Christ the King

Christ the King

Vol.6 No.11 DOM Gospel Reflection
The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
34th Sunday Ordinary Time—November 20, 2016
Luke 23:35-43

This feast day has a special place in my heart, as I grew up in Atlanta attending the Cathedral of Christ the King. My brother and I taught Sunday School there while we were in high school, and Rob and I were married there as well. Today I am wearing this beautiful crucifix depicting Christ Our King. It was literally left in Rob’s hands while he was in the trauma ICU after his boating accident almost 11 years ago. While we may have known who gave it to him at the time, my memory fails me now. I do believe that I am doing today’s commentary and standing up here today for several reasons.
As it is said, all good things must come to an end. It is the 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the green vestments will go into storage, the liturgical year labeled C is coming to an end, and thus we are ending our wonderful Year of Mercy by literally closing the Jubilee doors in Rome on Sunday. This reflection is my first reflection that has not been during Advent, so I have had to shift gears from anticipating to ending. For the most part, anticipating is always more exciting… a new job, a wedding, a baby…lots of life events. Everyone loves to anticipate or look forward to something. Sometimes, ending can be a good thing as in a project completed, receiving a college degree, or retirement from a long career. On the other hand, other endings can be associated with less positive tones…the loss of a job, a failed marriage, or the most severe ending of all…death. This Sunday’s Gospel vividly recounts Jesus’ crucifixion.
As background, on December 11,1925 Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King. This was a result of the rise of secularism, the belief that religion should not be a part of the state or a part of public education. Christ the King Sunday was originally to be celebrated on the last Sunday on October, but when the church calendars were reformed in 1969, the feast now falls on the last Sunday in Ordinary time. I do not think it is a mere coincidence that we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King right before the beginning of Advent. We are celebrating Christ’s Kingship before we liturgically await the birth of our King.

There was a story that was told that many years ago, a little boy was visiting a foreign country with his family, and he decided he wanted to see the king. Of course, when he arrived at the palace, the gates were closed and the soldiers refused his request to see the king. He took his case to a nearby policeman, who said, “I’m afraid you’re not allowed in there.” A well-dressed gentleman had walked up and heard the conversation. He turned to the boy and said, “What’s the matter?” The boy answered, “I want so much to see the king.” The gentleman took the boy by the hand and said, “Come with me.” As they moved toward the gate, the soldiers sprang to attention and a guard quickly opened the gate for them to enter. He led the boy into the palace and up the steps, and no one tried to stop them as they went right into the king’s offices. The reason is that the gentleman was the king’s son, and he was the one who could give the boy access to his father, the king. Just as the king’s son led the boy to his father, Jesus as Christ the King is our link to God the Father. (borrowed from Father Albert Larka)

Over the last few months, the Gospel of Luke has introduced us to many kinds of people-The Prodigal Son, the sinful woman who washed Jesus’s feet, the Samaritan who wanted to say good bye to his father before leaving, Martha and Mary, The Pharisees, Lazarus, the cleansing of ten lepers and only one giving thanks, the unjust judge, the poor, the rich, the tax collector, the shepherd, the Sadducees, the blind, the lame. Some were believers, others were doubters, and some even boasters. Sunday, we are literally confronted by the crucified Lord-the one who’s belief was so strong, faith so loyal that he laid down his life so we could have eternal life.

In our first reading on Sunday, David is anointed King of Israel. You can almost imagine a crown being placed upon his head. This was the second-time David had been named a king-the first time was as King over the house of Judah. After Saul took his own life in battle, the tribes of Israel came to King David-as I said he was already a king-and repeated the words Jesus had said to him that he should shepherd his people. Shepherd was a title for a King, and in Israel, shepherd also meant God. This is a very clear reference that his authority was given by God.
In the second reading, Jesus is presented as a triumphant King-the beginning and the beginning of the end. He is the image of the invisible God; he is our direct connection to his father. Up until now, God has only been seen in the clouds or images, but He is now known through his son. He is the first born of all creation, and the first born always holds a place of honor. I see a gentle man with long brown locks him holding a scepter and wearing an orb with an aura of light shining behind him-a magnificent picture!
Now contrast those 2 beautiful images of Jesus with the stark reality of Sunday’s Gospel. I am confident that the first two readings were chosen to soften the visual of this Gospel. The Kingship of the Gospel does not provide the same pictures as the first 2 readings. There is no crown, no robe, no ring of power…not what we normally think about a king. The crucifix presents the strongest image of Christ our King. Jesus wore a crown of thorns, with a sign above his head “This is the King of the Jews” Even as he hangs on the cross, being mocked and jeered, he is still offering salvation to believers. One of the thieves, known as the good thief, Dismas, realizes the truth about Jesus and verbally reaches out to be saved.” Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. “God the Father is sacrificing his son to save the souls of all believers, including Dismas. “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Eternal salvation has been granted to Dismas and we too as believers may enter the kingdom of heaven one day.

The Kingdom of God is fundamental to the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. The preface to this Sunday’s Eucharistic prayer includes the words” a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, peace and love.” Jesus began his public ministry by preaching of the kingdom of God. After John the Baptist was imprisoned, Jesus came to Galilee preaching in Mark 1:14, that “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” John 18:36 continues “My kingdom which does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” By his death on the cross and his resurrection, Jesus permanently establishes his kingdom in heaven. As troubling as the image presented in this Sunday’s gospel is, the crucifix is essential to the Catholic Church and its beliefs.

In closing, Pope Pius XI’s encyclical, addressed to Catholic Bishops in 1925, was entitled Quas Primas, which is Latin for “In the First”-
“When we pay honor to the princely dignity of Christ, men will doubtless be reminded that the Church, founded by Christ as a perfect society, has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the State; and that in fulfilling the task committed to her by God of teaching, ruling and guiding to eternal bliss those who belong to the kingdom of Christ, she cannot be subject to any external power. The faithful moreover, by meditating upon these truths, will gain much strength and courage, enabling them to form their lives after the true Christian ideal. If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominions; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds…he must reign in our wills… he must reign in our hearts…he must reign in our bodies and our members as instruments of justice unto God.”
So, I leave you with these questions that only you can answer…Is Jesus in your mind? Is He in your will? Is He in your heart? Is Jesus Christ the King of your life?
The Magnificat Magazine

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