In baptism, we are “freed from sin and reborn as sons of God,” “become members of Christ,” and “are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213) We also receive an indelible spiritual mark on our souls, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the infused virtues, and sanctifying grace, and God makes his dwelling in us. The Church tells us that in baptism, we are “anointed by the Holy Spirit, incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king.” (CCC 1241)
What does it mean for us to be anointed as sharers in Christ’s mission of priest, prophet, and king? In previous issues of the Catholic East Texas, you read about the priestly and prophetic roles of the laity. I want to focus on what it means for us to share in the kingly role of Christ.
To understand our call to share in Christ’s vocation as king through baptism, we must first recognize how Christ defines his kingship. His kingly role does not emphasize domination and worldly power. Rather, Christ governs with unconditional love for all humanity. He brings peace, justice, and mercy. And sacrifice and service are key characteristics.
Christ’s kingly role
The Old Testament prophets said the Messiah would be declared king of God’s everlasting kingdom. (Ps 145:13) As king, the Messiah would rule with compassion and merciful love. (Ps 145: 8-9) He would be just and righteous. (Ps 72:1) He would defend the afflicted, the oppressed, and the marginalized. (Ps 72: 4, 12-14) He would “execute justice for the oppressed,” “give food to the hungry,” “give freedom to prisoners,” “love the righteous,” “watch over the sojourners,” “uphold the widow and fatherless,” “gather the outcasts,” “heal the brokenhearted,” and “make peace in your borders.” (Ps 146: 7-9; 147: 2-3, 14)
What surprised many is that, unlike some earthly kings, when Jesus established his kingly reign, he did not wield absolute power for its own sake or merely for the benefit of the king. As Pope Benedict XVI explained, Christ’s power “is not the power of the kings or the great people of this world; it is the divine power to give eternal life, to liberate from evil, to defeat the dominion of death. It is the power of Love that can draw good from evil, that can melt a hardened heart, bring peace amid the harshest conflict, and kindle hope in the thickest darkness.” (Angelus, Nov. 22, 2009)
Moreover, Christ did not bring about his kingdom through military might to establish worldly domination. Rather, Jesus instituted his reign and revealed that his kingship was one of servant leadership. Jesus did not come “to be served but to serve.” More than this, he came to freely lay down his life to redeem the world and to offer salvation to all. (Mt 20: 28) Christ our king took up the cross as his throne and accepted a crown of thorns because of his love for us. As Pope Benedict XVI said, “The cross is the throne where he manifested his sublime kingship as God of Love: by offering himself in expiation for the sin of the world, he defeated the ruler of this world and established the kingdom of God once and for all.” (Angelus, Nov. 26, 2006)
Through baptism, we are anointed to share in this kingly role of Christ, and, to live this out faithfully, we must keep in mind that we are called to imitate this divine kingship of crucified love.
Our kingly role
in this world
To live out this vocation, we are first called to apply our kingly role to ourselves. This point does not mean that we are to be self-centered. Nor is this a promotion of individualism. Rather, we are to heed the words of Paul: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies…but yield yourselves to God.” (Rom 6:12-13) This kingship of our own lives entails striving for holiness, living with God as the center of our life. Furthermore, we are to cooperate with God’s grace so that our passions and emotions become rightly ordered, and we are freed from vices and unhealthy attachments to worldly things. Additionally, we are to govern our lives by always doing what is good in accordance with God’s will.
The next aspect of our kingly role is our call to be servant leaders in the world. As the laity, we are called to go out into the world and imitate Christ’s kingship of service and sacrifice in our families, with our friends, in our workplaces, in our parishes, and in our communities. Hence, we must live with selfless love and humble service to others. We are to put others before ourselves and prioritize their well-being. Moreover, we are to uphold God’s justice and righteousness, alleviate suffering, and share the Gospel of God’s love and mercy. Servant leaders uphold the dignity of all human beings, promote the common good, have compassion for the poor and marginalized, and advocate for the oppressed.
In our kingly role, we must promote Christ’s kingdom — his “kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.” (Lumen Gentium 36) We “have the right and duty … to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth.” (CCC 900) In imitation of Jesus, we serve our fellow men in charity, humility, and patience in the hopes that this will lead others to give glory to Christ our King. (LG 36) Additionally, the lay faithful are to work to transform the affairs of the world, seeking to “order them according to the plan of God” and to “assist each other in living holier lives.” (LG 31, 36)By imitating the crucified love of Christ our king, we strive for constant conversion of our own hearts — rejecting selfishness, pride, and indifference, and we cooperate with God’s grace to transform the world.