Christ the King, Cycle C

From http://www.usccb.org on Christ the King:  On the last Sunday of each liturgical year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, or Christ the King.  Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 with his encyclical Quas primas (“In the first”) to respond to growing nationalism and secularism.  He recognized that these related societal ills would breed increasing hostility against the Church.  Today reminds us that while governments and ideologies come and go, Christ reigns as King forever.

During the early twentieth century, in Mexico, Russia, and in many parts of Europe, atheistic regimes threatened not just the Catholic Church and its faithful but civilization itself. Pope Pius XI’s encyclical gave Catholics hope and—while governments around them crumbled—the assurance that Christ the King shall reign forever. Pope Pius XI said that Christ “reign[s] ‘in the hearts of men,’ both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind” (Quas primas, 6).

Quas primas continues to ring true.  In recent years, aggressive secularist campaigns have sought to marginalize the Church and other religious institutions.  In response to the alienation and loss of solidarity which have accompanied these secularist assaults, racist movements have become more influential in the United States.  Now, as always, we must turn and gaze on the face of Christ, who is Lord over all nations.

1st READING – 2 SAMUEL 5: 1-3

David was not perfect.  David was a sinner, yet he would be the one Israel would remember as leader of their splendid past.  Doesn’t that give us all hope?  God comes to us as we are and can create in us a light for the world, if we let God shine through us.

As a sense of messianic hope developed in Israel, it was logical that the messiah-to-be would be referred to as the Son of David.  This king is a ruler who is in solidarity with his people.   Thus, king as benevolent ruler and as shepherd are primary motifs in the first Old Testament theology of kingship (W&W, Birmingham, p. 540).

We are your “bone and flesh” – what is meant here?  Reflect on what it means for our messianic king to be bone and flesh WITH us…

This is God’s work of gathering God’s people, using a king as an instrument to draw the people who are scattered.  God continues this work in the Church as God uses the instrument of Church and her ministers to shepherd the flock  (www.usccb.org).

2ND READING — COLOSSIANS 1: 12-20

This is from a Christian hymn probably used at baptisms.  What do some of these phrases mean to you?  Scholars suggest that this letter was written most likely in the 80’s A.D. in reaction to false teachers among the Christian groups.  Influenced by the Greek culture of their day, there were beliefs that regarded angels and other ‘spirits’ as rulers of the universe. They were associated with stars and new moons and pagan rituals. These people wanted Jesus to be seen as subordinate to these ‘deities,’ since by his incarnation they viewed him as being contaminated by human ‘flesh.’ This writer firmly tries to correct this view with imagery that is profound and beautiful.               (Celebration, Nov. 2001)

The word ‘transferred’ has a special purpose in this reading.  In the ancient world, when one empire won a victory over another, it was the custom to take the population of the defeated country and transfer it lock, stock and barrel to the conqueror’s land.  Thus the people of the northern kingdom were taken away to Assyria, and the people of the southern kingdom were taken away to Babylon.  So Paul says that God has transferred the Christian to his own kingdom.  From darkness to light…from slavery to freedom…from condemnation to forgiveness…from the power of Satan to the power of God  (Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 111-112).

We must note that Paul says that in Christ God was reconciling all things to himself.  The Greek is a neuter (panta).  The point is that the reconciliation of God extends not only to all persons but to all creation, animate and inanimate.  The vision of Paul was a universe in which not only the people but the very things were redeemed.  The world is not evil.  It is God’s world and shares in the universal reconciliation (p. 123).  What a way to look at life!  This resonates so closely to what Pope Francis says in Laudato Si, “…all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things.  Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator,” (#83)  This is the kingdom of God!

THE GOSPEL — LUKE 23: 35-45

What two reactions to Jesus are seen here?  Who is the only one to call Jesus by name?  What does this mean to you?  How is this a story of conversion?  What kind of Kingship do we see here?

Jesus chose to exercise his authority as service and forgiveness. He reigns not from a throne, but from the cross. The Jesus who is worshipped today as Lord of lords and King of kings does not Lord it over others, but, rather, he loves and leads all who will follow him to the kingdom of eternal life, peace, and glory.    (Celebration, Nov. 2001)

The word ‘Paradise’ is a Persian word meaning a walled garden.  When a Persian king wished to do one of his subjects a very special honor he made him a companion of the garden, and he was chosen to walk in the garden with the king.  It was more than immortality that Jesus promised the penitent thief.  He promised him the honored place of a companion of the garden in the courts of heaven.  Surely this story tells us above all things that it is never too late to turn to Christ (Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, p. 299-300).

Christ is a different and new kind of king.  We normally think of kings as covered in jewels and fine clothes.  We imagine them followed by a great entourage.  Christ the king is stripped, beaten, and crowned not with jewels and gold, but with thorns.  His only attendants are his sorrowing Mother, his young friend, and a few women devoted to him.  Christ teaches us that his Kingdom belongs not to those who seem to have power in this world, but to the poor and humble who embrace the cross.  It is when we walk with Jesus and when we unite any of our suffering to his that we come to experience his glory and life in resurrection  (www.usccb.org).

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