One day, every knee — not just the saints’ — will bend at the name of Jesus
Sep 23, 2020
“At the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” —Philippians 2:10-11
When the time comes for time to end, when we and all of humanity behold Jesus Christ coming again in glory, when we walk no longer by faith but by sight, who will fulfill the words of St. Paul by bending their knees at the name of Jesus and confessing that He is Lord?
For those who think that Church teaching can be a little complicated sometimes, here is an answer that simple, concise, and easy to remember: EVERYONE!
Now, in a certain sense I could stop right here, insofar as there is no need to qualify this answer in any way. Every single human being who has ever lived, lives now, or will ever live will recognize the Lordship of Jesus, whatever ways they might have ignored, denied, rejected or despised Him up to that time.
This will be the fulfillment not only of the text from Philippians quoted above, but also of Isaiah 45:23, in which the Lord promises: “By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear.”
Everyone: not only the heroes of the Bible, but also the villains. Not only the heroes of history, but also the villains. Not only the humble, but every over-hyped celebrity. Every Republican and every Democrat. Every Catholic, every other kind of Christian, and non-Christians of every variety. ALL will bend their knees to Jesus in the end.
Some knees are going to bend fluidly, with the benefit of long practice. And some may crackle under the pressure of a first-time experience. Some people will be kneeling in the company of the heavenly angels, while others singe their knees on the coals of hell.
My point is not to address the question of who will be saved and who won’t. Rather, I want merely to point ahead to a moment that will be glorious and awe-inspiring beyond our wildest imaginings. It is sure to come, that moment when the veil over our sight will be lifted. It is a moment that deserves our careful mediation.
Just think of all the people who will kneel before Jesus! Think not just of groups, but of individuals. Their names are not only to be found in the Bible or Lives of the Saints, but in every history book, Sports Illustrated, Time, and People magazines, and in every census, directory, and phone book ever published. And of course there are millions of names written only in the mind of God.
This is a moment to which we should look ahead with great hope and with that authentic “fear of the Lord” that Scripture tells us is the beginning of wisdom: that moment when everyone, those who love Him and those who have made the terrible choice to reject Him, will all recognize the truth that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
On that day, when we all appear before Jesus Christ in His glory, may it be very clear that we are well-practiced at this confession of Jesus’ lordship, that we know what we are doing and are glad to kneel before Our Lord. By kneeling before Him in worship during Holy Mass, as He makes Himself present once again in His Body and Blood, we prepare for that day. The same Jesus Who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave,” the Jesus Who “humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8), comes to meet us on the altar of the Eucharistic Sacrifice every time we celebrate Mass.
We have all been tempted at one time or another to be like the son in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 21:28-32) who appears to say “yes” to his father, but doesn’t follow through. Today, may each of us begin again, not only saying “yes” to God our Father, but acting on that “yes”: worshipping Jesus, imitating Jesus, and loving Jesus in all the people around us. And may we help the people around us to know and love Jesus and bend their knees to Him before the coming of that final day.
Fr. Charles Fox is a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit currently assigned to the theology faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary. He is also a weekend associate pastor at St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Shelby Township and chaplain and a board member of St. Paul Evangelization Institute, headquartered in Warren.