Our Lord Jesus Christ the King [B]
Daniel 7:13-14 + Revelation 1:5-8 + John 18:33-37
November 22, 2009
During my senior year of college, I decided to leave the seminary. I had had enough studying: books can only prepare a person so much for what lies ahead. What I needed—I told myself—was some practical experience serving in a parish. So I applied to a program run by a missionary order. While I wasn’t adventurous enough to head off for a foreign country, where I ended up was the next closest thing: I was assigned to serve at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in El Paso, Texas. The southern boundary of this parish just happens to be a river, called “el Río Grande”.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in El Paso is the second-oldest parish in what today is the United States. It was founded in the 1600’s by Franciscan missionaries, who served the needs of the Tigua Indians. The Tigua tribe still have tribal property on parish grounds, including a small museum which tells of their tribe’s history in this area.
There are a lot of different figures in the history of this mission parish: generals and peasants, revolutionaries and patriots, conquistadores and friars, troops, and families trying to make their way through the world in one piece. But the figure who looms largest (and longest) in the history of that small mission parish is not a person, but the Great River which sometimes flowed to the south of the mission, sometimes flowed to the north of the mission, and sometimes flowed right through the mission, destroying its buildings, and destroying the homes and dwellings of the people of the mission.
The power of a river is immense. This is part of nature’s power over us. Human engineers can try to dam up a river, but the more powerful the river is, the harder it is to dam up all that water. It’s a lot easier just to divert that water in a different direction. In our country, we can think of a river like the Río Grande, or the Mississippi. Most of us here have seen the Mississippi. So most of you can imagine attempting to dam up, or even divert the waters of the Mississippi. If you have a river that powerful, you can divert the water, but eventually, all that water is still going to go somewhere. That water will find another path, to get to its goal: in the case of the Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico.
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God’s grace is like a river. Because of our free will, each person does have the power to divert God’s grace, even as powerful as it is. But whenever we try to dam up or divert God’s grace, we are committing sin. But God’s grace is more powerful than any river in the natural world. God’s grace will flow regardless of what we choose to do. We only have the power to divert God’s grace away from our soul: not to stop it. If we do divert God’s grace away from our lives, by the choices we make, and the priorities that we set, then God’s grace will flow right around us. On the other hand, if we do allow God’s grace to flow through our lives, it will destroy any sin within us, and even destroy the power that death has to end our life forever.
Another way to think about this is to remember what happened “in the beginning.” When God created the heavens and the earth, including Adam and Eve, God set a plan in motion, In this plan, Adam and Eve could have been perfectly joyful. This plan, however, was derailed by the Original Sin of Adam and Eve: they chose to divert God’s grace from flowing through this world as He had planned.
So at that point, God had several choices: He could have said, “These human beings are just not working out: I’ll think I’ll just destroy the human race and start over.” Or God could have said, “It’s only the first generation of these human beings, and they’ve already messed up my plan for this world. I’ll just leave them to fend for themselves, and go create another intelligent race in some other galaxy.”
Or God could have said, what He did say. God in fact said: “I gave these human beings everything they needed to be perfectly joyful in this world, so as to be with me forever in the next. Unfortunately, these two human beings messed up my plan. But I love them, and will not leave them. So it’s time to offer them my ‘Plan B’.” And that ‘Plan B’ we see in what we call “salvation history”. God was willing to allow His grace to be diverted from His original plan. But He also was willing to channel that grace in another direction, so that it could still bring salvation to those whom He loves.
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Human history is the drama of God’s grace warring against human sinfulness. And right in the center is Jesus Christ at the top of Calvary. God’s grace is more powerful than any river in the natural world. God’s grace will flow, regardless of our choices and priorities. God’s grace will find a path, to reach its goal: which is nothing more or less than a return to God in Heaven. After all, even the water in the gulfs, and the oceans of the world, doesn’t stay there. It rises back to the heavens, from where—in time—it falls to the earth again, to nourish and give life to everything on the earth.
On this feast of Christ the King, we celebrate the victory of God’s plan for mankind, already won by Christ on the Cross. This final week of the Church year, at each Mass in our parish, Eucharist Prayer IV will be prayed, in which God’s plan of salvation history is prayed through.
In Christ, who reigns from the Cross, we have the King who wants us to share in His victory, by our entering into His life and imitating Him through His grace. God only offers you His grace: He does not force it upon you. God’s grace will flow around you, if you divert it from your life. But on the other hand, God’s grace is always there, ready to flood your life, to destroy only sin and the power of death. No matter how many times we divert God’s grace, God has another plan for allowing His grace to reach its goal, and for allowing each of us, living in that grace, to reach that goal and rest in that grace in Heaven for all eternity.