Reign of God
Sociologist and philosophers describe our era as the Postmodern time. It is characterized by a general skepticism of anything absolute and universal. Instead it focuses on the relative truth of each person. Society is viewed as in a state of constant change. Thus reality only comes into being through our interpretation of what the world means to us individually. This paradigm teaches that “there is no longer any one big story that is able to make sense of our little stories.” We create our own reality because all realities are simply social construct. We are products of our own culture and contexts. The Postmodern approach is exemplified by Roger Lundin, Wheaton College professor who explains in his book “The Culture of Interpretation” that all principles are preferences – and only preferences.
In the Postmodern mind, God tends to be ignored. There is a strong culture of denial of God’s existence. And if He exists at all, He certainly has nothing to say about what we should believe or how we should behave. The emphasis is on feelings and emotions because even moral values are relative. You may believe in what you want. Go for what makes you feel good. Religion is cafeteria style – you choose from what fits your taste. The absence of a standard criteria for right and wrong leads to a culture of meaninglessness and absurdity. In Europe, they talk of a Post-Christian Era or the end of Christianity. The “God is Dead” ideology has taken a higher level that man of today has no need of God anymore. God is irrelevant. He is insignificant. This accounts for what has been observed as a “profound crisis of faith.” In a de-christianized society, we are now in what Charles Taylor describe as “secular age.”
Christianity continues to be counter cultural. It, not only, insists that God lives. He even reigns. He is in control of the destiny of the world and humanity. This vision, however, is only accessible by faith. Through faith, the Christian is able to see a wider view of things and even penetrate the mysteries of God. The book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of what lies beyond what the eyes cannot see. It gives us a vision of the new heaven and new earth where Jesus reigns. The feast of Christ the King is an invitation to honor Jesus as Lord who remains the same yesterday, today and forever.
The highlight of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Mexico last March was his open-air Mass in the shadow of the Christ the King monument. It is one of the symbols of Mexican Catholicism. The 72-foot bronze monument of Christ with outstretched arms serves as a powerful reminder to Mexicans of the 1926-1929 Roman Catholic uprising against the government and its anti-clerical laws that prohibited public Masses like the one the Pope delivered in front of 350,000 people.
I saw this Catholic uprising in film “For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada.” It tells the epic tale of Mexico’s heroic struggle for religious freedom in a little-known conflict called the Cristero War. The character who inspired me most was 14-year old Jose Luis Sanchez. He joined the revolutionaries against the wishes of his mother but he persuaded her saying: “Mamá, it has never been easier to earn heaven as now.” In one fierce fighting, he was captured and tortured by the federal soldiers to intimidate him to abandon the Cristero fight.
But Jose was determined to die for his faith. They flayed the skin from the soles of his feet and obliged him to walk around the town toward the cemetery. They also struck him with a machete until he was bleeding from several wounds. He cried and moaned with pain, but he did not give in. The soldiers enticed him, ‘If you shout, “Death to Christ the King” we will spare your life.’ José would only shout, “Viva Cristo Rey!'” When they reached the place of execution, his captors stabbed him numerous times with bayonets. The commander was so furious that he pulled out his pistol and shot José. Moments before his death, the boy drew a cross in the dirt and kissed it. It is the price of those who risked their lives for God. In 2005 Pope Benedict XVI beatified him as a martyr.
At the end of each day, I am reminded of the end of my life. As I review the work and the worries of my day, I mentally do several things. I thank God for what I have accomplished in His honor. I ask sorry for the things I have mishandled. And I ask for more strength as I toil in His vineyard. It gives me comfort that I sleep in hope and confidence knowing that I intentionally allowed God to reign as Lord of my life.
(This article also appears in the Sunday Faith Section of Cebu Daily News – 25 November 2012)