There is an old church in Sweden that’s historically important for several reasons, but the thing that strikes the visitor most is the life-like crucifix on the wall at the back of the church. It hangs directly opposite the pulpit where the preacher can see it, but where the people cannot. When the guide is asked why the crucifix is at the back, rather than up front where everybody can see it, he tells this story.
One Sunday, King Charles XII made an unexpected visit to the church. When the preacher saw the king come in, he threw away his prepared sermon and spent the time talking about the king’s virtues and how much he was doing for his people. A few days later, the crucifix arrived at the church as a gift from the king. Along with it came a letter in which the king ordered that the crucifix be placed on the wall opposite the pulpit, so that from then on, anyone who mounted that pulpit to preach would be reminded of the one he was supposed to be talking about.1
Christ is to be proclaimed in the Church. Christ is to be proclaimed in the world. Christ is to be proclaimed in our nation, our states, and our cities and in our families. The first sentence in the Church’s document Lumen Gentium proclaims that “Christ is the light of the nations” (LG #1). Saint Paul reminds the Colossians and us in the second reading that “Christ is the image of the invisible God. All things were created through Him and for Him. In Him all things hold together.” Sadly the name Jesus Christ has become increasingly and politically incorrect in many parts of the world. Many people claim to believe in Jesus Christ, but are afraid to acknowledge Him in their public life. Jesus assures us, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my Father” (Mt 10:32-33).
As we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, we are reminded again and again that Christianity is about a person, Jesus Christ. Christianity is not about left or right. It is not about conservative or liberal. It is not about issues. Christianity is not for anyone’s agenda, but it is about Jesus Christ, believing in Him, proclaiming Him, serving Him, and faithfully following Him. Our goal for the world is that leadership, justice, values, virtues, ethics, and morality, services all have to be rooted in Jesus Christ. The Church’s mission is to serve humanity in the name of Jesus Christ. Christians are serving others in society in the name of Jesus Christ. There is, however, a secular force in our nation as well as in all other parts of the world to promote a society to be without Christ and to promote services without Christ. They want to take the name of Jesus Christ out of the social and public life and services. They want to take control of the governments so that they can promote their Christ-less agendas. They create more regulations to make it difficult for the Churches and Christians to serve in the name of Jesus Christ. They want to provide healthcare and offer social services without Christ. They want educational systems without Christian values. Educational, Social and healthcare services without Christ is risking of losing respect for human life and dignity. It opens the door for egotism, greediness, abuses, discriminations and partisan.
This month, panel of experts advising the government is meeting in Washington D. C. to begin considering what kind of preventive care for women should be covered at no cost to the patient in the new care reform plan. They intend to include family planning in the healthcare plan. They argue that family planning saves lives and improves health. Spacing out children allows for optimal pregnancies and child rearing. Therefore, contraception is considered a preventive medicine; abortion is neccessary and should be provided. This approach is merely social, economic and humanistic without taking into consideration the value of human life and human dignity. The U. S. Catholic bishops disagree with this approach. This approach is not health care but a lifestyle choice. Pregnancy is a healthy condition, not an illness. Requirement to cover contraceptives or sterilization as preventive in the health care coverage is an abuse of health care. It violates the respect for the sanctity of human life. It is ethically wrong and unacceptable. It is an approach to manage life in the world without Christ.
To deny Jesus Christ is to deny that human beings have souls. The rulers sneer at Jesus, “He saved other, let him save himself.” The soldiers jeer at Jesus, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” The other criminal join them to revile Jesus, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” All these people question Jesus’ identity and challenge His power to save himself and others because they only want to see saving of their earthly life. They cannot see Jesus’ power beyond the physical suffering and death. They have no sense of their immortal souls. Only the “good thief” has the sense of his immortal soul; therefore he is able to see beyond the earthly life and confesses his faith in Jesus. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The Church is alive and authentic only when she faithfully proclaims Jesus Christ and promotes His teachings to the world. In the district of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:13-15). This is a question that people continue to ponder for centuries. Who is Jesus? Is he real? Does he really have the power to save?
Jesus has the power to save. He dies for us and shed his blood to pay the price for our sins, but his blood and death do not have the power to save those who do not believe in Him. Some people are misleading others by saying that Jesus Christ is a nice, loving and compassionate person; he would overlook our bad behavior, forgive our sins and allow us to be in heaven. But it is important to notice that Jesus’ words of forgiveness go only directly to one of the two criminals crucified with Him. “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Clearly salvation is offered only to those who confess their faith in Jesus Christ.