Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Probably many of you have read various works by the great Anglican scholar, C. S. Lewis. Many have read his Chronicles of Narnia. Perhaps, C. S. Lewis’ best and most read work is his defense of the faith, Mere Christianity[1]

On his book, Lewis wrote that if we were to go to heaven we would experience a triple surprise, more than a triple surprise, and a triple shock. First, Lewis wrote, we would be surprised at the people in heaven. We would be shocked that there are people there we never would have thought would be there. The second surprise would be the shock at realizing there were people we expected to be in heaven who were not there. The third surprise would be that we would be astonished that we were there.

We Catholics may have only recently moved away from our rather arrogant and self centered view that we have exclusive rights to heaven. Sadly there are still some Christians who are ready to exclude others from Paradise. They hear about the goodness of a Mahatma Gandhi, but they can’t get themselves to believe that there might be a Hindu in heaven, let alone millions, billions, of good people who were never Christians. That would not follow the rules that the arrogant have made up for determining the Who’s Who in heaven. They seem to forget that those who reach out to others in charity, reach out to the very presence of Christ in others, even if, like the sheep in today’s Gospel, they do not recognize Christ. There will be many who have been saved by Christ who did not know Him by that name but who reached out to Him in others. There will be many in heaven whom we would not expect to be there.

In his wit, C. S. Lewis says that the third surprise we would have if we took stock of the souls in heaven would be learning that we are there. When we are honest with ourselves, we are well aware of the many times that we have turned from God. Our sins are very clear to us. What we are not so aware of is the extent of God’s mercy. He sees that as charity which we, though His grace, have developed as life style. He sees the ways that we have allowed Him to immerse us in Christianity to such an extent that we reach out to him without even recognizing His presence. He sees the ways that we do that which is only natural for us, the ways that Christianity has become a natural way of life for us. This continual grace in our lives pointing us to his presence in others is a great mercy. He allows us to replace with love that which we have destroyed with selfishness and sin. We live in His mercy.

During the last twelve months we have followed the life of Jesus from the prophesies of last Advent, through His birth, mission, death and resurrection. We have prayed over the message of His life as well as His teachings. Now, at the conclusion to the year we beg Him to help us recognize Him in our world and to acknowledge His presence by reaching out to Him on others[2].

We seek the mercy of His continual grace drawing us out of ourselves and into His presence in the needy of his Kingdom.

Christ is our King. May we be true members of his Kingdom ■

[1] Clive Staples Lewis (1898 -1963), commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends as Jack, was a medievalist, Christian apologist, literary critic, academic, radio broadcaster, and essayist. He is also known for his fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy. Lewis was a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings. Both authors were leading figures in the English faculty at Oxford University and in the informal Oxford literary group known as the Inklings. According to his memoir Surprised by Joy, Lewis had been baptized in the Church of Ireland at birth, but fell away from his faith during his adolescence. Owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, at about the age of 30, Lewis re-converted to Christianity, becoming "a very ordinary layman of the Church of England". His conversion had a profound effect on his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim. Later in his life he married the American writer Joy Gresham, who died of bone cancer four years later at the age of 45.

[2] Sunday 23rd November, 2008: Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King. Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want—Ps 22(23):1-3, 5-6. 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28. Matthew 25:31-46 [St Clement I; St Columban].

Ilustration: Bartolomé Bermejo, Christ Leading the Patriarchs to the Paradise (detail), c. 1480, Tempera on wood, Institute of Hispanic Art (Barcelona).

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris