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In the ancient world that was dominated by the Roman Empire, a common phrase of loyalty to the crown was made: “Caesar is Lord.”
When Jesus rose from the dead, a common phrase of loyalty to him was made by his disciples: “Jesus is Lord.”
Is it any wonder then that early Christians were considered to be subversives by the political establishment, that St. Paul spent so much of his time in prison, and that many Christians were martyred for saying, “Jesus is Lord”?
“Jesus is Lord” is a statement of our faith. It is also a statement of our allegiance. As Jesus said, “One cannot serve two masters.” He also said, “He who is not with me is against me” (Luke 11:23). We must always pick one side over the other.
St. Ignatius, meditating on this, gave the image of making a choice between two flags, battle standards carried into war by opposing forces. We either stand behind and follow the standard of Jesus or we follow the standard of this world. We cannot belong to both armies. A choice must be made. Which side will we choose?
If we stand with Jesus, we must remember that he said to us “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” That is to say that our king, our Lord, Jesus, is not an ordinary king. He does not fit the model of earthly royalty. Rather than being a king who is served, Jesus is a king who serves. Rather than a king who lets others die for him in battle, Jesus is a king who died for all others. Jesus is a king who loves us with the love of God in a perfect and self-giving way. If we follow him, we must use this instrument of love as our armor and instrument as well.
It is precisely because we have come to know Jesus as our Lord and King that we bend the knee at his holy name. We genuflect when we come before his sacramental presence in the tabernacle. We hand on every word that comes from his mouth in our Sacred Scriptures. And it is because we follow Jesus that we strive to live lives of love and service to those most in need.
Today, as we end our liturgical year, the last 12 months, which began for us in the First Sunday of Advent, culminates by causing us to choose. Whose side are we on? Do we follow Caesar and the things of this kingdom, or do we follow Jesus and the things of his kingdom? And, when we say, “Jesus is Lord,” do we actually mean it?
These are questions that I must reflect on constantly. I offer them to you for your consideration as well.
God bless you and those you love. Have a Happy Thanksgiving. Be sure to thank God from whom all blessings flow.