The Sacred, The Profane, and The Virtue of Religion
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Gospel Reflection 11/20/22
USCCB Mass Readings
Blessed Solemnity of Christ the King. Or is it, Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe? Quite frankly, the change in the name of the feast no doubt exhibits the change of attitude of the Church since the 20th century to the present. What is at stake here is a proper understanding of the virtue of religion—how we bind ourselves to God. It can be understood as the distinction between the Sacred and the Profane or between the creator and creature with the relationship between nature and grace.
We begin with the profane in our readings today for this most blessed solemnity—the earthly crown of King David. The gathering of all of the tribes affirm David’s efforts regarding the civil strife between David and Saul; nonetheless, 2nd Samuel reminds us that in David’s struggles, the profane is ordered toward its good which St. Thomas Aquinas explains to us in the Prima Pars Question 19 Art. 2 on God’s Will:
God wills not only Himself, but other things apart from Himself. This is clear from the comparison which we made above. For natural things have a natural inclination not only towards their own proper good, to acquire it if not possessed, and, if possessed, to rest therein; but also to spread abroad their own good amongst others, so far as possible…(God) wills both Himself to be, and other things to be; but Himself as the end, and other things as ordained to that end; inasmuch as it befits the divine goodness that other things should be partakers therein.
In recent years, there has been confusion in the Catholic understanding of the sacred and the profane. The confusion appears to have arisen within centuries of theological debate of understanding nature (creature) and how grace (supernatural gift) works in the created world and affects our human will. Twentieth-century theologian Karl Rahner developed a new understanding of the sacred and profane, called the Supernatural Existential. The thesis, a failure to understand metaphysics by Rahner, attempted to bridge the gap between nature and grace by confusing and destroying the classical notion of nature. Thus, everything becomes a supernatural act in Rahner’s view.
The progeny of theologians following Rahner’s thesis have returned to a quasi-paganism, which ultimately rejects the authority of our Lord and King, Jesus. The disciples of Rahner proof text the cosmic passages exhibited in today’s 2nd reading from St. Paul to the Colossians. Richard Rohr, in The Universal Christ, argues that the incarnation of god can be found in every creature by quoting Col. 1:20. Rohr writes, “He came to unite and to “reconcile all things in himself, everything in heaven and on earth.”² Do not be fooled, my fellow Catholics. Rohr is not conducting exegesis here, but what we have here is a prime example of what is known as eisegesis—Rohr interprets what he wants into the words of St. Paul.
St. Paul writes, “He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.
I invite you to focus on the words by the blood of his cross. The cross, or rather, the sacrifice of our King, my fellow Catholics, is the earthly throne of our King and Savior. The cross is the profane object in which our Lord is lifted up to reconcile all things to Himself. Although St. Paul’s hymn found in the Letter to the Colossians focuses on the divinity of Jesus Christ, the reference to the cross makes clear that we, bible readers, Jesus is both God and man—and men have stories…
St. Jerome reminds us that “Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
The theologians who reduce all things to grace by minimizing the natural order of creation consequently minimize our relationship to our King, our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you want to know Jesus personally? You need to know His story. I tell my kids in my catechism class that to know Jesus; you need to know Joseph, Moses, Abraham, Melchizedek, Jacob, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Elisha, and many more. Jesus is the fulfillment of their stories.
The profane is the medium for hidden grace to unite us to our King and Lord Jesus. It is the foundation of understanding our sacraments in the Catholic Church.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent:
But among the Latin Fathers who have written on divine things, the word sacrament was used to signify some sacred thing that lies concealed; as the Greeks, to express the same idea, have made use of the word mystery… In these and many other passages the word sacramentum, it will be perceived, signifies nothing more than a sacred thing, hidden and concealed.”
It is no wonder, in the aftermath of Karl Rahner et al., that Catholics have lost their sense of mystery when it comes to our sacramental economy. The USCCB has initiated a Eucharistic Revival, but we must be fully conscious of why nearly 70% of Catholics fail to recognize their King and Savior in the true presence of the Eucharist.
Friends, we cannot escape the profane in our religion, because it is the medium of God’s revelation and His grace. Our Lord Jesus, foreshadowed by Melchizedek, takes ordinary objects of bread and wine and with the words of institution changes them in their substance to His Body and Blood, so that Catholics of all times can become present in the one true sacrifice at the mass.
St. Augustine reminds us that it is the cultivating of the virtue of religion—the religare, that binds us to God. God does this through storytelling, choosing a people, giving them an earthly king, and by taking ordinary objects of bread and wine as the accidents of hidden grace. The ordinary, the profane, is the medium whereby the power of the Holy Spirit, there is a combining of the material and the spiritual. It is the means of where the veil is lifted between earth and heaven, where Jesus can say to us today at mass:
"Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise."
 Thomas Aquinas, “Question 19. the Will of God,” SUMMA THEOLOGIAE: The will of God (Prima Pars, Q. 19), accessed November 15, 2022, https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1019.htm#article2.
 Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ (New York: Convergent, 2019), 8
 Catholic Church, The Catechism of the Council of Trent, trans. Theodore Alois Buckley (London: George Routledge and Co., 1852), 138.