November 20, 2016 — The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Today is The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (more commonly called Christ the King). Clearly the readings all relate to Christ as the King, not just on earth, but throughout the entire universe.
The First Reading from Second Samuel 5 speaks of the kingship of David. The Books of Samuel comprise part of a theological history of the Israelites. This particular passage, although not lengthy, tells how all the tribes turned to and recognized David as their King. It is worth noting that this was a second choice for most of the tribes. They had previously recognized Ishbosheth, who was a son of Saul. That idea of recognizing others first is paralleled in many ways by how we may look at Jesus. Is He truly our King, absolutely the center of our lives, or do we merely turn to Him when it seems that is our last resort? Jesus should be our first choice always. That is our call.
St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians, our Second Reading, tells us in effect that God has “transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” This “transfer” means that everything we have and everything we are belongs to the Lord. How often do we hear similar language when we talk about the idea of stewardship? It all begins with us recognizing that all comes from God, and we are merely caretakers, or stewards, of these gifts while on earth.
This God-centered attitude produces many effects on us, including recognizing Jesus as our Lord, our Savior, and our King. However, Paul also makes it clear that part of our response must be “Let us give thanks to the Father.” Placing God at the center of our lives and understanding that we need to lead lives of gratitude are exactly how we recognize and honor Christ as our King.
Our Gospel Reading from St. Luke comes from within the Passion of Christ, from Luke 23, which is a narration of Christ’s Crucifixion. In this passage it asserts “Above him (Jesus on the Cross) was an inscription that read, ‘This is the King of the Jews’.” We note often on crucifixes a small sign above the Lord with the letters INRI. That represents the Latin phrase Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorium, which means Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. Of course, it was placed there mockingly, evidently by the Roman soldiers, but it has become representative of the reality for us.
Two years ago on this Solemnity of Christ the King, in his homily at the Mass at St. Peter Basilica, Pope Francis said, “Jesus’ Kingdom requires us to imitate Jesus’ works of mercy through which He brought about His Kingdom. Jesus has opened to us His Kingdom. But it is for us to enter into it, beginning with our life now, by being close to our sisters and brothers in need. If we truly love them, we will be willing to share with them what should be most precious to us, Jesus Himself, His Gospel, and His place as our King.”
Today also marks the official close of our Holy Year of Mercy. Jesus has called us to follow Him, and to embrace discipleship and stewardship as a way of life. That is in large part what Pope Francis has called us to in this Year of Mercy. Have we done anything to fulfill either of those calls? It is not too late; Jesus made it clear to us many times that it is never too late. Even as He was dying on the Cross, He turned to the converted criminal next to Him and said, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” May we strive to live in such a way that we hear the same thing.