As the Catholic Church today culminates its liturgical year, it celebrates the Solemnity of Christ, the King of the universe, acknowledging the truth that everything can only be accomplished through Christ who gives us the strength and courage to follow the will of the Father. It is also a reminder to all Christians that Christ will come again to judge us – both the living and the dead.
The readings in today’s liturgy present to us a different kind of kingship. In the gospel, we are brought back to the Jesus’ crucifixion on Mount Calvary when he was mocked by one of the thieves crucified beside him but the other repentant thief acknowledged his own transgressions and begged Jesus to remember him when Jesus finally arrived in his kingdom. For Jesus, the kingdom of God is not about lording it over all his creatures or being like a military ruler. Jesus’ idea of kingship is one of humble service and about the necessity of emptying himself that he may bring life to others. For Jesus, kingship is about bridging the gap between humanity and God which was caused by sin. And such is the message of today’s Second Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Colossians: “Through Him (Jesus), God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Col. 1:20)”
Many Catholics have been accustomed to seeing an image of Jesus holding a scepter and wearing a royal robe, his head adorned with a crown with shining jewels. This image of Christ the King is one way of giving homage to Jesus whom we acknowledge as the lord and ruler of our lives. However, our scriptural readings tell us that Jesus on the cross, suffering for humanity and emptying himself for the sake of humanity and all creation, is the best image for our celebration today. With his suffering and death, the power of God’s love reached its fullness. The fullness of God’s mercy and compassion is revealed on that first Good Friday. What can be more powerful than the love of God for us shown by his self-sacrifice on the cross?
Today, as we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, we are once more invited to fix our gaze on the Crucified Jesus. We look to Jesus not to pity him but to adore him and thank him for showing us how much the Father loves us – the Father gave us Jesus, his only begotten Son that we may have life eternal. We look to the cross and we praise God for his mercy and compassion for all. We look to the cross and be inspired to follow Jesus in his humility and openhanded love especially for the weak and the powerless.
On the cross, Jesus did not remain powerless and helpless. It was at the moment of his crucifixion when he emptied himself that God’s love and mercy reached its perfection. It is when he offered his life to God that he conquered death and sin.