Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King.
It is a relatively new celebration in the liturgical calendar since it was instituted by the Pope at the beginning of the 20th century.
In the face of the ideologies that emerged in the 19th century denying the transcendence of the human person and positing the death of God, this celebration is a reminder of the sovereignty of God over all of creation.
To designate the Lord Jesus Christ as King, inevitable evokes comparisons with the monarchies that we are familiar with, be it the kings of the Old Testament or the constitutional monarchies that still rule in many western European nations, such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Great Britain, or Spain. We may also think of the monarchies of the Far East such as Thailand or even those in the Middle East, for example, Qatar, which appears prominently in global media outlets these days because of the FIFA World Cup.
We may also think of the absolutist monarchies that existed throughout history in Europe and in other parts of the world, where the will of the sovereigns, and sometimes their whim, was the supreme law and took precedence over any other human right or consideration.
Jesus Christ is truly king albeit in an analogical sense with these sovereigns. As is the case with every analogy there is as much in common as there are differences because to begin with, His sovereignty is not hereditary. He is not a constitutional monarch either, much less an absolutist one.
There is no question whatsoever that He is an absolute monarch because everything is rightly His, as St. Paul points out in the second reading. Indeed, he has not inherited anything from anybody. Since He is God, all of creation is the work of his hands. He is not king on account of a social contract or because of a delegation of powers from the people. Rather the people, His people exist because He loved us first. It is neither a question of tradition, inheritance, legacy, or constitutional rights. He is the second person of the Most Holy Trinity, God love, who precisely creates everything that exists out of love. Unlike David, He has not been anointed King. Rather, because He is the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Son of God; He is King of all creation, not just King of Israel.
Jesus Christ is God. Everything was created by Him, in Him, for Him.
Therefore, everything that exists belong to Him in His own right.
Now, this Absolute King who governs the entire universe with strong hand and arm outstretched, does not engage in an ostentation of power. He does not overwhelm his subjects. He does not railroad those who dare oppose Him. On the contrary, He makes Himself vulnerable. He accepts the cross precisely to prevail through love instead of conquering and dominating by force.
Because He does have all the power, He does not need to defend Himself or answer to insults. He does not engage in proselytism. He loves. That is why He respects the freedom of those whom He loves. In fact, the very free-will that makes rejection and scorn possible, is a gift He lovingly gives to us, His creatures. Furthermore, because He loves passionately, He submits to the power of death to set us free from its yoke.
There are some who think that they become free when they turn their backs on Him. Others reject him because He does not fulfill their expectation of what a King must look like. Those who taunt and mock Him, do not realize that in fact, His sacrifice on the cross is the event that saved and redeemed all humankind. They forget that true freedom is found when with His help we overcome our passions and set aside slavery to sin. While some insult Him, He keeps quiet and loves. Because He loves, He suffers. By His death he heals wounded human nature and redeems it. By His resurrection He frees us from the power of death.
Those who have a docile heart, acknowledge Him as the true King He is. That is the case of the Good Thief. He is able to see reality as it is. Beginning with himself. He does not make demands. He does not deny his actions or attempts to justify them, he repents. He turns to the One who can transform his life even as he is being punished for his misdeeds. He begins by recognizing his guilt and his need for forgiveness because he has done something wrong. He just asks for mercy from the Lord, and he receives it. The love of God will enable him to reign with the One whose fate he has shared, who has been crucified with him even though He was not guilty.
So it is with us, if we open our heart to this Absolute King, not absolutist king, if we follow His example, if we strive to do His will, regardless of the starting point, the situation we may find ourselves in, we may realize in our lives the true freedom He brings. We will break free from our passions and from the consequences of sin in our lives. His humanity will shine brightly in us with all its splendor. Because of His great mercy, we will reign with Him for all eternity.
Fr. Roberto M. Cid