Homily for the Feast of Christ King of the Universe - Year C - Lk. 23:35-43
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
" When they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, «He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!» The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, «If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!» There was also an inscription over him, «This is the King of the Jews.»
" One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, «Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!» But the other rebuked him, saying, «Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.» And he said, «Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.» And he said to him, «Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.» "
" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, «If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!» There was also an inscription over him, «This is the King of the Jews.» "
"This is the King of the Jews." It is the inscription that was nailed above Jesus on the Cross of Calvary. This inscription, which reminds us that Jesus is a king, was placed on the Cross on Pilate's personal orders: it was the Roman authority ruling Jerusalem at the time who proclaimed, on that tragic occasion, the kingship of Jesus. Pilate spoke with Jesus in the praetorium on the day he was condemned to death. "Pilate said to him, «So you are a king?» Jesus answered, «You say that I am a king.» (Jn. 18:37)
This appellation of "King of the Jews" didn't please the chief priests! They went to Pilate and asked him to modify the inscription: "Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, «Do not write, "The King of the Jews," but, "This man said, I am King of the Jews."» Pilate answered, «What I have written I have written.»" (Jn. 19:20-22)
Under tragic circumstances, although Jesus looked forward to these in his infinite mercy, the Savior of the world was proclaimed a king by the public authority of his time! What an event! But especially, what a Mystery! Why such tragic circumstances for such a proclamation? Jesus is close to dying, and that is when he is proclaimed a king! He could have been a king during his life: many opportunities for this had presented themselves to him. For instance, after Jesus had multiplied the bread and the fishes, the people said: "«This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!» Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself." (Jn. 6:14-15)
Jesus is a king: it is true, and he knows it. But he doesn't want to be a king before the appointed time! He knows that he is a king, and he knows when he must become one: it must be at the hour of his triumph over Evil! That is the kingship of Jesus! That is what he wills! That is the reign of God on earth! Jesus had told Pilate: "My kingship is not of this world." (Jn. 18:36) The kingship of Jesus is not of the earth, but of heaven! What Jesus wants at any cost, even at the cost of his own death on the Cross, it is to reign in men's souls by chasing the devil away from them! Jesus wants to be the king of hearts, and it is by becoming the king of hearts that he will also become the king of their bodies and the king of the whole world!
" But the other rebuked him, saying, «Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.» And he said, «Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.» And he said to him, «Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.» "
Two thieves, two malefactors had been crucified on either side of Jesus, on two other crosses. One of them felt compassion for Jesus, and he understood that this man was a righteous man. He declared to his comrade in torment: "For we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." Thus, he allowed himself to be touched by grace, and in accord with the murmurs heard at the foot of Jesus' cross, he too did not hesitate to proclaim Jesus a King, by saying to him: "Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power."
This profession of faith in the kingship of Christ is very great and magnificent! It includes within itself the belief in the final resurrection: Jesus is there, on the cross, disfigured, his body torn, in agony, and yet the good thief speaks of kingly power! Yes! This malefactor who recognizes the kingship of Jesus firmly believes that the kingdom will come and that, through the mercy of God, his life as a penitent sinner will be recompensed by his being made a part of the kingdom to come: "Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power."
Jesus will return in the end times and he will resurrect in eternal glory the body of each of the elect! The good thief will take part in this glorious triumph, for Jesus told him so, just before he left this desolate world: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Let us ask Mary, who was was present when her son spoke with the thief, to help us through her almighty prayer: let us ask her to receive Jesus in us in order that he might reign over our heart, and then over the whole world! Let us acclaim Jesus the King in today's Eucharistic celebration, so that we may already be in Paradise!