SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING - C
We have now come to the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar of the Church. As the Church brings us into the different liturgical seasons of year, now she invites us to reflect into the reality of the definitive and glorious coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time. This Sunday, we reflect on the kingship of Christ through the crucifixion scene according to St. Luke.
The crucifixion of Jesus may had been presented by the four evangelists with different features but all of them agreed to some details like the inscription at the top of the cross: INRI, the Latin acronym for Iesous Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum which stands for Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews. It was only St. John who wrote that it was written in Greek, Hebrew and Latin which were the major languages at that time. The inscription which was made by Pilate was not just the crime charged against Jesus but rather a mockery against the Jews: Jesus who comes from an unknown place called Nazareth is your king! When the Pharisees asked that it be changed to "This man claims to be the king of the Jews", Pilate stood his ground and said "What I have written, I have written." Rome had spoken through Pilate and Jesus was proclaimed as King and it will stand forever.
The crucifixion tableau according to St. Luke was presented like a drama with a number of people playing different and important roles but the main character and focus was Jesus. As a drama like no other, St. Luke wrote; “the people stood by watching”; they were the passive onlookers. The people who were in the living stage of Calvary had their responses: the rulers made fun of Jesus challenging him to save himself if he is the Messiah, the chosen one of God. The soldiers also made fun of him with the challenge to free himself if he was the king of the Jews. One of the criminals taunted him: “If you are the Messiah, save yourself and us as well!” All of them insulted and challenged Jesus to make a spectacular show or a special magic to entertain them. Jesus did not say a word to them. Now our attention goes to the other criminal who claimed that his punishment was just: “We deserve the punishment, this is payment for what we have done.” He defended Jesus as if giving a testimony of Jesus’ innocence: “But this man had done nothing wrong.” He turned to Jesus and called him by his personal name with a request: “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He knew that Jesus was about to die and yet he believed that Jesus was a King with a kingdom beyond this world. Jesus replied “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” This criminal was the very first one to enter God’s Kingdom.
In the eyes of the world Jesus, hanging on the cross, was a complete failure: he died as a condemned criminal! Who would ever believe that he was the true King and Messiah when he could not even defend nor save himself in such a dehumanizing and humiliating situation? No human wisdom could ever fathom the depth of “God’s foolishness” on the cross. Only faith!
Christ’s kingship was not about himself! It was not about authority nor power but rather of self-emptying love! With Jesus on the cross, Calvary as a stage of shame and disgrace was now turned into a sacred and noble altar of redemption and grace. He did not only save us by his death but revealed to us on the cross that God is a Trinity: the Father who abandons; the Son who is abandoned, the Holy Spirit who is the link in this abandonment.
The challenges by those who mocked and taunted Jesus on the cross are the same challenges we have today. Jesus is still challenged at this time to do the spectacular: If you are truly God, spare me from this pain; take this suffering away from me, give me this miracle, show me a sign, etc. Let us learn the humility and unwavering faith of the “good thief” if we want to enter God’s paradise.
When we were baptized, we shared in the priestly, prophetic and kingly offices of Christ. As we celebrate Christ's kingship this Sunday, the Church reminds us that we belong to a Kingdom which is beyond this world, a Kingdom that will last for eternity. This is our royal dignity!