Thirty-Fourth Sunday of the Year: Christ the King
It is fitting that, for the feast of Christ the King, the Liturgy, rather than stressing the trappings of earthly power, gives us Luke’s picture of Jesus as king on the Cross. The inscription, “this is the King of the Jews,” was probably put there as a joke but the irony of it has reverberated ever since. The reactions of the crowd, the leaders, the soldiers and even one of the thieves crucified with him, are all negative: the crowd merely look on, the leaders jeer, the soldiers mock and one thief shouts abuse. Jesus’ disciples down the years have often experienced the same kind of reactions when they have spoken unpopular truths, perhaps the indifference of the people around being the hardest to take.
The realisation of the kind of king that Jesus was comes from the most unexpected quarter: the “Good Thief” saw that here was a king who could bring about the compassionate, loving rule of God. He was an outcast, like so many we have seen in the Sunday gospels throughout the year, who came to belief in Jesus when the respectable people around rejected him. He, like the “tax collectors and sinners,” was open to the unexpected inbreak of the Kingdom of God which Jesus had proclaimed by healing the sick, calling sinners to repentance, having concern for the poor and outcast and interpreting the scriptures in such a way as to reveal the true understanding of the covenant love of God for his people.
Throughout this year we have journeyed with the Gospel of Luke, a journey that has powerfully shown us the essence of who Jesus was and is, a journey that today finishes on the Cross, as Jesus’ own life did. But today’s gospel shows that the Cross is not the end: shining through, especially in the words of the Good Thief, is the realisation that the Kingship of Jesus resonates for all time.
Dominican saints have always shown a great devotion to the Cross, St. Dominic, for example, spent nights at the foot of the Cross, praying for sinners; St. Thomas learnt his wisdom from it and St. Martin found there his ability to have great compassion for the poor and outcast. May contemplation of the Cross bring us also today to the realisation of what it means to be a pilgrim on the road to God.
Sr Celine Mangan O.P