November 20, 2016
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
2 SM 5:1-3 PS 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5 COL 1:12-20 LK 23:35-43
Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It’s also the final day of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Gospel reading is a convergence of both events.
Christ’s enemies mock and deride Him as a savior and king while He dies upon the cross. His “crime” is affixed to the cross, in the sign Pontius Pilate had made, which reads “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. Even one of the two criminals next to him joins the mimicry – “If you’re a savior, save yourself and us!”
They were blind, unable to see that Jesus was saving them, was acting as King. They were looking through the eyes of the world, which led them to ridicule Him. His sacrifice upon the cross is the action that saved us – and continues to save us. Jesus was not just upon a cross; He was also upon His throne. Jesus is beyond being the King of the Jews – He is the King of the Universe. Legions of angels were at the ready to rescue Him, if that had been the Father’s will. Jesus had the power to destroy His enemies, if that had been His mission.
Those are the missions and objectives of worldly kings, of temporal rulers. They expand their domain through the conquest of other peoples, by leading armies to defeat their enemies. They defend their realms through the might of arms, through displays of power, and through force of law. While it’s true some kings throughout history have shown wisdom, kindness, justice, and every sort of virtue, it has been more the exception than the rule. Jesus Christ is the rule upon which all standards are measured against. All fall short of the glory of God, and kings are no different in that regard. That is why Scriptures tell us to not put our faith in princes. Or presidents. Or any person who has been given authority over us.
Christ rules His Kingdom not through violence, but through love. His enemies were death and sin, not the Romans, not the Jewish leaders who had Him crucified, and not the thief who mocked Him. Jesus’ desire is to save all men, including those who hate Him. He defends His Church not through use of weapons, but through Grace and the promise of protection until the End of Time. In what could be described as His first sovereign act as King, Jesus showed mercy toward the Good Thief. The good thief admitted his sins, and took responsibility for them. He defended Christ’s innocence, and recognized His sovereignty, asking Him to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus was merciful to the good thief, showing how His Kingdom would be ruled, showing us how we are to treat our neighbor.
That’s how Christ’s Kingdom is expanded – by loving our neighbors and enemies, and praying for those who persecute us. Not by conquering other people, but by conquering ourselves – controlling our passions, subjugating our appetites, asking forgiveness for our sins, throwing ourselves upon the mercy of an all-loving King. If we earnestly beg for mercy, He will not refuse us. He will say to us, if we are faithful, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The Jubilee Year of Mercy may be officially over according to the calendar, but as loyal subjects of the King, we are commanded to always be merciful. We will be mocked and persecuted as a result – He told us so. Just as no servant is greater than his Master, no subject is greater than his King. As He was merciful, so must we be as well.