Have you made any resolutions yet for the New Year? No, not the one that begins January 1, the one that begins next Sunday – the new liturgical year, which begins in a week with the first Sunday of Advent. I’m all for making resolutions, but even more so for keeping them. I think resolutions are a good thing, because they involve taking a look at our lives and evaluating them, and thinking about how we can make changes that will make our lives better in some way. They require a little humility, the recognition that we do need to make changes in our lives, that we are not perfect.
But I think resolutions can go awry, in at least a couple ways. One way that can happen is if we are too vague. “I’m going to eat better.” Great, what does that mean? What kinds of food are you going to reduce or remove from your diet, and what kinds of food are you going to eat instead? Or, “I’m going to exercise.” Great, what kind of exercise? When? How much? An effective resolution has to be concrete. If we don’t plan it out, odds are nothing is going to change, or we might make some half-hearted changes and then abandon them after a couple weeks.
Another way resolutions can go awry is when we go overboard with them. “From now on, I’m going to subsist on nothing but broccoli and beets.” I wouldn’t last a day on that diet. Or the couch potato who says, “I’m going to do 90 minutes of cardio everyday.” If you try to go from zero exercise to a ridiculous amount of exercise every day, you are going to burn out very quickly, and you will end up back where you started, maybe worse. Effective resolutions, in my opinion, should involve gradual, incremental improvements. Working towards a goal, a little bit every day, is a great way to do it. And once you’ve reached that goal, you can set another one. And you will be encouraged by the fact that you have achieved something; that you can make positive changes in your life.
So, if you were caught off-guard and do not have any resolutions in mind yet, allow me to suggest one: in this new liturgical year, and in honor of this feast which we celebrate today, the Solemnity of Christ the King, resolve to make Jesus Christ your sovereign King and Lord.
It sounds like I just violated my own two precepts, because the resolution to make Jesus Christ your sovereign King and Lord sounds both vague and perhaps a little too lofty to be attainable. So, why don’t we make that a goal to work towards, and then take a step back and think about what we can do concretely to work towards it.
But before we do that, let me give some reasons why making Jesus Christ our Sovereign King an Lord is a goal that we should all have. First of all, only Jesus is worthy of being our King. Jesus is the Lord, as Scripture tells us again and again, and when it says that, it means, “Jesus is God.” Jesus is one with God and is God. And God alone deserves our complete and total allegiance, our adoration, our worship.
In this past year, I wonder if anyone has not felt disappointed or even betrayed by our leaders, both political and religious. But not only them: we have lots of authorities in our modern society. We give a lot of authority to, or at least a lot of authority is claimed by, among others, our media, the academic world, the entertainment industry and its myriad celebrities who style themselves as authorities on a whole range of issues, the gigantic tech companies that increasingly run our world. These are all run by human beings who make mistakes; who commit sins. While we can respect at least some kinds of human authority, we also recognize its limitations; and we are all too familiar with the abuse of authority or the mishandling of it. While human beings and human institutions let us down or even betray us, God will never do that. Perhaps you feel that God has let you down before because He didn’t answer a prayer in the way you wanted. As difficult as it is, know that ultimately God is going to give us something greater than we can even imagine, as long as we have faith in Him and remain faithful to Him.
Secondly, only Jesus is worth of our being our King and Lord because he loves us and desires what is best for us, as I said, beyond what we can even imagine. He is a most loving and benevolent king. He does not seek to dominate or oppress us, but rather to free us. Like it or not, we all serve someone or something. Only God will not dominate or try to destroy us. All the others will to one degree or another, if we let them. And here I am especially thinking of power, pleasure, possessions, and prestige. If we spend all our time and energy, or the majority of it, in pursuit of one or more of these things, we might be under the illusion that we are the masters of those things. But in reality they are dominating us. For example, if you dedicate your life, your time, your energy, in the pursuit of wealth or possessions, they are going to end up owning you. I don’t know if anyone here is an investment banker, and not to pick on them, but if you are working 80 hours a week to fund a lavish lifestyle, who’s the one being dominated? How free are you really? If you have to work that much to have those things, aren’t you just a slave to it?
And if we ignore the Lord and his commandments, and our life reflects that, whether we realize it or not, we are serving a master. Only this master does not love us, nor does he want what is best for us. He does not desire eternal happiness for us. He might give us things in this life that provide us with the illusion of happiness, at least for a time, but it is all a huge deception. All those things are merely concealing a growing darkness that gathers around us. Do not serve this master.
Only Jesus is worthy of being our Sovereign King and Lord. Only Jesus loves us completely and perfectly and eternally. A final reason to seek to make Jesus our King and Lord: He is the Lord and the Creator of all that is. But while Jesus has already established his kingdom, it has not yet come to fulfillment. When Jesus came for the first time, his kingship seemed like a failure, as in our Gospel today, when Jesus, bloody and in chains, stood before Pontius Pilate, who was interrogating him as if he were a criminal. With Jesus’ first coming, his kingship involved taking our sins upon himself and suffering and dying for us. But it will come to fulfillment at the end of time. Daniel prophesies in our first reading about that moment at the end of time when Christ the King will return in triumph, conquering once and for all the enemies of sin and death.
So, if our goal is to make Jesus Christ our Sovereign King and Lord in this new liturgical year, what kind of resolutions can we make? Let me suggest that one of these resolutions involves prayer, i.e. praying every day. Maybe you feel so busy that you just don’t have time. Or maybe you feel like it’s really hard to just sit and pray. OK, then start with five minutes. Tell the Lord what is on your mind and in your heart. Bring your needs before him. And give him thanks for the blessings he has given you. I guarantee you will soon realize that five minutes is not enough. And then you can build on it.
And I would also suggest making a resolution to, every day, ask the Lord this question: What can I do today to make someone else’s life better? Start with the people in your life, and think of something concrete that you can do to make their life better in some way that day. You don’t have to do something big. You just have to do something.
And as part of your daily prayer, ask Jesus to give you the desire to make him your Sovereign King and Lord. This after all is a grace, and we mere mortals cannot produce grace. Only God can do that. We can’t will ourselves to have desires that just aren’t there. If you think serving Jesus is a great concept, but feel like you don’t really desire it the way you should, don’t be disheartened. Ask Jesus to give you that desire. He is a most benevolent and loving King and Lord. He will do it; He will not disappoint you.