When I say to you to picture a King, what image comes to mind. Today is the last Sunday of the church year. On this Sunday we celebrate Christ as King. And yet the readings for today are anything but kingly. In the Gospel Jesus is crucified like a common criminal. He is hanging between two thieves while many of the Jewish religious leaders jeer at him. What a humiliating image. This is certainly not the way we would picture a king.
Yet this is the great paradox of the Christian life. Jesus shows himself worthy of our obedience, not because he is proud and powerful, but because he is a servant. He shows himself to be lordly, not through powerful armies and a gleaming throne, but through his self-giving love. He is humble, interceding for those who mock him. He is merciful, forgiving even his tormenters. He is generous, promising paradise to a repentant thief. He is Jesus, the Son of God, who only did what his Father told him to do.
Which brings us to the question of today, what has the father told us to do ?
In Colossian 2:7 St. Paul writes; “be rooted in Christ and let him be the foundation of your life”. Are we rooted in him? Do we do the things he expects of us with regards to the poor and the needy? Did we consider providing food for those who are hungry today by bring a Thanksgiving meal ? Do we even realize what he has done for us?
On Good Friday April, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Washington DC. His body was placed on a funeral train to be taken to Springfield, Illinois for burial. The train stopped in various cities along the way for people to view his body. In the line in Cleveland, Ohio was a poor black women and her son. When they got to the president’s body the poor lady lifted up her son and said; “Honey take a long look. That man died for you.”
On Good Friday Jesus also died. He was not the president of our country. He was the king of heaven and earth. What the black lady said to her son I say to you: “Honey take a long look. That man died for you.”
There could hardly be a more appropriate reading with which to end the liturgical year. It summarizes why Jesus came into the world. It was to forgive sinners- like the thief on the cross with Jesus.
And this brings us to the practical application to our own personal lives. What Jesus did for the criminal, he wants to do for us. He wants to forgive our sins no matter how great they are or how long standing they may be. This is the good news contained in today’s Scripture readings. This is the good news that brings us together today to celebrate the feast of Christ the King. This is the good news of our Catholic faith.
As St. Paul says in today’s second letter to the Colossians; “God rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. Through Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.”
And so I say again, my friends: take a long look. That man died for you !!