One of the more slow-paced and enjoyable series for me to watch is The Crown on Netflix. It tries to portray the different dynamics and struggles that we oftentimes missed, idealize, or get blinded, thinking that the British royal family is somehow perfect. I have learned from reading history that even though they are often the object of envy and many idealized fairytales, royalties are some of the unhappiest and pitiful people in the world. Hence, this series, plus the right understanding and reading of history, tells us that the people who seem to have it all might not be as happy and free as some of us who do not seem to have what the world deemed to be necessary and important in our secularistic and humanistic pursuit of happiness.
Even though the royal family seems to be the object of many envies and wants, they are prisoners of their own wealth. They are scared of letting go of the wealth, prestige, titles, powers, influences, and other humanistic means that go with those privileges. They are miserable because they are not truly free to live as they are because they constantly have to put up a show for others to see or feel burdened to prove to others that they are worthy to take people’s hard-working tax monies as well. They are basically vestiges of the old, ancient, outdated order that remains symbolic but holds no real power. They are well-paid figureheads and property owners who are scared of losing their wealth and comfortable lifestyle, hence in a way, willingly locking their very own existence into a hellish reality. They seem to have it all on the outside, but many of them are so unhappy and miserable deep from within… all because they cannot let go of what they have built for themselves.
Nevertheless, the King of the universe did not hold on to earthly means to define His kingship. When He chose to incarnate and become one of us, to live like us in all things but sin, He did not choose to be born into a powerful, prestige, or influential family. The Lord Jesus Christ chose to live among His subjects in all simplicity, to work and sweat, to labor and endure hardships, and to earn and depend on meager pay. The King of the universe was not scared to hold on to any typical human means to love and be present with us. Throughout His own earthly life, He chose to live among the poor, forgotten, abandoned, and outcasted by society. He left His disciples — us — the real standard of judgment when He said that whatever we do unto the least of our brothers and sisters, we do unto Him. (cf. Matthew 25:31-46) Therefore, our Lord taught each and every one of us that His kingship does not belong to this world or be defined in any terms by worldly and humanistic values.
Even though it is easy for us to say that we are not as rich or as powerful, nor we will be like anything similar to the royal family; for us, as human beings, our ego has always been the hardest thing to let go of. We can let go of everything else, but the hardest treasure for us to truly offer is the very gift of obedience and docility to the will of God. It is extremely hard for us to truly be humble and conform ourselves to the divine commandments and teachings of the Church. We often do not want to let go of what we have worked hard to build for ourselves. We are scared of going beyond our comfort zones and the things we have spent so much time and effort doing to win the hearts of others and make a name for ourselves.
Kenosis — radical self-emptying sacrifices — is extremely hard for human beings. That is why true Christian discipleship and spirituality are extremely hard for many people. It is easier to speak about doctrines and teachings, to be full of self-righteousness, and to simply keep ourselves from breaking the commandments and teachings of Christ and the Church, just like the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the scribes, but it is extremely hard to leave our plows, families, possessions, and self-created kingdoms to truly follow the Lord. Nevertheless, the Savior taught us through His very own self-emptying love what it means to truly possess the truth and the richness we find in God and His Kingdom. The paradox for us as true believers has always been hidden behind the simple prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, because ultimately, “less is more.” The more we hold on to ourselves, our political, social, ideological, or personal agendas, expectations, or demands, the less room we have for God to be the center of our lives, the less willing we are to change to conform to His will, and the less courageous we become to truly leave everything behind to radically follow Him in our very own self-giving love of God and neighbor.
We are reminded that we will be personally judged by the Lord on the last day of our lives when we stand in front of Him. He will not ask for our achievements, how we voted, or what we have done in the sense of the world, but we will be judged by how we have obeyed His law and lived out our love for Him by serving and loving our neighbor. Just like what the Lord said in Matthew 25, how we treat the least of our brothers and sisters will be our very own judgment! It is not enough to simply say that we care, it is useless to use more words for propaganda, campaign, revolution, and agenda because words are meaningless unless they are enlivened with self-giving love and testimony. Without a doubt, we will be judged by how we care for the hungry, stranger, poor and naked, ill and sick, and those who are imprisoned. Our true faith is enlivened when our charity is personal in how we feed, give a drink, welcome, clothed, cared for, and visited those who are forgotten by many. Just like both the condemned and just ones who did not know whether they were serving or disregarding the Lord, we, too, will not recognize Him at times, especially when “those people” become inconveniences to us.
Please let me make this clear! To care for the poor, forgotten, abandoned, voiceless, powerless, and those who are living on the fringes of our very own society is not the government’s sole responsibility and job. Please do not say, “It is not my worry because I have paid my taxes; therefore, have someone else do it for me!” To radically love, serve, and care for our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus is our personal and moral responsibility and we will be judged by how we lived, acted, and served one another in the simplest of words and actions, lives and deeds. No institution or government can diminish and take away that personal and moral responsibility! These different outlets might be available to help alleviate some of the burdens or works that are associated with the immense care for those who have little, but that does not mean we can wash our hands and only do charity when it is a convenience or make us feel good. No! As a matter of fact, charity has to be a daily, personal, and willing decision that we embrace, seek out and choose to live with all of our heart, mind, body, and soul because true charity is personal, self-giving, and genuine love in action.
Therefore, as we begin a new year, let us remember that our happiness is not based on the things we have or need to possess, it is not based on the quantity of more stuff and matters. True happiness is found in Him because His love for us is everlasting and real, for we have already seen what He has done for us in salvation history, in our very own lives, and even at times when we did not recognize Him, too. The joy of the Lord is indescribable and cannot be understood by those who are worldly, worried, and possessed by humanistic matters. It can only be felt and embraced by those who opened themselves up to God and His simple love with childlike faith, persevering love, enduring hope, and relentless and selfless charity!
That is why when we speak matters of the Lord and what it means to believe and love Him, those who are of the world will ridicule, misunderstand, and at times, too, criticize and call us ignorant, foolish, and cowardice, but the only thing that makes us courageous is our ability to remain, abide, and be faithful to Him at all costs. Our real discipleship is not defined by the standards of this world but with the real, personal, intimate, and transparent gift of self totally, completely, and humbly to Him at all times and costs! The one who is truly free is the one who is not easily agitated, moved, and loses hope by depending his or her life on humanistic, ideological, political, or social salvation and redemption.
Simply put, we are called to love the Lord with everything that we have, not because He can do something for us, or that we can gain something in return from Him, but because He is worthy of our love. The Almighty does not have to prove His love for us, because He has done that in so many ways! We have to lay down our desires to be in control, to have things our way, and to expect and demand matters as we like them to really love Him in the simplest of ways and in the simplest of people. He knows. He sees. He understands. He forgives. Hence, He will judge us in all honesty because He knows our hearts, who we are, and what we try to do out of love. Therefore, let us seek the things of heaven by conforming our lives to Christ and bear upon ourselves His very own examples of kenosis, humility, obedience, and self-giving love.