The first reading from Mass for Tuesday of the First Week of the Year is from the Letter to the Hebrews. It sets forth the total victory of Christ and that the Father has subjected all things to Christ. Yet the text also shows how the outworking of this subjugation is paradoxical.
Note first the declaration of all things being subject to Jesus Christ:
In “subjecting” all things to him, he left nothing not “subject to him” (Hebrews 2:8b).
“All things” is a pretty substantial category. Yes, everything is subject to Him: the wicked and powerful men of this earth as well as demons. This, of course, brings to mind a question that is addressed in the very next sentence:
Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,” … (Hebrews 2:8c)
The text notes we do not currently see all things subjected to Christ; this implies that our inability to see does not mean that all things are not subject to Him! The fact that a blind man cannot see the sun does not mean that the sun is not there. The defect is not in the sun or in reality; it is in the man. So too for us, who do not see that all things are subject to Christ.
Scripture is a prophetic declaration of reality. In effect, it says to us, “This is what is really going on regardless of what you think. You should conform your thinking to this prophetic declaration of reality from God Himself.”
So, then, although we might not see that all things are subject to Christ, we are challenged to permit God to help us perceive this. This is accomplished by instruction in His word, so that we see and interpret things rightly and in conformity with the prophetic declaration of reality contained in Scripture.
The next verses show forth the paradox of Christ’s triumph:
… but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor” because he suffered death …. For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering (Heb 2:10).
Here, simply put, is the paradox of the cross. It is by the cross that Christ conquers both Satan and our pride. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted that darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that; and hatred cannot drive out hatred; only love can do that. Continuing in that vein, I would add that pride cannot drive out pride; only humility can do that. Christ does not conquer by having more pride than Satan or than us. He does not conquer by becoming an even worse version of His enemy. No, He conquers through humility, obedience, and suffering. Because of this, He has been exalted by the Father and given a name above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, whether in Heaven, on earth, or under the earth (See Phil 2:10). The text from Hebrews says that because Christ suffered, we now see Him crowned with glory and honor.
This is the paradox for us as well. As Jesus was crowned because of His humble suffering, we too will have the victory because of our suffering.
We tend to think that “all things being subject to” Christ means that all suffering and wickedness are eradicated—not so. As Christ attained to the highest places in this way of the cross, so will we who follow Him. Suffering is not a sign of defeat but the very path to victory! The devil loses at his own game.
Scripture says elsewhere,
For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that is far beyond comparison. (2 Cor 4:17).
All things work together for good to them that love the Lord and are called according to his purposes (Rom 8:28).
The more suffering Satan inflicts, the more ground he loses.
This, then, is how all things are subject to Christ: even sufferings that seem antithetical to His sovereignty are part of His plan to give us greater glory. Even when Satan does his worst to the believer he loses. The more he attacks, the greater our glory in Christ if we persevere. It all backfires for Satan. He loses and God is always sovereign. God can make a way out of no way, write straight with crooked lines, and do anything but fail.
All things, even our sufferings, are subject to Christ.
Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: Christ’s Victory Is Total, but Often in Surprising Ways