A God of Love

One of the saddest things I have read recently came from someone describing himself as an ex-Catholic who said that, in his experience, the Church was made up of perverts and abusers who took delight in condemning the sins of others. He particularly disliked the use of the crucifix, calling it morbid; while his own experience of abuse had left him with a profound distrust of the clergy and everything they say. Is it any wonder that his image of God — for he still believes, in an odd kind of way — is of an angry and hostile God who cares nothing for his creation? What would today’s solemnity of Christ the King mean to him?

I cannot answer that question, for obvious reasons, but I think it is one we must all address. What does today’s feast mean to us? Conventionally, the solemnity of Christ the King, with its clear, eschatological significance, is about the restoration of all things under Christ, King of the Universe. It is about lordship and service, divine love and sacrifice; but as soon as we use those terms, we are using religious language remote from the everyday experience of most people. Yet loving and being loved are not, usually, remote from our experience, thank God, nor is the idea of making sacrifices (pl) for others — ask any parent. It is the way in which we use those words in a religious context that confuses or injects a note of misunderstanding or unreality. Indeed, the very notion of kingship, biblical though it is, is alien to many whose ideas about it are drawn principally from history or from what they see of today’s European monarchies.

As always, I think the preface for today’s celebration gives us not only the theology of this feast in a nutshell but also some themes we can dwell on with profit. From the beginning, it strikes a note of rejoicing, referring to Christ our Saviour being anointed with the oil of gladness. We know that he went joyfully to the cross and surrendered his life for us, freely and gladly. It is the final vision, however, the promise of the kingdom, that holds out most hope:

an eternal and universal kingdom:
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.

I do not know what my new-found friend would make of that. I suspect that beneath all the pain and suffering he has undergone, he still clings with part of his being to the hope that such a vision may be realised. It is a vision God is humble enough to ask our co-operation in achieving. As the old saints never tired of repeating, ‘Without him, we cannot; without us, he will not.’ The God of love invites; he does not force.


2 thoughts on “A God of Love”

  1. Thank you. It is those ambiguities which have often obscured understanding and left people severed from their earlier faith…but it is still there, or the enquiry/conversation would not have occurred.
    Hard, too, to see those who choose not to have a conversation, yet carry the habit of faith, even while denying belief.

  2. Every time I hear of the Church referred to as “the barque of Peter” I think “ship of fools”. But, then again, who am I to judge? There is still so much sin and suffering in this world that I do wonder from time to time whether Jesus has lost his touch? Where is his healing? Where is he when we need him? And then I think of Saint Archbishop Romero’s prayer “The Long View” and in re-reading and praying it realize I am part of the Kingdom of God and while I can’t right all wrongs there are many small contributions I can and must make. As Saint Romero states the many beginnings and small steps are opportunities for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

    We can choose to live in Christ’s light, to live in his kingdom here and now and eventually in eternity. I pray all who feel detached will take comfort in the truth that Christ’s kingship is the bigger picture and the unending story. As in the television infomercials “but wait – there’s more!”

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