Are You a Little Tyrant?

Sermons

Preached by Fr. Paul Allick on Christ the King Sunday (Sunday, November 26, 2017)

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Ephesians 1:15-23, Matthew 25:31-46

 

It seems that the world will never be free of tyrants. As soon as one is vanquished another rises up. Too often desperate people replace one tyrant with another. The tyrants of today just like yesterday are on display in the news. Their brutality and insanity shock and disgust us.

 

Brutal dictators have one thing in common: they are their own gods. They see themselves as the one person who knows what is best for all people. They are found in all systems and populations. They come in varying degrees of brutality and ignorance. Some sytems like ours have kept them at bay...for now...

Others fall quickly to them.

 

In 1925 Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical establishing the Feast of Christ the King. This is the Feast we observe today. This day started in the Roman Communion but the rest of us, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians have adopted it.

 

Pius established this Feast out of the concerns in his time. He was concerned with the rise of secularism and nationalism. He was concerned that throughout Europe respect for the authority of the Church was waning while nationalism and the rise of dictators were growing. People seemed to be leaving off faith in spiritual matters and putting all of their hope in the power human leaders.

 

Pius wrote, “The kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things.” He explains how one enters the Kingdom. It is, “one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration.”

 

When we repent, accept Christ as our Savior and then are baptized we are accepting Christ’s rule. We no longer are the lord of our lives. We open ourselves to an interior regeneration; we are transformed into something new.

 

The heart of sin is following our own wills instead of God’s will. The tyranny and brutality of this world is born in the human heart. It begins small, inside each of us. We begin to think that our wills are superior to everyone else’s. We fall into a toxic individualism. We no longer see our neighbors as children of God. We no longer see their hopes and dreams or their hurts and fears. We see only our needs and worries. We become little tyrants causing havoc all around us.

 

Jesus tells us that he is returning in the end to separate the sheep from the goats. I’ve been around sheep and goats. Sheep are docile and obedient. Goats are fiercely independent and extremely unpredictable. Goats operate on their own will. Sheep wait for the voice of their shepherd to show them where the good pasture is. Sheep find it and are fed with good things. Goats roam around the yard eating metal cans and clothes hanging on the line.

 

Sheep have the good sense to follow the one who knows what they need. Sheep are not fearful of authority or of obedience.

 

We pray as Jesus taught us: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” To know and to become part of Christ’s kingdom is to know and become part of God’s will. Every major decision we make, every conflict we find ourselves in, and every joy we experience should be brought to God in prayer.  

 

This is exactly the kind of obedience Jesus showed toward the Father.

 

When we give ourselves over to the Lord’s will through fasting, penance and prayer then the danger of becoming little tyrants is minimized.

 

Recently we observed the Feast of St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland. Margaret was an English princess who married Malcolm the King of Scotland around the year 1070. As a devout Christian her rule was not one of tyranny but of mercy and reform.

 

She helped reform the Church. She was concerned with the careless practices of the Scottish clergy. She insisted that the Church in Scotland conform to the proscribed liturgies of the Church Catholic.

 

She encouraged the founding of schools, hospitals and orphanages.  She worked to end the bloody warfare among the highland clans.

 

She wasn’t successful in all of her endeavors but her efforts and her holy life made her one of Scotland’s most beloved Saints.

 

How one leads is how one will be followed.

 

As we remember Christ our King we take stock of how we use our power. Is it used as a blunt force to pressure others or as a humble strength to persuade and negotiate?

 

In the Church we are called to become holy together. In the 3rd Century Origen wrote, “It is clear that the one who prays for the coming of God’s kingdom prays rightly to have it within himself, that there it may grow and bear fruit and become perfect. For God reigns in his holy ones. Anyone who is holy obeys the spiritual laws of God, who dwells in him as in a well-ordered city.”

 

Let us remember these words each time we pray for the kingdom to come. It is hard to be a miniature tyrant when we keep inviting the King of Love to reign in our hearts and minds.

 

 

 

References:

Quas primas, Pope Pius XI, 1925 from the Vatican Online Library

St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, 1093 Less Feasts and Fasts 1997, Church Publishing Incorporated New York

From a notebook On Prayer by Origen, priest, Liturgy of the Hours vol. IV, Pp. 576-577, Catholic Book Publishing Corp., New York, 1975