The greater the effort (sacrifice)…the sweeter the reward
When we celebrate Christ the King, we are invited to reflect deeply on whether God is external to us (someone we HAVE TO obey), or whether
we have made God internal for us (someone we WANT TO obey)?
What do I mean? If God is internal in our lives, it is reflected in how we act towards those we live with and those we meet – whether they are rich or poor!
If God is external, then our prayers/religious practices are like a duty rather than a joy/desire. What Christ has done for us. And St Paul summarises it very well:
Because … he has taken us out of the power of darkness
and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves,
and in him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.
The Kingdom St Paul talks about is not so much a future destination – although that was his early understanding. By the time St Paul’s life came to an end, he understood that we are able to enter the Kingdom here and now: ie. a Kingdom within a kingdom.
How do we ENTER this Kingdom? I think we are all tired of being told to:
tell the truth, don’t kill anyone and follow all the moral teachings of God and the Church.
Following all the Rules helps us avoid trouble, and is very important;
but by itself, it doesn’t bring meaning and purpose into our lives.
The Rules are like the ropes on a boxing ring. They create a known boundary that is a little bit flexible, but which always bounces us back into the boxing ring to face another person.
Deep meaning and purpose in our lives ONLY comes through the sacrifices we make for others. When we are reluctant to make sacrifices for others, we will be constantly seeking new pleasures to distract us from the emptiness we feel deep in our hearts =absence of the Kingdom.
Which is why, in general, mums and dads usually have a lot of meaning and joy in their lives: as they sacrifice many times a day, giving life to their children and each other, they unconsciously feel necessary and important, while also tasting the reward of seeing their family grow up and succeed in many things.
This is not to say, they are always happy! But happiness is IN the head, while joy is IN the heart. If the heart is joyful, the head will eventually follow.
We celebrate, I believe, the Feast of Christ the King, not because Christ is powerful and provides protection for us (which is true), but because of the example Christ gave to us: the joy of the resurrection was only possible through the suffering and sacrifice of the Cross.
The joy of the Resurrection for a parent is something that comes after “hard labour”. As my Uncle said one day: being a parent is character building for the child and the parent!
But the joy that comes is beyond value in material terms: it’s far more than pleasure can give us. As we look to the future, it’s important that we also enjoy the present: which was the other core message of Jesus Christ. Throughout all His short life, he regularly expressed joy, despite all the criticism, rejection and frustration with the Disciples, and the ultimate destiny He had.
The Church today is struggling because we need good Saints for today, not the past Saints. We need, especially, religious and priests who live what we preach, and are close to the people. In particular, that they are more giving and less demanding.
We need Christians, especially good parents, who live more for their children than themselves; and generally reflect the Gospel values: compassion, forgiveness, respect and charity for all.
Today I highlight the request of the “good” criminal who acknowledged the innocence of Jesus, and then his own guilt, before asking to be remembered in the Kingdom.
During our youthful years, we face many temptations and can make many mistakes due to peer-pressure, ignorance, bad example and simply being over-powered by our desires.
So, today, I especially encourage our young people to know the power of honesty in your life and the readiness of God to forgive us when we ask. You can start again.
God has created a Kingdom for us, but God never forces us to enter: we have to make the right moves, make the right sacrifices, in order to experience true joy, and true meaning in our lives.
Mistakes around drugs, sex, material things, and excluding others, do not have to punish us forever. We are gently invited, today, to acknowledge our guilt and ask for pardon. Gratitude to God is not in songs, but in our commitment to do good for others: by word & action.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI