Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
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The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. …Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God…? Indeed, we have been condemned justly,…but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Today is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. So did today’s Gospel passage shock you? I always wondered why the Church did not use a more “appropriate” reading for the King of Kings, such as one of Christ’s miracles or his entry into Jerusalem.
Well, I am no longer shocked by the selection. In fact, I consider it a very wise choice for the occasion, and for the following reasons.
Save yourself and us. The Lord came to save others, not himself. He does not need saving. We need saving, for we are sinners. So, which sinner (thief) am I? Am I the thief on the left or the one on the right? Am I the one constantly protesting against the Lord or the one seeking His mercy and forgiveness?
These two men represent all of humanity, for we are all sinners, deserving of human and divine punishment. But where humans lack mercy, God’s mercy is made abundantly clear, on the cross, at the point of death – his death and that of the repentant sinner – and in his final words. Today, you will be with me in paradise.
The making of a King. In his recent interview in America, Pope Francis discussed the importance of discernment. Drawing upon the words of St. Ignatius, he offered a glimpse into his pontificate: “Non coerceri a maximo, sed continieri a minimo divinum est.” That is, “Not to be limited by the greatest and yet to be contained in the tiniest – this is the divine.”
What exactly does this mean? Well, to grasp this means to comprehend the pontificate of Pope Francis, and ultimately, the mission, power and might of our Lord.
Do not be limited by the greatest. Although Francis is the head of the Catholic Church, and all power rests with him, he refuses to be limited by the greatest, and instead prefers to be contained in the tiniest. In other words, he prefers “Servant of servants” to “Vicar of Christ.”
Although the Pope could have any car his heart desires, he prefers a Ford Focus. Although he could reserve his time to dignitaries alone, he insists on meeting and greeting the dignitary’s employees, staff and their families. Although he could dialogue with friends alone, he wishes to reach out and enter into communication with his critics. Although he could govern with an iron rod, he prefers to have a council of eight. I could go on and on, but you get the point.
The Holy Father is imitating the life of Christ, for although the Lord could have it His way, all the time, He prefers to enter into communion with His enemies and friends. Although He could live for all eternity, He prefers to enter into time, and be subjected to life and death. Although His Kingdom is of Heaven, He prefers a manger in the remote town of Bethlehem. Although He could be the Son of a King, He prefers to be the son of a carpenter. Although He could rule with an iron rod, He prefers the Commandment of love. Although He could spend His time with dignitaries, He prefers the abandoned, the forgotten, the lonely and the lowly.
From Christ’s perspective, He sees might makes right as a human illness, a symptom of sin, and a perversion of the divine commandment of right makes might.
In today’s readings we see the immensity of the Lord’s love which is His might. We see it clearly, from the tiniest of places, the foot of the Cross. From there we can see the Cross as His throne, the thorns as His Crown and His words as His final decree.
We also see the divine will of the Father.
God the Father takes the immensity of His very being and brings it to its finest detail through His Son. This too is what every Christian is called to do: to take the enormity of love and bring it to its finest detail by means of an act of love.
Christ our King! Thy Kingdom Come! (43)