Is Christ Real to You?

Today is Epiphany. 

This feast celebrates the time when the wise men found the Christ child and offered him gifts in homage to his divinity. That is why we call it The Epiphany. Epiphany means the revelation of a divine being. In this case, it is the revelation of the divine being: God made human in the form of a baby.

The wise men, with their gifts and their homage, acknowledged this. Their action has become a symbol for more than just their own acknowledgment of Him. It also indicates what was to follow when all people, from all places, in all times, would do the same. In this sense, the wise men are you and me, the gentiles who no longer must stand outside the circle of the chosen people in their communion with God, but who, through the life and death of this baby, may enter in.

We also are chosen, along with the whole human race.

The Epiphany is the feast that memorializes the first understanding and acknowledgement of the divine being by people who were not Jews. It may also be the first time anyone besides probably Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, looked at Him and knew Who He was.

The question for us in this fracturing world of ours is do we know Who He is? Do we acknowledge Him? Are we aware that He is the divine being Who is our salvation and our only hope?

Homage for us is not gifts of precious items. Our gift is, as the Psalmist says, “a broken and contrite heart.” Our homage is fidelity and devotion to Him in the face of a world that is increasingly hostile to those who refuse to deny him by the things they do and say.

Is Christ real to you on this Epiphany Sunday? Will you stand for Him in the months ahead?

It is The Epiphany, the twelfth and last day of Christmas in this liturgical year. Will you live for Him the rest of this Year of Faith?

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Someone’s Coming, and We Need to Get Ready

Today is the first day of Advent. A time when we prepare to meet Our Lord.

I’ve read in books and seen on television a number of first person stories from people who were faced with imminent death. Many of them relate how, when the gun is pointed at their heads or the bear was chomping at their skulls, they asked God to forgive their sins and receive their souls. Then, almost invariably, they say they thought about their families.

Not once in any of these tales of survival in the face of death have I heard anyone say that they were worried about missing a meeting at their office or whether or not they would get their next promotion. Preparing to meet the Lord strips away all the little things that take up our days and leaves us with the stark reality of who we are in light of His justice and who we love in this world. When we are face to face with eternity, eternal things — love and the state of our souls in relation to God — are what matters.

One striking element of these narratives is that these people are, even in the face of their great peril, hopeful. They don’t just bemoan the ugliness of their sins as they compare to God’s justice, they ask, with certainty of His love, for forgiveness. They ask, with expectation that it will happen, for Him to receive their souls. They even ask Him to take care of the people they are going to leave behind.

The reason they have this confidence in God’s love, this hope of His forgiveness and that He will take them home when they die is that God become human in the form of a helpless little baby. That is what we are awaiting in Advent: The hope and the promise of the only One who can save us, the beginning of the end of death.

Advent is a door opening on our eternal salvation. It is the pathway that leads us to eternal life.

Someone’s coming. And we need to get ready.

Like everyone who knows that someone’s coming to their house, we need to sweep up the dust, straighten the pillows and stock the fridge with goodies. Only in this case, the house He is coming to is the real and eternal us: Our souls. Instead of a vacuum cleaner, we need confession.

All this is somewhat symbolic, of course. Jesus is already born. He has already suffered, died, been buried and rose again. The promise of Advent is reality for us already. But at the same time, this promise is also coming and on its way. We are battered, buffeted, chip, stained and pitted by the battles of our daily lives. We are embittered by our losses, defeated by our failures and enthralled with our victories.

We are, in short, too much of this world to be ready to receive our King. We need to pause and take stock of ourselves and we need to do it now. To paraphrase a soft drink commercial, we need that pause of humility and honest self-examination that refreshes. We must, if we are to be any use to Him at all, acknowledge our sins, look honestly at our failings and turn to Him for forgiveness and conversion of heart.

We are His instruments in this world. But before an instrument can be used, it must be cleaned, tuned and brought into good working order. After this election season and its many evils, after the struggles of our lives these past few months, we need this cleaning and tuning up.

We must prepare our eternal houses, our souls, to receive our Lord once again. That is what Advent is all about. If you would be His servant in this world, it is imperative that you not miss it.

Jesus Christ is King, the Lord of My Life: Slogan or Fact?

Jesus Christ is King.

That is the summation of our faith. The cross, which absorbs many people, including me, is a stepping stone to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of His Father.

Jesus is Lord of our lives. This usage comes from the days when one’s Lord was also his or her master; the ruling agent in a person’s life to whom fealty was sworn. By saying that Jesus is Lord, people put Him above earthly rulers, saying, in effect, that they were, as St Thomas More put it, “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

That understanding of what it really means when we say that Jesus is Lord of our lives has become watered down into a slogan. Given the serious times ahead for Christians, I think it is appropriate to go back to that original meaning and begin using it as a literal expression of fealty once again.

Christianity is always, everywhere, a counter-cultural force. No true Christian can live as God’s good servant, but the king’s first. We must always in everything put Jesus first. If we do that, it will pit us against the world, true. But it will also enable us to become the instruments of His change by which He converts the world.

Before we preach or teach it, we’ve got to start living it. Every day. In every way. Not for others or for the effect we will have on our society. Not even for ourselves. We must do it for Him.

That’s what it means that Christ is King, at least for us in this life. Of course, it has another, eternal meaning as well. Christ is not King of this world. He does not reign here except as He reigns in each of us and our lives.

Jesus Christ is King of all life, everywhere, and all eternity. His Kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven. We are His subjects in that Kingdom and his representatives of that Kingdom as we live in the here and now. We are also His subjects in His Kingdom throughout eternity. We, like Him, are eternal beings and our Kingdom is not of this earth.

This year, the feast of Christ the King fits neatly between Thanksgiving and Advent. It is the culmination of the liturgical year that is like a wheel, spinning through the Gospels every 365 days, teaching us the story of our salvation over and again.

Today, Jesus is Christ the King, the culmination of what we will look forward to in Advent.

The important thing for us is that we allow him to be King of our lives. Is Jesus your Lord in the sense which the phrase originally intended? Is He the sole arbiter of your actions, the object of your desires? Is he Lord of your life in deed and fact?

That is the challenge of the feast of Christ the King. This challenge is more urgent this year than others. Our faith is under attack from many directions. “Jesus is the Lord of my life” is no longer just a slogan. It is a question demanding an answer.

Is Jesus the Lord of your life in thought and deed? Do you follow Him before all others?

What answer do you give?

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.