By VERY REV. ALEXIS M. LEPICIER, O.S.M. Consultor of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation, etc.
JESUS CHRIST is true King and Sovereign of mankind. As such He was announced by the prophets; as such His Father made Him known to the Magi; as such He was venerated by the multitude; such, too, He openly declared Himself to be, and on this account was made the object of accusations and persecutions which led Him to the infamous death of the cross. Together with this, the Roman Governor formally proclaimed Him King of the Jews, leaving to the whole world, in the writing set over the cross, the everlasting record of this truth as a witness to the fact that Jesus Christ died a martyr to the assertion of His own regal dignity. Thus were the Scriptures marvelously fulfilled, which announced the coming of the Messias as Prince of Peace and Father of the world to come." (Is. IX, 6.)
But here a doubt arises. If Jesus Christ is King, how was it that, when the people wanted to make Him king, He declined the honor? In fact, we read that after the multitude whom He fed in the desert had proclaimed Him to be the great Prophet who was to come into the world, and came forward seeking to make Him king, He fled from their hands and retired into the mountains to pray. (John IV, 15. Cf. Matth. XIV, 23.) This doubt will give us occasion to ponder again over the words spoken by Jesus about the real nature of His kingdom, and so to enter more deeply into the mystery of His royal dignity.
When Pilate asked Jesus, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" the Saviour replied, so that there could be no doubt of the matter, that He was King indeed, (John XVIII, 33-37.) first stating, how ever, that this kingdom of His (which had been described and promised by the prophets) was not, as the Jews believed, a temporal, earthly and transient kingdom, and had no likeness to the kingdoms of the earth. "My kingdom" said Jesus, "is not of this world" (John XVIII, 36.)
And of this He gave a conclusive proof. If My kingdom were of this world, I would have certainly made numerous followers and powerful friends for Myself, who would take My defence and protect Me from My enemies. But, far from this, I have no close friends save poor fishermen without arms and without authority." If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but My kingdom is not from hence." (John XVIII, 36.)
Here, St. Augustine truly observes that Jesus did not say: My kingdom is not in this world, but of this world; likewise He did not say: My kingdom is not here, but is not hence, "non est hic" Jesus Christ reigns over the whole universe, but He does not reign by earthly appointment after the fashion of temporal kings, because His kingdom was given Him by His Father and is as high above all other kingdoms, as heaven is above the earth.
So, then, the.Jews.had need to be disabused of the false 'notion they had conceived concerning the 'kingdom of the Messias. They imagined a king surrounded by all the military apparatus proper to a king of this world; in short, they fancied a king who, by force of arms, would subdue the whole world and depose every other sovereign. Jesus Christ, our King, on the contrary, is the most meek and pacific Sovereign that can be.
Earthly kings, then, have nothing to fear from Jesus. The meek Saviour does not seek to take away their authority or to compete with them. Rather, His will is that their orders should be respected, their voice obeyed and their persons duly reverenced. "Listen, ye, O Jews, and ye, O Gentiles" exclaims St. Augustine; "pay heed, all ye kingdoms of the earth. I do not hinder you from reigning in this world, because My kingdom is not of this world. Do not let yourselves be carried away by vain fear, as was Herod when he was vainly frightened by the announcement of the birth of Christ and when he put to death so many innocent children in order to kill Jesus. My kingdom is not of this world: what reason is there to be afraid? Come rather to this same kingdom which is not of this world. Come through faith." (Tract CXV in Jo. N. 2.)
Oh, if all would but understand this profound truth, that the reign of Jesus Christ is not of this world! Proud and envious men would at once cease trying to destroy this divine kingdom, reflecting that what is spiritual is not subject to corruption and death. "For He does not steal their mortal goods from the powerful ones, who gives the Kingdom of Heaven to the meek," 1 sings Holy Church.
If worldly potentates only considered the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom, they would not allow any spark of envy in their hearts at seeing this kingdom spread and made stable. The faithful also would not be led into scandal at seeing it opposed and contradicted, knowing that those obstacles come from the devil, who is the enemy of all good and who fears lest the spread of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, wholly spiritual and divine, shake and ruin his own kingdom, the kingdom of the flesh and the passions, because it is written "that the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh" (Gal V, 17.) We, knowing how amiable and peaceful is the kingdom of Christ, let us pray with all the warmth of our hearts: "Thy Kingdom come."(Matt. VI, 10.) "Come, O Lord, do not delay; forgive Thy people their sins" 2
1 Hymn at Vespers on the Feast of the Epiphany
2 VII Rep. ad Mat. in Dom. 3 Adv.