The last Sunday in the liturgical year culminates in the feast of Christ the King. The title underscores the truth that in the end, Christ will be all that matters and in him all authority resides. Our challenge is to make the transition to life under his lordship and this is not easy. It takes a dying to sin, a yes to love and the surrendering of opinions and “thoughts to the captivity of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Kings can be helpful. The first reading records the tribes of Israel desiring a king after Saul’s death. They were disorganized and vulnerable without a king; they needed order. Thus they “came to David in Hebron and said, ‘Here we are, your bone and your flesh … you shall be commander of Israel.” David accepted and was anointed king. He became a visible sign on earth of their true king in heaven, God. David went on to be a great king, bringing order and union. Though he sinned, his reign would come to be remembered as a type of “Camelot.” It was from David that a future leader was prophesized, a son, whose kingdom would last forever. This is fulfilled in Christ, who hails from the family of David. Christ is the final king who brings order, union and direction to the world and our disordered and often sinful lives. His lordship comes to those who call to him and ask him to rule over them. He rules by the consent of the governed.
This lordship of Christ is referenced in today’s selection from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Paul seems to be quoting an already existing hymn or poem. This ancient hymn records the early church’s understanding that Jesus was indeed God, “for in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell.” The careful articulation of how this could be was worked out over the following centuries. The hymn gives thanks to the Father for transferring us “into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” It is in this kingdom of the Son that we finally find peace with God our Father, others and ourselves. This kingdom also provides direction through its gift of the Holy Spirit on how to live a life aimed towards eternity. This divine direction is most visibly offered on earth through the church.
The good thief in today’s Gospel models the transition to life under the lordship of Christ. He is the model of our human state. We all stand condemned, no exceptions. Yet, it is in this realization of our sinfulness and inability to rule our lives that we come to recognize that we have donned for ourselves a type of tin crown with no real lasting power or authority. Only in God is true power, order and peace found. He alone is the rightful king of each of us. This liberating truth allows us to freely lay aside our tin crowns with their adjoining opinions in matters of faith or morality and say humbly, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” If we can do that, he can than say to us, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Questions for Reflection
1. Where in my life do I need to relinquish my crown?
2. Where could I benefit from the order of the kingdom?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.