Luke 23: 35-43
Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, “He saved others. Let’s see him save himself! The Messiah of God - ha! The Chosen - ha!”
The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: “So you’re King of the Jews! Save yourself!” Printed over him was a sign: this is the king of the Jews. One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: “Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!”
But the other one made him shut up: “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing to deserve this.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.” He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”
Today is the 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time and it is also the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year C. On the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year the Church always celebrates the Feast of “Christ the King.” This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and is observed on this Sunday as it helps us to meditate on Christ the King and Lord, and at the same time reflect on the Second and Final Coming of Christ, the Last Judgment, and the End of the World.
So, what is this feast of Christ the King all about? Is it still relevant to call Christ the King? And why is it celebrated at the end of the Liturgical Year? The feast of Christ the King fits very appropriately into the liturgical year, a cycle which begins with Advent and then moves on to Christmas or the actual birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. This then leads onto the dying and rising of Jesus at Easter and finally, after the Sundays in Ordinary time, to the end of the liturgical year in today’s feast of Christ the King where Jesus Christ comes in glory at the end of time. This is as it were, a synthesis of the entire salvific mystery. After reflecting on the mysteries in the life of Jesus for the entire year, we eventually come to the definite conclusion that Jesus is Lord, the King of all kings.
In today’s Gospel we see Jesus sitting on the most unusual throne that is the cross. But that moment of pain and humiliation was over and then Jesus assumed his real throne at the right hand side of his Father. This can teach us something. To bring about the kingdom of God we may have to abandon what the world considers important and even be prepared to be ridiculed as Jesus was, on the cross. It was not easy for Jesus to begin establishing his kingdom with values at odds to those of the world. It cost him his life! It is not easy for the Church now trying to establish the kingdom of Jesus in a society growing daily more secular. But for those who die to themselves, who truly open themselves to Jesus, the reward is a share in Jesus’ kingdom, “Indeed I promise you, today, you will be with me in paradise.”
The Gospel Reading today may sound, for many of us, somewhat incongruous to this joyous celebration of the feast of Christ the King. Christ is radically different from the kings of the world. Christ’s Kingship is eternal, universal and perfect. It is the Kingship, not of force or fear but of the power of love. Let us then turn toward the Crucified Lord! He is our true King! In our Christian life, the cross is the only way for us. Let us not turn away from it. It is the throne of our King, where he offered his life for our sakes. His crown is made of thorns. His garment is the blood flowing from the many wounds all over his body. His sceptre is the nails that pierced his hands and feet.
Celebrating Christ’s kingship gives us an opportunity to proclaim the good news, that his second coming brings joy rather than fear, hope rather than despair. We are cleansed and renewed and brought closer to our God. Today’s feast is both a challenge and an opportunity for us to become aware of our call to become truly both subjects and partners of Jesus our King. Long live the King! May his Kingdom come! And this is the Good News of today.
Today as a Church, we remember all our young people who are our future and our hope for tomorrow. The Catholic Church offers today’s prayers for our younger generation. Let us pray for our children and grandchildren, for believers and unbelievers, for all of them.
At the end of the Liturgical Year, it is most fitting that the Church resounds the prayer invocation of the repentant criminal Dismas, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” and listens trustingly to the crucified King’s compassionate assurance of salvation, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”.
Fr Roman Szczypa SDB
Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee Year of Mercy
Lord Jesus Christ,
You have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!”
You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with His anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.
We ask this of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy; you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
Year of Mercy
8th December 2015 - 20th November 2016
Pope Francis will close the Holy Year Door of Mercy on the Feast of Christ the King on the 20 November 2016 bringing the Jubilee Year to an end. We have had the whole year to think about Mercy, to study the meaning of it, to refresh our Christian charism, to renew our relationships with the Merciful Father and to rebuild our faith in God. We have done something individually and collectively, and now will be the time to put it into practice. Of course every day, we try to live as Christians and children of our Merciful Father. Do not forget about the Sacrament of Reconciliation which is very helpful and important for our spiritual growth. It is good to go to Confession regularly. For it is there that you will meet the Merciful Jesus, who will welcome you with open arms and in forgiving all your sins will pour out on you, his mercy, his love and many graces.
Once again look at the Pope Francis’ prayer which has been dedicated for the Jubilee and read it slowly, carefully and try to do this today, on the final day Year of Mercy.