Posted on: 2016-11-17
Source: Fr John ‘Toye Olayiwola

Looking Back

On the Solemnity of Christ the King last year, (2015), I wrote and published an article with the title: “Jesus: The President.” The details for the puzzling title were given in the article: it was consciously chosen to expose our minds to the progression and evolution in civic rule and power which has grown from having the kings as the overlords and the supreme rulers of kingdoms to having Presidents, Prime Ministers and their equivalents, as the supreme powers of nations and countries (this does not mean that there are no countries where kings are still the supreme power). However, the era we are is such that kings are now crowned-sometimes, selected-by political leaders like governors and presidents, who pay them (the implication of that is beyond the scope of this article, though we can easily guess it).

In this article, I wish to maintain my dialectic and diatribe of the last year’s article that it is fitting to address Jesus as the President. This does not imply the inappropriateness of the traditional expression of “Christ the King” as used by the Church. I only wish to affirm that if presidents are supreme powers in our lands, Christ’s rule and power are by far superior to theirs. He is the “President” of the presidents. He is the only “President” who, without any questioning, can bring to an end, the tenure of any other president even before his or her tenure elapses.  He is the only “President” who does not need the vote of anyone to be the President. He is the only “President” who does not need the prophecy of any pastor that he would be the president but changed his words as soon as the opponent won the election.

His Reign is Mercy

While upholding the content of the last year’s article, I wish to focus our attention on a specific feature of the rule and reign of Christ: MERCY. About a year ago, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, declared an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The Holy Year began on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (December 8). The date was chosen in order to fix our minds on the mercy of God, which began to manifest itself in a very special way, the moment our first Parents, Adam and Eve, sinned (read Gen 3). It was at that very instance that God began working out our redemption, an act of divine mercy by which sinners are granted liberation. He started with the plan that the Redeemer would be born of a woman at the “appointed time” (see Gal 4:4). However, for the Redeemer to redeem the sinful, he must be sinless. This would require that the woman who would bring him forth be protected from the touch of the Original Sin (and any other sin). This is what we celebrate in the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception: that Mary was conceived without any sin. Then, the date and the day are the most fitting to begin the Year of Mercy.

In the Bull of Indiction for the opening  of the Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus-henceforth used as MV, article 5, the Pope declared that the Year will close with the liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King on 20 November, 2016. According to him, on that day “we will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us like morning dew....” Twelve months have gone by and here we are face to face with November 20, 2016, the last day of the Holy Year of Mercy. Let me quickly state here that the end of Year of Mercy does not mean the end of divine mercy just as its commencement did not imply that God’s  mercy is more in the Year. As we read in the classical psalm on the mercy of God (136), God’s mercy is eternal. It endures forever. The end of the Jubilee does not diminish the mercy of God. Even at the end of the Year, God’s mercy remains at the superlative, always abundant. The declaration of the Holy Year was to help direct our consciousness to the mystery of God’s mercy, which is the foundation of our salvation (MV, 2).

  Now, as we end the Year of Mercy, what does the Church ask of us? I wish to relate the end of this Holy Year to the end of the Holy Mass when the priest dismisses us saying: “The Mass is ended, go forth in the peace of Christ.” It is at that very moment that our work begins. The priest asks us to go and start filling the world with the peace of Christ we have acquired at the Mass. In the course of the Holy Year, we have heard and had many talks about God’s mercy. The time has arrived for us to start putting them into practice, learning to be as merciful as our heavenly Father is. Otherwise, we passed through the Holy Year, possibly, the Holy Door, but none of them passed through us.

Since this official closing day falls on the Solemnity of Christ the King, for the reason stated above, I want us to reflect on the title of this piece: Christ: The Most Merciful King. I wish to propose for a start, a proper, deeper and better understanding of the word “mercy.” Mercy, used in relation to God, means everything about God. Mercy is the only feature of God through which all his other features are revealed (MV, 6). The word mercy is here used to refer to the LOVE, patience, kindness, goodness, compassion, forgiveness, care, concern and other related expressions, of God. It is in a close association with the justice of God (MV, 21). I am convinced that there is no better way to describe Christ as the King than as the most merciful. All his actions as Lord and King were guided and marked by mercy. Jesus himself is the face of the Father’s mercy (MV, 1). It is through him that we come to a better knowledge of God as the most merciful. He shows this by his life, words and works. His closeness to those regarded as sinners is a practical demonstration of God’s mercy. The classical saying on mercy in Hos 6:6: “I want mercy, not sacrifice” was always on his lips. His miracles were expressions of his mercy: out of mercy, he healed the sick, fed the hungry and raised the dead (read Mt 9:36; 14:14; 15:37; Lk 7:15; Mk 5:19). He told many parables to emphasise the mercy of God. For instance, the beautiful parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son (Lk 15: 1-32), and parable of the unforgiving forgiven servant, which began with Peter’s question about the number of times to forgive (Mt 18:22 ff), are all pointers to the fullness of God’s mercy. Finally, in order to prove the fullness of God’s mercy, Christ opted to die for us sinners (Rom 5:8). That is mercy, if you like call it love, at its best and peak (Jn 15:13).

Mercy: The Path to Peace

Mercy will always remain the seedbed for peace and development. While Jesus had the power to destroy his enemies and executioners, he did not. He even forbade his followers from fighting against anyone. Mercy opposes violence and upholds tolerance. The world knows this but she is not ready to follow it. No wonder there are wars, conflicts and evils almost everywhere. The world does not operate on the principle of mercy. Thus, she rejects any proposal and proposition for tolerance and forgiveness. As a result, the world disdains the Kingship of Jesus. Not too many persons want the kind of the King Jesus is. What sort of the King would be preaching pardon for sinners and love of enemy? What sort of the King with such a great arsenal will not support the use of missiles? Consequently, there is the constant attack on the Kingship of Christ. Pharaoh was the first to make the attempt to eliminate the most merciful King (read Mt 2). He understood clearly the implication of the birth of the most merciful King. As a wicked and callous King, he did not want the most merciful King to live. Alas! He failed! Many of the Jews too knew Jesus as the most merciful King. Yet, they did not want him because they knew he would not destroy their worst foes, the Romans; nor would he support their going to war with him. Indeed, he is the most merciful King (see Lk 19:11ff).

Mercy and Power

The Church fixes the closing day of the Jubilee of Mercy on the Solemnity of Christ the King for us his subjects to learn and embrace the necessary nexus between mercy and power. Many leaders of our generation use power without mercy. No wonder many of them are so cruel, callous, heartless, ruthless, care-less and insensitive to the pains of those under them. They go on opulent while their subjects are subjected to abject poverty. Jesus is not sort of a king. He knows that a great leader must be as merciful as he or she is powerful. Unlike many of our leaders who embrace the principle of Nicolo Machiavelli that a merciful leader is a weak leader, long time ago, even before Shakespeare would say that good leaders are not loved for their fear but are feared for their love, Christ, the most merciful King, has not just taught but lived out the synergy of power and mercy. If truly the world desires peace, then, let those rule in the world put on the crown of mercy while they sit on the throne of power.

May this holy celebration grant peace to our troubled world as we hearken to the call to be as merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.