Photo by Bianca Castillo on Unsplash
The world is not a very comfortable place right now.
Now, it could certainly be worse (although I don’t usually find that reminder too terribly comforting); but it has also definitely been better. To say that the difficulties, tragedies, injustices, and uncertainties of this year have been utterly overwhelming would probably be a gross understatement for most of us.
But if we are uncomfortable in the world, that is okay. More than okay—we’re not actually supposed to be too comfortable here.
Not Home Yet
That isn’t to say that God doesn’t want us to be happy and enjoy the good things of this life. It doesn’t make our suffering any less real. Nor does it give us any excuse for not striving to care for the needs and alleviate the suffering of those around us. But we are not made for this world, and it cannot satisfy us—not even if COVID disappeared, the entire country unanimously elected a perfect president, and all five of my children slept through the night on the same night.
Nothing in this world can satisfy us because
“The world is thy ship, not thy home.”—St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Or, as St. Augustine says, “Evils abound in the world, in order that the world may not engage our love.” In other words, one of the reasons God permits evil is so that we won’t mistake the journey for our final destination.
We can fall into the dark depths of discouragement—perhaps even despair—when we lose sight of the reality that this world is a means to an End. However, the sufferings of this year should strip us of any illusion that we are at home in this world. We desperately need to nourish hope in our hearts—that supernatural virtue by which we firmly desire heaven as our true happiness and trust in God’s promise and grace to get us there (CCC 1817–1821). As we reach the end of one liturgical year and prepare to enter into a new one, we have a perfect opportunity to do just that.
Christ the King
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This is not just some nice spiritual idea—this is a statement about reality at its deepest level. Christ is King, and one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess him Lord (see Philippians 2:10–11). This feast is an opportunity for us to renew our loving fidelity to our King, to pray ever more fervently the words he taught us: thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth—in my heart—as it is in heaven.
Acclaiming Christ as King of the Universe—and therefore King of every nook and cranny of our hearts and lives—does not mean we are putting him in charge and turning over authority to him. Rather, it means that we are acknowledging the reality that he already is sovereign and are willingly submitting to his benevolent reign—we are choosing to live in the real world. This is true wisdom, to see things as they really are and to act accordingly: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).
It is this allegiance to Christ the King—not merely lip-service or head-knowledge, but a fidelity that transforms our whole being—that will keep us firm in hope as we navigate the stormy seas of this life. By the help of his grace and the guidance of his example, we will be able to steer straight between the two perilous extremes of being too attached to this world and giving up on it entirely. Whole-hearted devotion to Christ our King will keep us working diligently to meet both the material and spiritual needs of our fellow sojourners (as we are exhorted to do in this Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew 25:31–46) while never forgetting that God alone will give us rest, and as he is our shepherd, there is nothing we shall want (as we hear in Sunday’s First Reading, Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17, and Responsorial Psalm, Psalm 23).
Hope for the Journey
We can have complete confidence in God’s promise to bring us safely through this world to his rest in Heaven because he is not only our all-powerful King, but also our all-loving and all-good Redeemer. Christ the King reigns from the throne of the Cross. He has proven his love in pouring out his life for us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8), and he has demonstrated his power in taking up his life again in the Resurrection (John 10:18).
This is yet another reason why we should not expect to be comfortable in this world. “The world knew him not” (John 1:10) and “no servant is greater than his master” (John 15:18–20). If the world rejected and persecuted him, then we know to expect that same treatment—if we follow him faithfully (Matthew 5:10–12). But our hope is in his Resurrection. He has conquered sin and death, and if we die with him, we shall also reign with him (2 Timothy 2:11–12). In him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).
And so, with eyes and hearts fixed firmly on heaven, let us heed the words of St. Augustine and cling with love and obedience to Our King:
“Let us not find fault with the Master of the household; for He is loving to us. He bears us, and not we him. He knows how to govern what He made; do what He has bidden, and hope for what He has promised.”