Christ the King-Solemnity
A Homily - C Cycle - 2003-2004
First Reading - 2 Samuel 5:1-3
Psalm - Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
Second Reading - Colossians 1:12-20
Gospel - Luke 23:35-43
This Solemnity of Christ the King is relatively new in the Church's calendar - it was established nearly 80 years ago during the reign of Pope Pius XI. If you think back 80 years ago and examine where the world was back then, establishing this feast makes perfect sense. In the aftermath of the First World War, the Bolshevik Revolution, a nascent atheism in Europe and the end of the old empires, the Pope wanted to reassert that in spite of wars and insurrections, Jesus the Lord remains the Lord of all history, all time, all creation and of the entire universe. He remains the center and goal and end of the entire created order and it is to Him that we owe ultimate homage and adoration. It reminds us that Christ reigns in glory at the Father's right hand and that He will come again to judge the living and the dead. Those who die as friends of God will one day enter heaven and those who die as enemies of God will be cast into the eternal fires of damnation. These events ought not to frighten us because if we live a life free of mortal sin, we have nothing to fear. In a way, we ought to be looking forward to the end of the world. It will mean our day with what we were created for to be with God for eternity.
When we think of kings, we often think of kingdoms. Through nearly 2,000 years of the Church's life, we know with great certainty that our Lord's kingdom is not of this world. We know that the kingdom of God is not a temporal power, even though temporal powers have tried to annihilate the Church. In 1943, Hitler sent one of his generals to Rome to "invite" Pope Pius XII to relocate the Vatican to Berlin so as to become a department of the Third Reich. The Pope, without hesitation, told the general that the only way the Pope was going to leave Rome was in a box. The general then assured the Pope that the days of the Church were soon coming to a close. The Pope replied, (paraphrase) "143 years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte offered my predecessor an ultimatum - relocate the Vatican to Paris or face the extinction of the Church. Napoleon's dead and we're still here. What makes you think that the Third Reich will exterminate the Church when 2,000 years of corrupt bishops and priests have been unable to do so from within?"
Even today, we ask if Christ truly reigns in the hearts of men. When the European Union's Constitution fails to include mention of Europe's Christian heritage, we wonder how quickly Europe forgets that in the Dark Ages, it was the monks in their monasteries who preserved Western culture when half of Europe was decimated by plagues and wars. When California passes a bill to spend $3 billion on embryonic research, we ask if Christ truly reigns in the hearts of men when a significant number of Californians are Catholics.
We know that at the end of the day, the kingdom of God reigns and rules in our hearts when Jesus Christ is the king, center and reason for our living. In today's Gospel, we are presented with a very unusual depiction of kingliness and royalty. When we think of kings, we often think of riches, earthly splendor and regal pageantry. In our Gospel today, we are presented with Christ the King who reigns from an instrument of capital punishment, in total shame and rejection and abandonment. He is our King who reigns in suffering. He means to tell us that if we are to reign with Him, we must suffer like He did. For this reason, the Catholic does not run from suffering as if it were a terminal condition or evil. The Catholic, thanks to Christ, can embrace suffering and use it as a tool for the Kingdom of God truly taking root in the soul. It's when we suffer with dignity that we are most like our Lord for his finest hour was not found in an earthly palace, but rather, in the salvific action of redeeming us from the power of death at Calvary. What a mystery - our KING SUFFERS! In His sacred humanity, he feels totally abandoned by the Father and we still hail Him king. Even the soldiers, who were normally emotionally detached from their work of capital punishment, jeer Christ. The hatred our King endures was total and severe. Doubtless, the lessons we can learn from this, His hour of glory, are immeasurable.
To close, it is helpful for us to consider the good thief in our Gospel today - St. Dismas. In a way, we can say that he stole heaven. Listen now to what a saint once wrote about this good thief:
The first person to formally recognize Christ as king was a condemned criminal. He captured the Lord's Heart with that humble request: Jesus remember me when you come in your kingly power. This man was able to grasp the real meaning of Christ's kingship even thought it was the object of merciless ridicule from the clamoring throng. His faith deepened as Christ's divinity became increasingly obscured. The Lord always grants us more than what we ask for. The thief merely asked to be remembered, but the Lord said, 'Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.' The essence of life is to live with Jesus Christ. And where Jesus Christ is, there is His reign to be found.
Let us resolve to allow the reign of Christ to have sovereignty in our hearts and let us ask Mary our Queen to teach us how to love Jesus our King more devotedly and to embrace the Cross, for it is the sure and certain way to heavenly glory.
Praised be Jesus Christ. Now and forever!
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