by Deacon Michael Bickerstaff | The transcendentals are really one, as God is one. They cannot be separated. If what we see as beautiful is not good, it is not truly beautiful. If what we see as good is not true, it is not goodness. If what we believe to be true is not good and beautiful, it is neither true nor of God. (images: Pixabay)
Today is the final Sunday on the Church’s annual liturgical calendar. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King—King of the Universe.
Not only is Jesus Christ the Messiah and our Savior, not only is he our brother and our friend, Jesus Christ is our Lord and King. To Him we owe our first allegiance and obedience.
This celebration is a recent addition to the liturgical calendar, added in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. In 1969, the celebration was elevated to the highest liturgical rank as a solemnity and moved to the last Sunday of the liturgical year.
Pope Pius XI wrote the encyclical Quas Primas as a response to the growing nationalism and secularism of the time. This was a time that witnessed the collapse of old powers and orders and the spread of a fascism, communism and socialism. This new order rejected the authority of Christ and His Church over the lives of men, women and the States.
He wrote in the opening paragraph of his enclyclical:
“We remember saying that these 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.”
Here, in the twenty-first century, we also live in a time when truth and the virtue of religion is questioned and challenged. In our time, as was the case in 1925, religious liberty and the freedom to exercise one’s conscience is threatened by our secular governments and the culture which we have nurtured. The zeitgeist approach to government and the public square demands that the practice of one’s faith be left safely within the walls of one’s house of worship.
In our Gospel passage, we heard the exchange between Pilate and Jesus regarding the Lord’s kingship. Here’s the last verse again.
“So Pilate said to him, ‘Then you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’” (John 18:37)
In the very next verse, Pilate asks his famous question, “What is truth?” And it is a question that continues to be asked today. The answer was right in front of Pilate. The answer was, is and will always be the Person and nature of Jesus.
Truth is defined by Being. That Being is God. The Word of God—Truth Himself—stood before Pilate. And the word of God says that if we belong to the truth we will listen to His voice.
“God is…” that is the greatest truth. So it is God, not us, who defines truth. And because truth is of God, it is good because God is good. Goodness, being true and of God is therefore beautiful. We call this the ontological order of the Transcendentals.
However, we human creatures follow these in a reverse, psychological order. We are attracted to beauty, which leads us to goodness. In embracing the good, we are led to what is true and therefore to God Himself.
But, in our fallen condition, even while in a state of grace, it is possible for our passions and emotions to mislead us. We might incorrectly perceive something to be beautiful and therefore think of it as good and true when it is none of those things.
The transcendentals are really one, as God is one. They cannot be separated. If what we see as beautiful is not good, it is not truly beautiful. If what we see as good is not true, it is not goodness. If what we believe to be true is not good and beautiful, it is neither true nor of God.
It should be obvious to all that our world today is in great peril and not just from terrorist. Pope Francis speaks of this danger,
“There is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the tyranny of relativism, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.”
So, with all the sin, confusion and error in the world and the consequent violence and lack of peace, where are we to turn to find our way? Again we are to listen to the voice of our King, Jesus Christ.
Pope Pius XI teaches that:
- Jesus is the lawgiver, to whom obedience is due.
- His kingdom is not of this world; it is concerned with spiritual things and we enter it through faith and baptism.
- Jesus purchased us, His Church, at a great price with His blood; He continues to offer Himself as priest on our behalf.
Jesus is not just Lord and King of only Catholics; He is the King of all creation. It would be a mistake to think that His commands do not extend to the public, civil life.
Jesus is unlike earthly kings. His Kingdom and His Kingship will never falter or end. His is a Kingdom where the King serves as well as rules. He is a King who shares His three-fold office of priest, prophet and king with those He calls His brothers and sisters.
We are not a people without hope. There is no need for us to despair or be afraid. Jesus is a King who is faithful to us and present to us.
He is present to us today in this Holy Mass in His once for all sacrifice—on Calvary, before the Father in Heaven—and in His Word and His Blessed Sacrament.
He is the first-born of the dead, whose enthronement as King on the Cross defeated death. As He rose again, so shall we who love Him and keep His commands rise to new life. He has given us the Church as our teacher and mother. He came to the Jews first, but not just them He also came to all the nations. He is King of us all.
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.’”
To Him be all glory and honor, amen.
Into the deep…
Deacon Michael Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life.™ A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.
He is also the Founder and President of Virtue@Work, where he provides Executive and Personal Coaching, Mentoring and Organizational Consulting. Deacon Mike has 30+ years management consulting experience in senior executive leadership positions providing organizational planning and implementation services with a focus on human resource strategy and tax qualified retirement plan design, administration and compliance.