When Satan tempted Jesus during His forty day fast in the wilderness, he offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8-9). It would be a temptation that any one of us would find hard to resist. How often, for example, have I fantasized about being President, or a bishop, or even the Pope. Why? Not because it would necessarily be good for the world or the Church, but mostly so I could put my own agenda into place and get things ordered the way I think they should be.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola has a “Meditation on the Two Standards.” One standard is held by Lucifer, the other by Jesus. We choose one or the other by the way we live our lives and by the choices we make. Sadly, so many of our choices are automatic and unreflective, so much so that one day we’ll realize that we’ve placed ourselves under one or the other banner without any conscious choosing.
To win folks to his side, Lucifer first gets people to crave wealth, or if they are already wealthy, to get them to cling to their wealth. Then he tries to get people to rely on the honor and status that wealth gives them. From there it’s an easy step to get people to become proud by establishing a sense of absolute independence, a conviction that I do not need anyone else, that I have made it and have no need of God. From pride, Lucifer is able to lead people to all other vices. This ultimately destroys our freedom.
Jesus invites us to look not to wealth and power for security, but to God. Everything we are and everything we have is meant to draw us closer to God. When we realize our dependence on God, that is the start of humility, which means that my life is centered in what God does for me instead of on what I do for myself. That humble dependency on God leads to all other virtues, and all the gifts of God becomes ours. Freedom and joy are the results.
On this Solemnity of Christ the King, it might not be a bad idea to pause for a moment and ponder which way our conscious and/or automatic choices are leading us.
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.