Christ Our King
(2Sam.5:1-3; Col.1:12-20; Lk.23:35-43)
Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. This is the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical calendar, and we end the year by reminding ourselves of who Jesus really is.
Pope Pius XI established the Feast of Christ the King in 1925, partly because of his concern about the rise of repressive dictatorships in Europe. At the time, violence and anti-Christian rhetoric were all too common, and Pius feared that too many Christians were being duped by the false prophets of fascism, communism and Nazism.
He wanted to remind us all that it is God who created us, and that in our turbulent world our only real hope for the future is Jesus Christ.
Thankfully, Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini are all now long gone. However, the world today is witnessing instead the rise of new dictatorships that are both disturbing and dangerous, and too many people are living lives that are spiritually empty and aimless.
Many today try to compensate for this emptiness with various forms of self-obsession and by subscribing to the latest political and social fads.
But in her book Strange Gods, Elizabeth Scalia says that when we’re obsessed with ourselves, all our feelings, desires and thoughts become like gods to us, and they lead us down a long winding path that seems to take us somewhere, but really only takes us down into the dungeon of ourselves.
This, she says, is why Jesus says the most important thing we can do is to love God first and then to love our neighbour. For only in this way will we be lifted from the empty depths of our inner selves and brought into the refreshing light of truth.
Today in our Gospel, Jesus is crucified on a cross in a rubbish dump called Calvary. Now, the very fact that our King and our God, Jesus Christ, would allow himself to be treated in this way should make us all stop and think. It says so much about how Jesus views his relationship with us.
In Mark’s Gospel (10:42-45) Jesus says to his disciples, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’.
Pope Benedict XVI in his book The Joy of Knowing Christ (2009) says that this is the logic of Christianity. Jesus gave himself in love simply because God is love.
To those who don’t know him, Jesus nailed to the cross looks like an abject failure. However, we know from what follows that Jesus didn’t fail at all. He has actually proved to be the most remarkable king of all.
Not only did he rise from the dead, but he has shown us that his kingship is not about selfishness and greed, but about humility, service and love.
He has shown us that he is not a demanding, bullying king, but one who gently invites us to follow him.
And he is not imperious or remote like other kings, but rather he is a shepherd who genuinely cares for his flock.
And significantly, he doesn’t ask us to do anything that he’s not prepared to do himself.
Jesus’ self-sacrificial love is the complete opposite of fashionable thinking today.
In his book Food for the Soul, Peter Kreeft draws our attention to the last sentence in today’s Gospel. He notes that it’s the last sentence of the last reading of the last Sunday of our liturgical year, and it’s Jesus’ answer to the good thief who was crucified next to him: ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
Kreeft says that these are the words we will be hearing from Jesus on the last day of our own lives, if we accept him as our King.
He says that if we make room for Jesus on the throne of our lives, then he will make room for us on his throne in heaven. He will share his kingship, his triumph, and his glory with us. [i]
That thief had lived a life of crime, and barely minutes before his death, he repented and opened his heart up to God. Jesus responded by offering him eternal life in paradise.
What a remarkable gift that was!
But what’s even more extraordinary is the fact that this gift is available to each of us, too.
[i] Peter Kreeft, Food for the Soul. Word on Fire, Park Ridge, IL. 2021:671-672.