On this Sunday before Election Day, we celebrate the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time in the new calendar. But in the traditional calendar, which is used for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (the Traditional Latin Mass), today is the Feast of Christ the King.
This is no coincidence. One of the chief dangers of the modern world, in my opinion, is the excessive emphasis on politics and the government as the focus of all our attention, as if they are the answer to all our problems and aspirations. This can turn into a dangerous form of idolatry — “statolatry”, if you will.
The Feast of Christ the King is a healthy reminder to us Christians that we cannot fall into this way of thinking. Pope Benedict, in his book Church, Ecumenism and Politics, had this to say about the early Christians, who faced the “statolatry” of Rome, but the situation in many ways equally applies to our times:
The state is not the whole of human existence and does not encompass all human hope. Man and what he hopes for extend beyond the framework of the state and beyond the sphere of political action. This is true not only for a state like Babylon, but for every state. The state is not the totality; this unburdens the politician and at the same time opens up for him the path of reasonable politics. The Roman state was wrong and anti-Christian precisely because it wanted to be the totality of human possibilities and hopes. A state that makes such claims cannot fulfill its promises; it thereby falsifies and diminishes man. Through the totalitarian lie it becomes demonic and tyrannical.
The world-view of Christians instead holds up authentic hope for man, and allows us to be authentically human and to live in a good way in this world. As Pope Benedict says:
The Christian faith destroyed the myth of the divine state, the myth of the earthly paradise or utopian state and of a society without rule. In its place it put the objectivity of reason… True human objectivity involves humanity, and humanity involves God. True human reason involves morality, which lives on God’s commandments. This morality is not a private matter; it has public significance. Without the good of being good and of good action, there can be no good politics. What the persecuted Church prescribed for Christians as the core of their political ethos must also be the core of an active Christian politics: only where good is done and is recognized as good can people live together well in a thriving community. Demonstrating the practical importance of the moral dimension, the dimension of God’s commandments — publicly as well — must be the center of responsible political action.
And so, as we Americans are about to head to the polls at the end of a seemingly all-consuming political campaign, the traditional liturgical calendar reminds us of the larger picture. We cannot find our ultimate hope and fulfillment in politics, in who rules us, or what laws are passed.
The real ruler of the world and our lives is not the temporary office holder who happens to inhabit the White House or the Governor’s mansion, a seat in the Senate or the House, or any other position of secular power.
The real ruler of our world is Christ the King, and we are his subjects. It is in Him, and only Him, in whom we can find authentic hope and fulfillment.
Viva Cristo Rey!