Room Enough for God?
“A time will come, the hour will strike, the moment will arrive for these eyes to close and for the soul’s eyes to open. Then we shall see a new world, new beings, a new creation, a new life without end” (Elder Ephraim of Arizona).
What will it be like to take our last breath and open the eyes of our soul on the other side? In some manner, it will be like seeing for the first time. We will look back and realize how vain all this was. All our little disputes, all our fear for our health, all our stress about the economy or society, what will it matter? At that moment, only one thing will matter, where we will stand before Jesus Christ? Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. This is a feast which forever presents a challenge, who is the true King of your heart?
“Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice’” (John 18:33-37).
If you were to stand at the center of Times Square, Manhattan, you would find yourself mesmerized by the larger than life flashing screens and advertisements. McDonalds, Broadway, Victoria Secret, and the panoply of modern entertainment loom over you like a virtual reality. It is sometimes called the “the Crossroads of the World” and “the Center of the Universe.” It is a cathedral of religious fervor, the adoration of man, wealth, sensuality, and power. All of this came with Pontius Pilate when he walked into that room.
It must have been a strange sight: Pilate and Jesus together. Pilate embodied worldliness. He was a king of a kind, as representative of Caesar. All the noise, all the ambition, all the busyness of the world clung to him. At his side stood our Lord Jesus Christ, a poor Jew, an exile, beaten, and simple. It is no wonder that Pilate could not recognize who Jesus really was. He seemed a little confused.
“Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus asked if he was being sincere. With a wave of his hands, Pilate smirked, “I’m not a Jew. What do I know?”
We are blinded by the idols in our heart. People do not lose faith because they cannot rationalize the existence of God. We lose faith in God because we do not have room enough for Him in our heart. Our heart is too crowded, like the busy streets in Manhattan. They say there are around 33 million gods worshipped in India. I am sure there are far more in America. For some, shopping or entertainment is one’s god. For others, the stock market fills all the space in one’s heart. For others still, even one’s family or spouse can usurp God’s throne. So again, who is the true King of your heart?
Caesar stood face to face with God, but he could not recognize him, nor did he care. We are no different, whenever anything becomes more important in our lives than our relationship with God.
“This is my prayer,” St. Paul writes to the Philippians, “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (1:9-11).
We need to attend to our loves. What do you love most? What fills your thoughts? What drives you?
I had a little struggle Tuesday morning when I sat down to write my sermon. I packed a breakfast with sausage, bacon, and eggs, and drove to church with eager anticipation. When I arrived at church for Lauds, I remembered we had Mass close to noon, and so I would not be able to eat till lunch time. Immediately, my thoughts started kicking and squirming the way a toddler does when you tell him “No.”
The bad thought complained: “Ugh. It’d be so tasty. Mass isn’t for hours. Maybe a little sausage won’t hurt.”
Good thought: “Nope. The Church forbids it.”
Bad thought: “At least drink a little warm coffee. It’ll inspire my sermon.”
Good thought: “Nope. The Church forbids it.”
All this took place before I sat down to write my sermon. Of course, I did not break the fast, but I had an important realization through it. I had to make a decision. What did I love more: God or bacon? As trivial as this may sound, this is precisely what it boils down to. The Church tells us to fast because it knows precisely how we struggle. If we cannot sacrifice a little food for God, how will we be able to sacrifice the bigger things for Him? We cultivate love for God in our habits. Friday comes and we have to give up meat. Perhaps one day we will have to give up our life for Christ.
Who is the king of your heart? We choose with each and every decision we make through the day.
“When a snake leaves its lair, it rushes to hide somewhere because it feels as if it will be struck. The same thing happens with a diabolical thought, which is like a poisonous snake. When such a thought leaves a person’s mouth, it disperses and disappears, because confession is humility, and since Satan cannot even bear the smell of humility, how could he possibly remain after a humble, sincere confession?” (Elder Ephraim).
Confession is the greatest tool for guarding our heart. When we confess our thoughts and temptations, they lose their power. The devil constantly stirs us up with excitement and anger about a hundred things. A distraction becomes so consuming, so urgent, that God and faith take the back seat. The throne of God is toppled. Anything can take his place. Hurt, anger, confusion, and anxiety, when buried in our heart, become a virus. The man who schedules his life around confession has the antibodies. Guard your heart. Keep Christ as King.
“You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).
There is a throne in our heart. It belongs to Jesus Christ.
This is our work: to guard the heart, to tear down the idols, to purge the temple, so that Christ alone can rest in that throne. When that day arrives, when we take our last breath and stand before Christ, what will he find in our heart? May God give us strength now to prepare, so that on that day, he finds our heart filled with Him alone.