like the law of gravity our denial of it does not change its existence; our denial only makes it heavier. When we acknowledge that we carry the cross, when we call out for help in carrying it, the cross becomes light. We do not walk alone. Christ walks with us. We will shoulder the weight, but our King bears more.
His reign is now! His kingdom is at hand!