Jesus Christ, the King of love
Fr. Joseph Pham Quoc Van, O.P.
My dear Brothers and sisters,
Today is the last sunday of liturgical year, we celebrate the feast of Solemnity of Christ the King. The gospel text of today (Lk 23:35-43) tells us that in the end of Jesus’ public life, He was being killed in the Roman way because of treason: he was accused of calling himself “King of the Jews”. It was to challenge kings such as these meanings. The King Jesus is different from others kings, He is the Suffering King of the Jews. He sacrificed himself to be the servant of all. Christ's kingship is one of humility, service, and compassionate care. He opts to be the “Suffering Servant”. And that is why, as the gospel text of today describes, he ends up as a king who hangs on the cross.
Truly, In the New Testament we find that Christ’s kingdom is connected to His suffering and death. Even though Christ is coming at the end of the ages to judge the nations. His teachings spell out a kingdom of justice and judgment that are balanced with having radical love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. So when we celebrate Christ as King, we are not celebrating an oppressive ruler, but rather one willing to die for you and for me and whose "loving-kindness endures forever." Christ is the king that gives us true freedom, freedom in Him. We must never forget that Christ radically redefined and transformed the concept of kingship.
In this, Jesus challenges us today. It is interesting to note that the dialogue between the two criminals, who were Jesus’ companions in his last moments, raises this conflict once again – the conflict between what the people thought Jesus’ kingship was and what Jesus himself had chosen to be. The so called “bad thief” becomes the spokesman for the people: “If you are the Christ (the King of the Jews) save yourself and us as well.” He has a very shallow – problem-solving – approach to kingship and salvation. Jesus does not solve problems. And salvation is not the end of human suffering. The “good thief”, on the other hand, understands the role of Jesus in this world more clearly. Jesus does not save us from human limitations: legal sanctions for our faults, from suffering, and from physical death itself. Jesus gives us hope. He provides meaning to our human lives. Therefore the criminal surrenders his heart to Jesus. He makes a choice to be part of the real Kingdom of God. And Jesus assures him: “Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.” I think, this is what the feast of today invites us to: to surrender ourselves to the loving reign of God, to make a choice to be part of the Kingdom of God, to be free from the tyranny of power, possession and pleasure.
In Christ the King Sunday, if we are going to worship Jesus as our king, we are going to do it according to his way. The one who is to be first has to be the servant and the slave of all, has to follow the way of Jesus in the way of humility, service, reconciliation and love. That’s how we will bring peace into our own lives and into the world. Never forget that, The kingship of Christ is not about power, certainly not the political or juridical power to “save yourself and us” from the ignominy of crucifixion. But, ironically, his power to save is revealed as he tells the criminal, “today you will be with me in Paradise.”
What a blessing we have in Christ our King! What a blessing to be able, with Christ, to walk in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God. Amen!