Christ the King


At Jesus’ Nativity, smart men asked, “Where is He Who has been born King of the Jews?”  Herod desired to kill Him.  Thirty-three years later, the Jews finally acknowledged their King.  How?

Gospel (Read Lk 23:35-43)

Today, on the Feast of Christ the King, St. Luke describes a scene from Christ’s Crucifixion.  As Jesus moved through His earthly ministry, He stirred up an awesome deal of Messianic expectation.  That excitement reached fever pitch on Palm Sunday, when the crowds welcomed Him to Jerusalem as One Who got here within the Name of the Lord.  Inside every week, the mood had entirely modified.  The religious elites of town bore down on Him, to kill Him, just as Herod had tried to do when He was born.  Even Jesus’ closest friends deserted Him at this dark time.  Why did the hope of His eager followers die so quickly?

The cause for disillusionment is voiced here by certainly one of the criminals being executed with Jesus:  “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us.”  This mocking incredulity completely enveloped the Lord in His final hours.  Hear it within the jeer of the rulers and soldiers:  “He saved others, let Him save Himself if He’s the chosen one, the Christ of God.”  Nobody could imagine that a person who had done such miraculous works and who claimed to be the Son of God could come to such a pitiful, impotent end.  It was Jesus’ refusal to fight back, His powerlessness that so shocked everyone.  To His detractors, this weakness was proof that He had been an impostor all along.  The Messiah, the Son of David, simply couldn’t lead His people this fashion—bloodied, beaten, nailed to a Cross.  To His friends, this spectacle will need to have been particularly bitter.  He had said and done much that was inexplicable while He was with them, but even that didn’t prepare them for this.  How painful was it for them to observe that sign being hoisted above Him that read:  “That is the King of the Jews”?

There was one person there, nevertheless, who saw something in Jesus perhaps nobody else, aside from His Mother, did.  He’s the one who gives us our final lesson about faith before we start a recent liturgical yr.  Of the 2 criminals being executed with Jesus, certainly one of them had a revelation.  He had perhaps also been reviling Jesus, too (see Mk 15:32), but then something modified.  In vss 32-34, not included in our reading, we hear that Jesus prayed aloud for His persecutors:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Who does that type of thing?  Did this extraordinary act of mercy and love drive a shaft of conviction and faith into the center of the guilty man?  We don’t know of course, but we do know that this criminal didn’t see weakness and failure in Jesus.  He saw that the inscription above His head was true:  “That is the King of the Jews.”  He saw that the dominion over which Jesus reigned was not of this world.  He saw not an end but a starting: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  There isn’t a deeper act of religion than this!  To give you the option to see and imagine in what lies on the opposite side of the senses, because we’re looking upon Jesus, is the essence of the life of religion.  The converted criminal teaches us to not flinch or flinch from trusting Jesus’ Kingship, regardless of what we see on this life.  Someday, as today’s feast assures us, what can only be seen by faith now shall be manifested for all to see.  That is the hope of the Church, and what a wonderful hope it’s.

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, help me have the religion of the believing criminal each time I’m tempted to have a look at suffering and accuse You by asking, “Why don’t You do something to stop this?”

First Reading (Read 2 Sam 5:1-3)

This reading takes us back to the time when David, anointed by the prophet, Samuel, as the brand new king of Israel when he was still a shepherd boy, was finally recognized as king by “all of the tribes of Israel.”  He was thirty years old and reigned for thirty-three years.  Because of this of his anointing in his youth, King Saul, the primary man to take a seat on the throne of Israel, sought to kill him.  David never lifted a finger against Saul; he trusted that God would secure the throne for him in His own time.  After Saul’s death, his supporters struggled against David in military skirmishes.  Eventually, nevertheless, the Israelites acknowledged him as their rightful leader:  “In days past, when Saul was our king, it was you who led the Israelites out and brought them back.  And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.’”  On this confidence, “they anointed him king of Israel.”

We should always note the language the people used to explain their relationship with David:  “Here we’re, your bone and your flesh” (Gen 2:23).  This evokes the delight of Adam when God gave Eve to him:  “This, eventually, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”  It’s nuptial language; the king of Israel was also her husband.  Consider Jesus’ description of Himself because the Bridegroom within the Gospels.  He got here not only to shepherd His people but additionally to marry us.  The gift of the Eucharist is His nuptial act of affection for His kingdom, which, as He taught us, is in us (see Lk 17:21).  When Jesus said to the converted criminal, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise,” He used a Persian word meaning “garden” or “park.”  This word first appears within the Greek Old Testament in Gen 2:8, when it refers back to the Garden of Eden.  Centuries later, the prophets foretold that the blissful conditions of Eden would reappear in the long run (see Isa 51:3; Ezek 36:35).  Starting with that converted criminal, Jesus is the King Who marries His people within the Paradise of His Church, His kingdom on earth and in heaven.

Possible response:  Heavenly Father, Your people once asked for a king out of lack of religion.  You turned their weakness into our strength by giving us Christ, our King.  Thank You.

Psalm (Read Ps 122:1-5)

The psalm reminds us that the City of David, Jerusalem, was the holiest place on earth for the Israelites, since it was there the Temple stood.  “Allow us to go rejoicing to the home of the Lord” was the completely happy song of Israel’s people.  Jerusalem was also the seat of the throne of David, upon which God promised that a descendant of his would all the time sit.  As we rejoice God’s success of that promise within the everlasting Kingship of Jesus, we, too, can sing:  “I rejoiced because they said to me, ‘We are going to go as much as the home of the Lord.’”

Possible response:  The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings.  Read it again prayerfully to make it your personal.

Second Reading (Read Col 1:12-20)

Here, St. Paul writes explicitly concerning the joy of being in the dominion over which Christ rules: “He delivered us from the facility of darkness and transferred us to the dominion of His beloved Son, in Whom we have now redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Then, St. Paul goes on to present us an outline of our King that’s dramatically different from the one in our Gospel reading.  The One Who seemed powerless and defeated on the Cross, mocked as a idiot, is definitely “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”  St. Paul gives us an impressive vision of our King, one which can counter all our doubts and misgivings about whether King Jesus truly reigns, right away, over all we are able to see.  His willingness to endure His Passion and taste death, refusing to flee from it, and submitting to the ridicule of those present was the precise opposite of defeat.  In that veiled work, He was able “to reconcile all things for Him, making peace by the blood of His Cross through Him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.”

Within the Resurrection, revealed only to those that believed in Him, Jesus proved that the sign above His head on the Cross was the everlasting truth about Him: “That is the King of the Jews.”  All of us who live the religion of Abraham, father of the Jews, by trusting God to maintain His guarantees are heirs of Abraham (see Gal 3:28-39).  In that sense, all Christian believers are “Jews.”  We all know that “all things were created through Him and for Him.”  He’s, as our feast day assures us, our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

Lord Jesus, remember us as You reign in Your kingdom today.

Possible response:  Lord Jesus, it is difficult to soak up all that St. Paul says about You in these verses, but they leave little doubt that this universe is Yours.  Help me keep in mind that today.

Photo by Andrea Leopardi on Unsplash

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