Christ the King 2 Sam 5:1-3; Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43 (year c)

The Gospel for the feast of Christ the King marks the conclusion of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, with St Luke’s account of the Crucifixion. At the beginning of the year we were invited to contemplate Christ as the face of the Father’s mercy. At its conclusion the inscription above his crucified body points us to the same face of mercy, this time wounded and disfigured: “This is the King of the Jews.”

Here we see a compassion that takes to itself the pain, hatred and rejection of a sinful world. The words of the Good Thief, crucified alongside Jesus, are a commentary. Rebuking the taunts of his fellow criminal, his words summon us to the contrition that opens the door to the Father’s mercy: “Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

There is a wider sense in which a sinful world, ourselves included, is crucified with Christ. In our case the pain and consequences of sin are experienced as a kind of crucifixion. Contrition brings us to acknowledge that we deserve what we have become, and yet, at the heart of our pain, we find ourselves in the presence of him who had done no wrong. The Penitent Thief’s prayer becomes our prayer: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” To the penitent sinner the answer is always immediate: “Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

On the feast of Christ the King we are invited to acknowledge Christ and his kingdom as the ruling power in our lives. Consciously or unconsciously, our lives are swayed by the claims of competing kingdoms. The scene at the Cross sets those kingdoms before us. There was the jeering pride of the leaders and the scorn of military power. Finally, in Christ there was mercy and forgiveness. In choosing Christ as King we choose to be ruled by mercy.

His kingdom was established on the Cross and its proclamation of mercy. We are daily summoned to shoulder that cross and its denial of every selfish kingdom. “God wanted all perfection to be found in him, and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, when he made peace by his death on the Cross.”

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