Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time year C: The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
First reading 2 Samuel 5:1-3
Second reading Colossians 1:12-20
Gospel Luke 23:35-43
At the end of each liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. This solemnity is considered as the climax and the summit of all feasts and solemnities in the Catholic Church. It proclaims and recognizes the Divine messianic and kingship of Jesus. Saint Cyrille from Alexandria said that the Savior is really a king, he himself did not deny this fact before Pilate, he affirmed his kingship which is peaceful and different from humans’ kingships “So Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” “You have said so,” [Luke 23:3].
The Feast of Christ the King, also known as Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, festival celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church. It was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. Originally, it was celebrated on the last Sunday of the month of October, but in the revised liturgical calendar promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969, it was moved to the last Sunday of Ordinary Time (immediately preceding Advent). As we celebrate this Solemnity today, the liturgical readings invite us to reflect on the theme “Jesus Christ the king”.
In the first reading, we hear how the elders of Israel asked David to rule over them. This took place while Saul was still a king over the twelve tribes of Israel. King Saul knew about this, and he realized that his kingship was in danger; so as any modern king or president, he exiled the future king David. However, his subjects went to look for David in his place at Hebron. David’s kingship is approved by all the tribes of Israel but also by God. The people saw David as a potential leader because he was anointed by Samuel to be a king. David did not fight for power like Saul or what modern leaders do. He was elected by God himself and all the tribes agreed to that.
David’s kingship was a prefiguration of Jesus’ leadership. David ruled over only the tribes of Israel but Jesus’ kingdom was extended to all; it’s in this sense he is the king of the entire universe. But his kingdom and his leadership are beyond human understanding. For this reason, there was a misunderstanding about his kingship while he was on the earth and this misunderstanding still continues up today. Saint Luke in the gospel of today is talking about this misunderstanding and incomprehension about the kingship of our Lord Jesu Christ. There are three categories of people who have rejected the kingship of Jesus and these people are first the Jewish his own people, second, the Romans represented by Pilate, and the third category of people is the group of bandits. These three groups have mocked Jesus saying to save himself if he is Christ the messiah. The mockery of the ones of the bandits crucified with Jesus caught attention; as a reaction, the second bandit rebuked him by summoning him. His sermon can be summarized in threefold: (1) he pointed out to him that he has maligned God, (2) he claimed the innocence of Jesus, and (3) he reminded him of his sinfulness. At least not all people have rejected him there were some groups of people who acknowledge the power of Jesus over the universe among which the second bandit belong to.
The Jews and Romans spread false information about the kingship of Jesus, and the Gentiles Christians found it difficult to perceive Jesus as King. In order to correct this, saint Paul in the second reading teaches the Colossians about the nature and the roles of Jesus in the creation. According to the apostle, Jesus has played two significant roles in the creations which are: redemption and forgiveness of sins. There is no king on earth who can give redemption to his subjects except the divine king and beyond this, he has forgiven sins because “he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
As we are celebrating this solemnity today, I would like to stress three things based on the readings: (1) kingship comes from God, (2) misunderstanding of Jesus’ kingship, and (3) the work of Jesus as a king.
- Kingship comes from God: David was not king on his own on the contrary he was elected by God himself and the elders of Israel acknowledged this. This explains why they went to Hebron to remind him of the words of the Lord “You shall be the shepherd of my people Israeli, and you shall be prince over Israel”. Dear friends, the first reading is inviting us to let God decide or chose people whom he wants in the right places. Due to corruption in the secular world, people get power by force and they are ready to exterminate whoever talks. May we be Christians who do not impose things on God but Christians who allow the Holy Spirit to blow wherever he wants!
- Misunderstanding of Jesus’ kingship: In one of his teachings, saint Ephrem said that Jesus Christ is the peaceful king who has the cross as his scepter. This cross is the bridge between death and life upon which souls pass to enter life. Dear friends, the peaceful king was among the Jews and the Gentiles but they did not recognize him because they were not ready to accept him as the Son of God. Suppose that Jesus is in our midst today, would we accept him or behave like the Jewish? Do we really understand the solemnity we are celebrating today and what it entails? The gospel is inviting us to bear in mind two things: one to go beyond the appearance; those who crucified Jesus judged him based on the arrival without knowing that they have actually mocked and crucified the divine king. The second bandit is teaching us a lesson by saying to Jesus “remember me when you come in your kingly power”. He has seen in Jesus the perfect king, the only one who save him and the entire universe.
- The work of Jesus as a king: through Jesus, we have received redemption, and our sins have been forgiven. A true king must be ready to die for his subjects; this is what Jesus did on the cross on our behalf. Jesus has set an example of how to conduct our leadership; being a leader in the secular world or church does not make us superior to others.
May we be humble enough to learn from Jesus the divine king who accepted the cross for our sake as men and women of faith?
Fr. Issere Agre, SVD