His Kingship shall not be destroyed
Victor Emmanuel III became king of Italy in 1900. As head of this small constitutional monarchy, he was sufficiently harmless to be popular for a number of years. However, with the rise of Fascism in 1922, King Victor invited its founder, Benito Mussolini to become prime minister. The King’s choice was not voluntary, but the only way he could prevent revolution and also save his own crown. Mussolini then made himself a dictator, meanwhile buttering up Victor Emmanuel after the Italian conquest of Ethiopia in 1935 by declaring him emperor of that African country.
The “Duce” joined Hitler’s Germany in declaring war on the Allies in 1940 and 1941. When the Allies entered Italy in 1943, the King finally sided with Mussolini’s enemies, ousting the Duce from office. But Victor had already lost face because of his tolerance of Mussolini; so he abdicated on May 9, 1946. He was succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Umberto, as King Umberto II. But only one month later, the citizens of Italy, in a national referendum, voted to change their government from a kingdom to a republic. Part of the new law provided that Umberto II, king for only a month, had to go into perpetual exile. So he as popularly dubbed “the King of the May” moved to Portugal.
When Umberto, aged and ailing – and terribly lonesome for his native land – begged the Italian government to let him come home to die, he promised not to agitate for the restoration of the Italian monarchy.
Before Italy could decide this plea – no longer the plea of a political schemer but of a homesick old man – Umberto died. But his case, even more than that of his father, illustrates the impermanence of earthly power.
The kingship of Christ; on the other hand, is not earthly but heavenly. So as the prophet Daniel predicted, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away. His kingship shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7,14. Today’s first reading.)
-Father Robert F. McNamara
Q555: Are today’s readings compatible? Jesus in chains, and Daniel’s “Son of man” in heavenly glory?
How do you describe the indescribable? “One like a Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven” to stand before the Ancient One who has white hair, bright clothes, and a fiery throne — this is the author-prophet’s attempt to explain his dream vision (Daniel 7:9-14). The reality itself is simply that this is a judgment scene of human kings before the eternal throne of God and Christ the King, whose glory and power is so awesome that mere human kings and thrones are laughable. The descriptions also reveal a God who will not force humans beyond their capacity to understand. Or as the scholastic theologian Thomas Aquinas would say, “grace builds on nature” – we can only understand a tiny bit and only when these divine things are described for us by inadequate human terms.
There is a long tradition going back to the Early Church Fathers that this “Son of man” refers to the Messiah, especially since Jesus used that as a self-description many times. The implications are enormous for believers. Would you reject the everlasting, all-powerful and eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ, and choose to follow only an earthly king whose dominion and power is limited and will be judged? Does your daily behavior reflect your choice?
This King Jesus and his kingdom are quiet unique. As he tells us (John 18:33b-37), his kingdom is not of this world. So we are called to trust, to believe, to have faith in the words of this Son of man we call Jesus. Those who did not believe rejected him and led him to the Cross. As believers, we look forward with hope to the time when we will join him in his kingdom – and the only way to enter is to belong to the truth, to listen to his voice, believe, and act on his words. Even kingdom kids may be led to the cross!
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Jesus is the faithful witness who came to bear witness to the truth of God’s love. God is Truth itself, and for that reason we can abandon ourselves to Him in full trust and faithfulness to his word. To do otherwise is to accept the falsehoods of the tempter. (CCC 215,217) Do you read scripture daily to discover this Truth?
Long Live the King
The Book of Daniel was written at a time when Israelites were suffering oppression and persecution by a powerful pagan king who insisted that all people must accept his ways or suffer painful consequences. Daniel compares this cruel and oppressive king with the just king God would send to free them and initiate a kingdom of peace and justice. In his trial before Pilate Jesus identifies himself with this kind of heavenly kingship. Instead of using power and might to impose his ways he gives himself over to ignominious suffering and death to rescue us from degradation and misery. We are called to follow Jesus by our own self-giving and love as he establishes this kingdom.
Lord Jesus, give us the courage and strength to give of ourselves as you gave yourself. Help us to know, love and serve you in all those we come into contact with. Help us to carry our cross to eternal glory and happiness with you.