One of my favourite prayers during the Roman Catholic liturgy is tucked away in a corner where we risk praying right on by without noticing it. It’s the doxology that we pray after the Our Father, “for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever.” That short prayer is one of my favourites because it feels like it puts everything to rights, it sorts us out as humans and puts God back in the centre of everything. I think the feast we celebrate this week, the Feast of Christ the King, does much the same thing. It reminds us that the kingdom, the power and the glory belong to God and God alone. It puts things right.
For thine is the kingdom . . . This short phrase reminds us, first and foremost, that everything belongs to God, us included. The flip side of this is that God is also ultimately responsible for all of creation. That’s hard for me, an oldest child, to admit. I’m used to thinking that I’m the one who’s ultimately responsible for everything! But remembering that the kingdom belongs to God and God alone reminds me that we all rest in God’s providence. God is in charge and I can take the weight of the world off my shoulders.
Trusting in God’s providence is a challenging and radical act. It means claiming that God is in charge, that God-is-with-us, in all of our human experiences, even those that include pain and suffering. It’s counter-intuitive and demands that we take a deeper look at reality than what is present at face value. It is such an act of faith, however, that we are making when we proclaim that Christ is king.
Once we make the claims that everything belongs to God and that God is in charge, then we can assert that God also has a plan. It’s just that plan that Jesus refers to when he proclaims the kingdom of God in our midst (something he does about 119 times in the New Testament!). When we celebrate Christ the King, we are also suggesting that we agree with God’s plan for humanity and that we also might be willing to participate in it.
In 2006, Bono, the lead singer of U2 and a social justice activist, spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. He shared the story of how he always prayed for God to bless his projects but that a fundamental shift occurred when he finally realized that he was asking the wrong question. The right question is to ask God what God’s projects are and then take part in those because they are blessed already! Recognizing that the kingdom belongs to God means that we can ask God what projects we should be part of to ensure that God’s vision for humanity comes into its full expression.
The power . . . belongs to God as well. This feast day reminds us of that. So much of the world’s pain come from people seeking to amass power for themselves and forgetting that the true authority belongs to God. Actually, the word authority is an interesting one. It comes from the Latin word auctoritas, which can best be understood as authoring life in others. The power belongs to God and God chooses to use it in a specific way, to author life in us and in all of creation. (Thanks to Bishop Weisner who shared that insight with me many years ago.) When we pray that the power belongs to God we commit ourselves to using our own authority in the way God intends it to be used, to author life in others.
And the glory . . . is God’s alone. This short phrase reminds me to stop and contemplate God’s glory reflected in creation. The first snowflake falling, the subtle colours of the sunrise, the intricacy of the human body, the oceans teeming with life . . . each of these remind of God’s glory and, in turn, remind me to give praise. Again, it’s about putting things right and giving praise where praise is due.
This week’s readings and the feast we celebrate call us to contemplate God’s reign made manifest in Christ the King. We are asked to imagine what the world would be like if we truly committed ourselves to recognizing God at the centre of things, and to putting our words into action when we pray, “for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.” This feast calls us to conversion, to step out of the limelight and shine that same light on our Creator. Perhaps it’s no accident that these reading and this feast day comes to us on the last Sunday of the liturgical year. What better time to stop and ask ourselves, how can I give God back the “kingdom, the power and the glory” this coming year?
Rompré is the director of Mission and Ministry at St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon.