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Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 22, 2020
Jesus Christ is King of Thieves, though He never stole. He is savior of sinners, though He never sinned.
Today’s Gospel chosen presents Jesus as reigning from the cross. Nothing could be more paradoxical. Let’s look at it from four perspectives:
I. Vision – Today’s Gospel presents a vision or image of the Church. We like to think of more pleasant images: the Church is the Bride of Christ or the Body of Christ. Today’s image is more humbling to be sure: the Church is Christ, crucified between two thieves.
Yes, this is the Church too. In a way, we are all thieves. We are all sinners and have used the gifts and things that belong to God in a way contrary to His will. To misuse things that belong to others is a form of theft.
Consider some of the things we claim as our own and how easily we misuse them: our bodies, our time, our talents, our money, the gift of our speech, and the gift of our freedom. We call them ours but they really belong to God, and if we use them in ways contrary to His intention we are guilty of a form of theft.
II. Variance – Consider, also, that the two thieves were very different. In the Church we have saints and sinners, and in the world there are those who will turn to Christ and be saved and others who will turn away and be lost.
One thief (the “bad thief”) derides Jesus and makes demands of Him. Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! The text says that this thief “reviles” Jesus, treating him with contempt.
The other thief (the “good thief”) reverences Christ and rebukes the other, saying, Have you no fear of God? The good thief recognizes his guilt: We have been condemned justly. He asks, Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom, but he leaves the terms of it up to Christ. He acknowledges that he is a thief and now places his life under the authority of Christ the King.
Christ came to call sinners—thieves, if you will. Yes, we are all thieves, but pray God that we are the good thief, the repentant thief, the thief who is now ready to submit himself to the authority of Christ, who is King of all creation.
Heaven is a real steal, something we don’t deserve; it is only accessed through repentance and faith. The bad thief wants relief but will not open the door of his heart so that Jesus can save him. Mercy is offered and available to him, but it is accessed only through repentance and faith. The good thief does open the door of his heart and thereby is saved.
III. Veracity – Is Christ really your king? A King has authority, so another way of posing this question is, “Does Christ have authority in your life?” Consider whether you acknowledge that everything you call your own really belongs to God and think about how well you use those gifts.
How do you use our time?
Are you committed to pray and to attend Mass every Sunday without fail?
Do you use enough of your time to serve God and others, or merely for selfish pursuits?
Do you use the gift of your speech to witness and evangelize, or merely for small talk and gossip?
Do you exhibit proper care for your body?
Are you chaste?
Do you observe proper safety or are you sometimes reckless?
Do you reverence life?
Are you faithful to the Lord’s command to tithe?
Do you spend wisely?
Do you pay your debts in a timely way?
Are you generous enough to the poor and needy?
Do you love the poor and help them to sustain their lives?
It is one thing to call Christ our King, but it is another to be truly under His authority. The Lord is clear enough in telling us that he expects our obedience: Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” but do not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46)
Is Christ your King? Which thief are you, really?
IV. Victory – The thief who asked Jesus to remember him manifested repentance, faith, and a kind of baptism of desire. In so doing, he moved into the victor’s column. Jesus’s words, Today you shall be with me in paradise, indicate a dramatic shift in the thief’s fortunes.
To be with Jesus—wherever He is—is paradise and victory. Soon enough, the heavens will be opened, but the victory is now and paradise begins now.
Thus the good thief claims the victory through his choice for Jesus Christ. Will you have the victory? That depends on whether you choose the prince of this world or the King of the Universe, Jesus. Some think that they can tread some middle path, choosing neither Jesus nor Satan. But if you do that, you’ve actually chosen the prince of this world, who loves compromise. Jesus says, Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Matt 12:30).
As for me, I’ve decided to make Jesus my choice. I pray that he will truly be my King in all things and that my choice will be more than mere lip service. Come, Jesus, reign in my heart. Let me begin to experience victory and paradise, even now!
The Crucifixion with the Two Thieves
Master of the Pietà
Mid 14th century, Siena
Feast of Christ the King
Conclusion of the Year of Mercy
November 20, 2016
Pope Francis writes: “It is absolutely essential for the Church and for the credibility of her message that she herself live and testify to mercy.” Mercy, he says, is “the beating heart of the Gospel” (Misericordiae Vultus). To live mercy, we must rediscover both the spiritual works of mercy (counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead), and the corporal works of mercy (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead). – from “Living Mercy in the Jubilee Year of Mercy“ by the USCCB
It is hard to believe that our Year of Mercy started so many months ago. What a joy it has been to consider through these emails the many ways that God manifests His Mercy and Compassion upon us. But as we all know, the mandate for mercy is always with us, and I would encourage you to continue living out that great grace of God in our broken and damaged world. It needs us desperately.
As the Jubilee Year of Mercy comes to a close and we begin a new year in the Church, we encourage you to continue to practice knowing, living and sharing God’s mercy in the world. This is not our last posting. In gratitude for your faithfulness to these emails, and to help you begin your New Church Year (Liturgical year), we will continue the weekly pattern of living mercy for the remainder of the 2016 calendar year.
Although the Jubilee Year of Mercy has ended, it is just the beginning, for our journey will only end when we reach our eternal home. It has been such a blessing and honor to watch what was a simple inspiration I received become a wonderful tool that aided you in the living out of the Jubilee of Mercy and on your faith journey. It was the highlight of my day to read the comments so many of you posted, whether it was asking for prayers, engaging in conversations or sharing how the calendar has blessed you.
Thanks to your participation and sharing of this wonderful resource, we were able to reach at least 45 states (if you are from Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware, Wyoming or Idaho, please let us know!), 9 Canadian Provinces (if you are from the Yukon, Northwest Territory, Nunavut or Newfoundland, please let us know as well!), 19 Countries, 20,369 individual through daily emails and 12,691 individuals through daily text messages.
Year of Mercy Calendar for Today: “Closing of the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica.”
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 20, 2016 (Readings on USCCB website)
Almighty ever-living God, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
- Brazilian King’s Bread
- Crown Cake
- Dutch King’s Bread
- Easter Cake
- Gateau des Rois (1)
- King’s Ring
- Rosca de Reyes
- Spanish King’s Bread
- Spanish King’s Cake
- St. Lucia Crown
- King’s Cake
- Prayer to Christ the King
- Prayer to Christ the King
- Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King (Iesu dulcissime, Redemptor)
- Litany of Christ the King
- Christ the King Is Lord of the World and History | Pope John Paul II
- May Your Kingdom Come | Pope John Paul II
- Praise The Lord, King Of All The Earth | Pope John Paul II
- Quas Primas (On The Feast Of Christ The King) | Pope Pius XI
Old Calendar: Twenty-Sixth and Last Sunday after Pentecost ; Other Titles: Feast of Christ the King
The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of man’s thinking and living and organizes his life as if God did not exist. The feast is intended to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ’s royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations.
Today’s Mass establishes the titles for Christ’s royalty over men: 1) Christ is God, the Creator of the universe and hence wields a supreme power over all things; “All things were created by Him”; 2) Christ is our Redeemer, He purchased us by His precious Blood, and made us His property and possession; 3) Christ is Head of the Church, “holding in all things the primacy”; 4) God bestowed upon Christ the nations of the world as His special possession and dominion.
Today’s Mass also describes the qualities of Christ’s kingdom. This kingdom is: 1) supreme, extending not only to all people but also to their princes and kings; 2) universal, extending to all nations and to all places; 3) eternal, for “The Lord shall sit a King forever”; 4) spiritual, Christ’s “kingdom is not of this world”. — Rt. Rev. Msgr. Rudolph G. Gandas
Before the reform of the Roman Calendar in 1969, this feast was celebrated on the last Sunday of October.
Christ the King as Represented in the Liturgy
The liturgy is an album in which every epoch of Church history immortalizes itself. Therein, accordingly, can be found the various pictures of Christ beloved during succeeding centuries. In its pages we see pictures of Jesus suffering and in agony; we see pictures of His Sacred Heart; yet these pictures are not proper to the nature of the liturgy as such; they resemble baroque altars in a gothic church. Classic liturgy knows but one Christ: the King, radiant, majestic, and divine.
With an ever-growing desire, all Advent awaits the “coming King”; in the chants of the breviary we find repeated again and again the two expressions “King” and “is coming.” On Christmas the Church would greet, not the Child of Bethlehem, but the Rex Pacificus — “the King of peace gloriously reigning.” Within a fortnight, there follows a feast which belongs to the greatest of the feasts of the Church year — the Epiphany. As in ancient times oriental monarchs visited their principalities (theophany), so the divine King appears in His city, the Church; from its sacred precincts He casts His glance over all the world….On the final feast of the Christmas cycle, the Presentation in the Temple, holy Church meets her royal Bridegroom with virginal love: “Adorn your bridal chamber, O Sion, and receive Christ your King!” The burden of the Christmas cycle may be summed up in these words: Christ the King establishes His Kingdom of light upon earth!
If we now consider the Easter cycle, the luster of Christ’s royal dignity is indeed somewhat veiled by His sufferings; nevertheless, it is not the suffering Jesus who is present to the eyes of the Church as much as Christ the royal Hero and Warrior who upon the battlefield of Golgotha struggles with the mighty and dies in triumph. Even during Lent and Passiontide the Church acclaims her King. The act of homage on Palm Sunday is intensely stirring; singing psalms in festal procession we accompany our Savior singing: Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit, Rex Christe, “Glory, praise and honor be to Thee, Christ, O King!”
It is true that on Good Friday the Church meditates upon the Man of Sorrows in agony upon the Cross, but at the same time, and perhaps more so, she beholds Him as King upon a royal throne. The hymn Vexilla Regis, “The royal banners forward go,” is the more perfect expression of the spirit from which the Good Friday liturgy has arisen.
Also characteristic is the verse from Psalm 95, Dicite in gentibus quia Dominus regnavit, to which the early Christians always added, a ligno, “Proclaim among the Gentiles: the Lord reigns from upon the tree of the Cross!” During Paschal time the Church is so occupied with her glorified Savior and Conqueror that kingship references become rarer; nevertheless, toward the end of the season we celebrate our King’s triumph after completing the work of redemption, His royal enthronement on Ascension Thursday.
Neither in the time after Pentecost is the picture of Christ as King wholly absent from the liturgy. Corpus Christi is a royal festival: “Christ the King who rules the nations, come, let us adore” (Invit.). In the Greek Church the feast of the Transfiguration is the principal solemnity in honor of Christ’s kingship, Summum Regem gloriae Christum adoremus (Invit.). Finally at the sunset of the ecclesiastical year, the Church awaits with burning desire the return of the King of Majesty.
We will overlook further considerations in favor of a glance at the daily Offices. How often do we not begin Matins with an act of royal homage: “The King of apostles, of martyrs, of confessors, of virgins — come, let us adore” (Invit.). Lauds is often introduced with Dominus regnavit, “The Lord is King”. Christ as King is also a first consideration at the threshold of each day; for morning after morning we renew our oath of fidelity at Prime: “To the King of ages be honor and glory.” Every oration is concluded through our Mediator Christ Jesus “who lives and reigns forever.” Yes, age-old liturgy beholds Christ reigning as King in His basilica (etym.: “the king’s house”), upon the altar as His throne.
Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Things to Do:
A procession for Christ the King on this feastday, either in the Church or at home is appropriate for this feast. The Blessed Sacrament would be carried and the procession would end with a prayer of consecration to Christ the King and Benediction. Try to participate if your parish has a Christ the King procession. If not, try having one at home (minus the Blessed Sacrament).
Read Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quas primas (On the Feast of Christ the King) which shows that secularism is the direct denial of Christ’s Kingship.
Learn more about secularism – read the Annual Statement of the Bishops of the United States released on November 14, 1947.
Being a relatively newer feast on the Liturgical calendar, there are no traditional foods for this day. Suggested ideas: a wonderful family Sunday dinner, and bake an cake shaped as a crown or King Cake or a bread in shape of a crown in honor of Christ the King.
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King. A plenary indulgence is granted, if it is recite publicly on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ King.
CHRIST IS OUR KING
(Biblical reflection on the 34th and Last Sunday of the Year [C] – November 20, 2016)
Gospel Reading: Luke 23:35-43
First Reading: 2Samuel 5:1-3; Psalms: Psalm 122:1-2,4-5; Second Reading: Colossians 1:12-20
And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide His garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ of God, His Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up and offering Him vinegar, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” There was also an inscription over Him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other rebuked Him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this Man had done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come in your kingly power.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:35-43 RSV)
In our time of democracies kings and queens are often not highly regarded. They seem to be a waste of money and against our feeling of equality. And yet, there are countries which like it very much, such as Thailand, Japan, England and Holland. Thus there must be something about kings and queens that have appeals to people of those countries.
Pope Pius XI who introduced the Feast of Christ the King during the many revolutions and overthrow of governments after World War I wanted to give us the awareness: there is stability in spite for all the changes, and there is somebody who cares for us, after all: Christ the King.
Among the Jews there were also enough people who preferred a loose confederacy to a monarchy. But whenever those who liked a king got nostalgic, it was because of David, the greatest and best of all the kings, so good that one could picture the Messiah only as another King David. What made David so similar to Jesus Christ?
David was a man of the people and for the people, and he was close to the people. He could have said what Jesus said: “I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). David had been a shepherd before he became a king, he had defended his sheep against lions as he could point out to Saul before his fight with Goliath (1Samuel 17:34-35). As David was close to his sheep he was close to his people and understood them well being their shepherd. The application to Jesus in John 10, where He calls Himself the true shepherd, is too obvious. He is King because He cares for us, lays His life down for us, knows us inside out. David was lovable, honest, sincere, simple, humble, even in his sins. Christ is even more lovable, simple and humble, although He did not sin.
The Letter to the Colossians is unsurpassed in picturing Christ the King:
(1) His Kingdom is “universal” since all nations share in it. What was so far the privilege of the Jews becomes inheritance for all (Colossians 1:12). There are no privileges for some people only.
(2) In this Kingdom is “light” since we know where we are going, we are groping in the dark. In this kingdom is “freedom”. We are not slaves of our own fears, sins and helplessness. In this Kingdom we receive “forgiveness” from our condemnation and we are transferred into the realm of “power of God” and the devil cannot prevail against us.
(3) Christ the King is the “image of God” and “firstborn of all creatures”. Jews were not allowed to make pictures of YHWH; in order that they would not worship the pictures and statues of God. Christ is the image, the picture, the photo of the Father. And since man is created after God’s image, seeing Christ we also know what we should be. Everything was created in Christ. He is the “model”. How perfect must He be that it needs trillions of people to express His perfection somehow, but never perfectly. Everybody is a different edition, a different concretization of Christ. And Christ keeps everything in being.
(4) From his experience near Damascus (Acts 9:4), Paul realized: persecuting Christians is the same as persecuting Christ Himself. And the truth he explained by developing the comparison of Christ the head and we the body. Our union with Christ is as intimate as the head is united with the body of a person. We are all one in the Church. Christ the King is the “head” (Colossians 1:18).
(5) Christ is not only the firstborn of all creatures, He is also the “firstborn of the dead”. He has risen and since He is the head, our own resurrection has already begun to take place in Him (1 Corinthians 15:20).
(6) The “fullness of God”, His wisdom, His presence and His divinity resides in Christ who shares this with the Church, and this affects even the whole universe. There is no other intermediary necessary.
(7) Finally Christ has “reconciled” and still reconciles us to the Father by dying for us on the cross. It is not we who reconcile ourselves to God, but it is God who reconciles us to Him.
The Gospel reading (Luke 23:35-43) adds some more other details to the picture of Christ the King: (1) Jesus does not use His power to satisfy His own needs, e.g. changing stones into bread (Luke 4:3-4), or descending from the cross to convince His enemies, on the spot, that they are wrong. But He becomes King by suffering innocently and silently. (2) Jesus is not taking revenge, but He forgives the enemies (Luke 23:34) and gives a repentant thief eternal life on the spot (Luke 23:43).
Now, what is “our attitude” toward Christ the King? On and under the cross there were some curious spectators, the people of the street. They only looked on but were at least honest enough to beat their breast when they saw how a king suffered and died (Luke 23:48). But most, the Pharisees, the soldiers, those who wrote the inscription, and the one thief mercilessly mocked Jesus and hated Him.
There was only one who defended Him and loved Him, the other thief (Luke 23:40), And for his courageous request: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingly power” (Luke 23:42) he received the forgiveness of sin and eternal life: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). We can only hope and pray that the Lord will say the same to us when we die. But this will only be, if we confessed Him before men.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, we adore You as our King! We are indeed thankful that You protect us, care for us, and hear us when we call to You. Grant us Your goodness and mercy all the days of our lives. May we dwell with You in Your Kingdom forever! Amen.
Kingdom of the Son: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Solemnity of Christ the King
November 14, 2016
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Week by week the Liturgy has been preparing us for the revelation to be made on this, the last Sunday of the Church year.
Jesus, we have been shown, is truly the Chosen One, the Messiah of God, the King of Jews. Ironically, in today’s Gospel we hear these names on the lips of those who don’t believe in Him—Israel’s rulers, the soldiers, a criminal dying alongside Him.
They can only see the scandal of a bloodied figure nailed to a cross. They scorn Him in words and gestures foretold in Israel’s Scriptures (see Psalm 22:7-9; 69:21-22; Wisdom 2:18-20). If He is truly King, God will rescue Him, they taunt. But He did not come to save Himself, but to save them—and us.
The good thief shows us how we are to accept the salvation He offers us. He confesses his sins, acknowledges he deserves to die for them. And He calls on the name of Jesus, seeks His mercy and forgiveness.
By his faith he is saved. Jesus “remembers” him—as God has always remembered His people, visiting them with His saving deeds, numbering them among His chosen heirs (see Psalm 106:4-5).
By the blood of His cross, Jesus reveals His Kingship—not in saving His life, but in offering it as a ransom for ours. He transfers us to “the Kingdom of His beloved Son,” as today’s Epistle tells us.
His Kingdom is the Church, the new Jerusalem and House of David that we sing of in today’s Psalm.
By their covenant with David in today’s First Reading, Israel’s tribes are made one “bone and flesh” with their king. By the new covenant made in His blood, Christ becomes one flesh with the people of His Kingdom—the head of His body, the Church (see Ephesians 5:23-32).
We celebrate and renew this covenant in every Eucharist, giving thanks for our redemption, hoping for the day when we too will be with Him in Paradise.
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – Cross and King
“Today, you will be with me in Paradise”
The Word for Sunday: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112016.cfm
2 Sam 5: 1-3
Col 1: 12-20
Lk 23: 35-43
This coming Tuesday we commemorate the 53rd anniversary of the tragic events in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. The untimely death of President John Kennedy shook the Nation and the World in a way that only those who remember that day could recall. We all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the shocking news that the President of the United States had been assassinated.
Let’s face it; America and much of the world was enamored with this man, only in his 40’s, and with his wealthy and influential Irish Catholic family. His beautiful wife Jacqueline was seen as an almost fairy tale Queen and President Kennedy and his family was likely the closest we have ever come to the appearance of a royal family in this Country. In fact, his term was referred to as “Camelot” at one point. On his death everything from auto freeways, airports, buildings, and fine art centers were being named after him. When he died, many felt in some circles as if the “King” was killed.
This Sunday we hear of the death of another very different type of King in our Gospel. His death was brutal and tragic as well. Many of his followers found themselves disillusioned and confused about their future. He died in great physical pain and humiliation not in an open air limousine but on a cross a sign of ancient torture for the most hardened of criminals. Yet, he was not a criminal and was rather the most innocent of men.
Jesus on the cross today may confuse us with the much grander title of this end of the liturgical year Feast: Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. In our Gospel this Sunday from Luke we don’t see a royal image of privilege and power. This King on a cross drastically transformed his “throne” from a frightening instrument of torture to the sign of forgiveness and reconciliation.
We see his cross on our Churches, around our necks, on walls in our homes, dangling from Rosaries, over car rear view mirrors, on shirts and jackets. I recall one time hearing a little boy enter a Church, see the cross behind the altar and said to his mother, “Look, Jesus on a T!”
The point is that we are so accustomed to seeing the cross, and for us Catholics more specifically a crucifix with the body of Jesus hanging in death, that we view it as a piece of religious art. We say that a carved wooden crucifix is “beautiful” or “inspiring.” The point is that we are so accustomed to seeing larger than life size depictions of the execution of Jesus that we are not at all repelled by it.
However, if we lived in the first century of Christianity, we would find the image of a cross as horrible and frightening; as shameful and not at all how we would want to imagine our Lord. Those early Christians were very familiar with the abhorrent style of execution by the Romans that it was the last image they wanted to be reminded of. Blood thirsty Roman Emperors such as Nero delighted in crucifying slaves, criminals and Christians, so they wanted nothing of it in their new Way with Jesus, only to see it at as a tragic end overshadowed by the glory of the resurrection.
Imagine, then, Christianity without a cross. However, in the fourth century the cross triumphed and Emperor Constantine, after seeing a cross in the sky, abolished this inhumane torture and established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. The rest is history as they say.
Our first reading from the Book of Samuel speaks of a King David, the greatest of all ancient Israel and the forerunner of the family of the Messiah. David was anything but perfect. He was, at one point, an adulterer and murderer but God called him “to shepherd my people Israel.” David had a gold crown; Jesus wears a crown of thorns. David had a royal throne but Jesus had the seat of a cross.
So, how is Jesus our King? In our Gospel this Sunday, Luke 23: 35 – 43, we see a “King” of compassion, mercy and forgiveness who hung shamefully out of love for all humanity. The forgiveness extended to the criminal hanging next to Jesus is legendary. The criminal says: “. . . the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes. But this man has done nothing criminal. Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
God rules over his creation, his universe as the feast titles today, with benevolence. His power is that of self-sacrifice, love, mercy, and peace. Jesus our King came not to set up some earthly new country but to establish his Kingdom in the hearts and minds of humanity. Each one of us is invited to accept citizenship through our embrace of his Gospel call to personal conversion. It is not a power limited by time and space by geography or nation. His spiritual power extends, like it was offered to the guilty beside him, in response to a plea for forgiveness.
As we celebrate his royal feast this Sunday, his Eucharist banquet, we are invited to receive all that he has given us and continues to pour out: his sacred Word, a blueprint for right living, and his holy Body and Blood, sacrificed for our salvation and food for this journey towards eternal life.
As we prepare for this Sunday and the coming annual season of Advent, how accepting am I of this King, servant, God of compassion and mercy? How willing am I to accept responsibility for my own personal sin and bring it to the cross of Christ? Do I hear his call to conversion and am I willing to turn my life around, or that part of my life that still needs conversion, to embrace the way of the Gospel?
Like any ruler Jesus seeks our loyalty. Through that loyalty, God took David, an adulterer and a murderer, and used his talents and his changed heart to bring about great good. Jesus offered salvation to the thief who repented on the cross beside him. He would never do anything less for us.
As the second reading from Colossians reminds us: “He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
“He might present to the immensity of your majesty
an eternal and universal kingdom,
a kingdom of truth and life,
a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace.
(From Preface of Solemnity)
Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Father Paul Campbell, LC
And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for this moment in which I can be alone with you. I believe that you are truth itself, that you are the foundation of all moral judgments. I trust that you really care for me and give me the light to see the needs of others. I love you, Lord, and show it now with my desire to pray.
Petition: Lord, help me to be always faithful to Christ my King in the smallest duties of my state in life.
They Scoffed and Mocked Him: Contemplate the scene of the Crucifixion, what we see and what we hear. We see three men being crucified. The one in the middle has a sign affixed to his cross which reads: “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.” Who is this king? We hear the leaders of the Jews ridicule him and the soldiers mock him. Even one of the dying criminals derides him. Jesus provoked strong reactions from these diverse individuals; he continues to provoke strong reactions today. Reflect on the frenetic energy with which individuals try to erase his name from public life today. Look at the time and resources spent to undo his teaching, his influence and his values in Western culture. He is ridiculed in books, movies and works of art. His Church is attacked, as is his vicar on earth and all those who remain loyal to him and his teachings.
The People Stood By: We tend to overlook the crowd who stood by watching. They did nothing actively wrong; they were merely passive. As Jesus was mocked and ridiculed and scorned, they remained silent and did nothing. No one stood up for Jesus; no one came to his defense. How few stand up for him and his Church today! Why is it that other groups are so quick to defend their own while we remain silent, watching and standing by, but not standing up?
One Man Believes: The good thief put his faith in Christ. A moment of grace came to him in the waning moments of his life. He was able to see Christ the King in all his humble glory and he reached out for salvation. “This day you will be with me in paradise.” This king was a political failure. He had no success, no power to save his own life. The power he did have he freely surrendered rather than use it for personal gain. He died with only a few followers standing at the cross. He had no wealth or army, but he loved his own in the world. He loved them to the end. Would I follow such a king?
Conversation with Christ: Jesus, I don’t want to be just part of the crowd who remained silent. Give me the strength to stand up for you and to defend you. Help me never to deny you in my life. Help me to be faithful to your teachings and your will.
Resolution: I will speak of Christ today in my conversations with others.
Living In Between
November 20, 2016
Christ the King
First Reading: 2 Samuel 5:1-3
Many times we are called to live in between two different realities. We might be studying for our chosen profession, where we learn, practice, even play-act the role which we hope to adopt at the conclusion of our training. Or we might be acting in a play, repeatedly rehearsing as if it were the real performance, but knowing that it isn’t. These moments of preparation, of being in between, shape our mindset for who we are and who we hope to become once we actually have entered into a new phase.
David’s Potential Kingship
This Sunday’s first reading about David’s life illustrates the young king’s approach to living in between two states and the new relationship he establishes with his subjects. While David had been anointed king years before as a teenager, he had to wait a long time to come into possession of his throne. In fact, he undergoes three different anointings. First, the prophet Samuel anoints him at Bethlehem (1 Sam 16). Second, years later, after Saul’s death, the tribe of Judah anoints him as king (2 Sam 2:4). Finally, in our passage, the Israelites anoint him as king (2 Sam 5:3). What this means is at first David was a king “in name only.” He had no actual political power, no throne, only the anointing of a bony old prophet. He had the potential, the divine sanction, but not the throne. Only after a long period of service and struggle, infighting, and even civil war does he come to be the sole king over all God’s people. After the death of Saul, the first king of Israel, David becomes king of only one tribe, his own, Judah. The rest of the tribes are ruled over by Saul’s son, Ishbosheth. Yet after a bloody conflict of seven-and-a-half years in which Ishbosheth’s army commander is murdered and Ishbosheth himself is assassinated, finally the elders of the tribes of Israel come to David asking him to be their king.
Accepting God’s Anointed
After a long struggle, it would be tempting for the elders of Israel to try and form a separate kingdom (which, in fact, Jeroboam will later do), but instead they come to David with the olive branch of peace, offering themselves as loyal subjects to the man they had recently been fighting against. They begin their overture to him by recalling kinship ties: “Behold, we are your bone and flesh” (2 Sam 5:1 RSV). That is, everyone here is family and that’s the basis for our whole relationship. Second, they recall the past—how David commanded the armies when Saul was king. His past, legitimate authority under Saul serves as a basis for his present royal claims, claims which the Israelites had been combating. Third, they recall a prophecy which had been spoken to David, “You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel” (2 Sam 5:2). Strangely, the prophecy does not appear in the biblical text earlier, but could be attached to Samuel’s original anointing of David. In our reading, this prophecy serves as a divine basis for David’s rule over all Israel. In effect, the elders are telling him: “While we fought against you, now we admit we were wrong and acknowledge your right to rule based on our kinship, your prior appointment and God’s divine sanction.”
Acting Like a King
Before this point of public recognition, David had a choice. He could either reject the prophecies of Samuel and continue his life as a shepherd, or he could believe the prophecies and act like he was a king. David chose the latter path. He chose to act like a king even before he was a king. He relied on God’s anointing before actually receiving the kingdom for which he was destined. He showed himself to be a king by resisting the temptation to kill Saul (1 Sam 26:9), honoring the bodies of Saul’s men (2 Sam 2:4-7), and punishing those who killed Saul and his son (2 Sam 1:14-6; 4:12). David acts like the king of Israel before the people have acknowledged him as such and thus prepares the way for his reign.
I think this passage holds two lessons for us. First, though God can anoint a king, only we can accept him. Samuel anointed David, but it took years for the people of God to acknowledge his right to rule. The same goes for us. Jesus has been anointed by God as king over us—Christ the King—yet his reign only extends into our lives to the extent that we allow it. While we can’t undo his anointing as king, we can frustrate his kingship by not fully and joyfully submitting to his rule over us.
The Israelite elders set a great example for us by acknowledging they were wrong and asking for David’s reign, just like we should do whenever we sin—by confessing our sins and acknowledging Jesus’ lordship over us. Second, David’s faith in God’s promise is an example for us. He could have forgotten about Samuel’s anointing and walked away from his potential kingship, but instead he energetically worked for the throne. David did not waste his time or wonder whether he was worthy, but aggressively pursued God’s plan for his life. He chose to trust God’s word and to act like a king. We too have been selected as “a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Pet 2:9).
We have been anointed by God, but have yet to enter into the kingdom. However, we should already be walking by faith, not by sight, already acting as members of the kingdom of God. While we are living in between the “already” and the “not yet,” we wait with hope and confidence in the Lord.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I hate to say it, but my time’s up. Believe it or not, I’ve been here with you, helping you read and interpret the first reading for every Sunday for three years! This is the 155th edition of this column. That means we’ve made it through the whole Sunday cycle, so you can always look back on an old column if you want to hear my thoughts on it. But don’t worry, while my weekly column will come to an end with this post, I’ll be writing on Catholic Exchange periodically. You can always find my writing at my blog, CatholicBibleStudent.com. In addition, I wrote a book you might be interested in: “Light on the Dark Passages of Scripture.” And you can find me on Twitter, on my podcast and on YouTube, or teaching a class at the Augustine Institute. Thanks for reading the Word with me and happy Bible reading!
Scripture Speaks: Christ the King
At Jesus’ Nativity, wise men asked, “Where is He Who has been born King of the Jews?” Herod wanted 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 a great deal of Messianic expectation. That excitement reached fever pitch on Palm Sunday, when the crowds welcomed Him to Jerusalem as One Who came in the Name of the Lord. Within a week, the mood had entirely changed. The religious elites of the city 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 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 in the jeer of the rulers and soldiers: “He saved others, let Him save Himself if He is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” No one could believe that a man 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 could not lead His people this way—bloodied, beaten, nailed to a Cross. To His friends, this spectacle must have been particularly bitter. He had said and done much that was inexplicable while He was with them, but even that did not prepare them for this. How painful was it for them to watch that sign being hoisted above Him that read: “This is the King of the Jews”?
There was one person there, however, who saw something in Jesus perhaps no one else, other than His Mother, did. He is the one who gives us our final lesson about faith before we begin a new liturgical year. Of the two criminals being executed with Jesus, one of them had a revelation. He had perhaps also been reviling Jesus, too (see Mk 15:32), but then something changed.
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 sort of thing? Did this extraordinary act of mercy and love drive a shaft of conviction and faith into the heart of the guilty man? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that this criminal did not see weakness and failure in Jesus. He saw that the inscription above His head was true: “This is the King of the Jews.”
He saw that the kingdom over which Jesus reigned was not of this world. He saw not an end but a beginning: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” There is no deeper act of faith than this! To be able to see and believe in what lies on the other side of the senses, because we are looking upon Jesus, is the essence of the life of faith.
The converted criminal teaches us not to flinch or draw back from trusting Jesus’ Kingship, no matter what we see in this life. Someday, as today’s feast assures us, what can only be seen by faith now will be manifested for all to see. This is the hope of the Church, and what a glorious hope it is.
Possible response: Lord Jesus, help me have the faith of the believing criminal whenever I am tempted to 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 new king of Israel when he was still a shepherd boy, was finally recognized as king by “all the tribes of Israel.” He was thirty years old and reigned for thirty-three years. As a result of his anointing in his youth, King Saul, the first man to sit 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, however, 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.’” In this confidence, “they anointed him king of Israel.”
We should note the language the people used to describe their relationship with David: “Here we are, your bone and your flesh” (Gen 2:23). This evokes the delight of Adam when God gave Eve to him: “This, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” It is nuptial language; the king of Israel was also her husband. Think of Jesus’ description of Himself as the Bridegroom in the Gospels. He came not only to shepherd His people but also to marry us. The gift of the Eucharist is His nuptial act of love for His kingdom, which, as He taught us, is in us (see Lk 17:21).
When Jesus said to the converted criminal, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise,” He used a Persian word meaning “garden” or “park.” This word first appears in the Greek Old Testament in Gen 2:8, when it refers to the Garden of Eden. Centuries later, the prophets foretold that the blissful conditions of Eden would reappear in the future (see Isa 51:3; Ezek 36:35). Beginning with that converted criminal, Jesus is the King Who marries His people in 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 faith. 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, because it was there the Temple stood. “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” was the 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 always sit. As we celebrate God’s fulfillment of that promise in the eternal Kingship of Jesus, we, too, can sing: “I rejoiced because they said to me, ‘We will go up to the house of the Lord.’”
Possible response: The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings. Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.
Second Reading (Read Col 1:12-20)
Here, St. Paul writes explicitly about the joy of being in the kingdom over which Christ rules: “He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Then, St. Paul goes on to give us a description of our King that is dramatically different from the one in our Gospel reading. The One Who seemed powerless and defeated on the Cross, mocked as a fool, is actually “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” St. Paul gives us a majestic vision of our King, one that can counter all our doubts and misgivings about whether King Jesus truly reigns, right now, over all we can 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 exact 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.”
In the Resurrection, revealed only to those who believed in Him, Jesus proved that the sign above His head on the Cross was the eternal truth about Him: “This is the King of the Jews.” All of us who live the faith of Abraham, father of the Jews, by trusting God to keep His promises are heirs of Abraham (see Gal 3:28-39). In that sense, all Christian believers are “Jews.” We know that “all things were created through Him and for Him.” He is, 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 hard to take in all that St. Paul says about You in these verses, but they leave no doubt that this universe is Yours. Help me remember that today.
One Bread, One Body
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