Fr. Ver Bust's Column:|
"Explaining the Gospel"
Have you grown
If we faithfully follow Christ as disciples we shall be given salvation
as a disciple
November 25, 2001, Feast of Christ the King
By Fr. Richard Ver Bust
We call this Sunday the Solemnity of Christ the King. While the specific feast is relatively recent, the idea of Christ as King certainly has ancient roots.
We have heard Luke tell us what it means to be a disciple of Christ especially as we followed Christ on his journey to Jerusalem. Today's Gospel reading ends with Christ saying, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise." It is similar to Christ's words to the Samaritan leper, "Your faith has been your salvation" and to Zacchaeus, "Today, salvation has come to this house." Again and again in our final weeks of this church year as we reflected on end times we are consoled that God has loved us so much that we are sought out and given the grace of salvation.
The Gospel account of Christ's crucifixion answers why we too have our crosses. Disciples share in Christ's life and death. The cross of Christ is seen today as his throne. It is a scene, which contains both contempt and faith. The strange thing is who recognizes with faith. It is not the rulers of Israel but a criminal. The rulers and the Roman soldiers revile him. The Gospel points to what Christ's death accomplishes, that is, our salvation.
The inscription on the cross, according to Roman custom, tells those who passed, the crime the one being crucified had committed. It reminded them what would happen if they followed the example of the one being crucified. The inscription said, in this case, "King of the Jews." The leaders of the people had accused Jesus of this crime when they brought him to Pilate. Luke has shown in his Gospel that Jesus, as Messiah, truly was a king. Our liturgy emphasizes this by showing Jesus as a descendant of King David. Luke had also taught this in his Infancy Narrative especially with Christ's birth in Bethlehem.
Jesus had taught that his rule was a different kind. He was not a Messiah who would lead Israel in rebellion against Rome but begin the Kingdom of God. In the Letter to the Colossians, Paul tells us further that he is the image of the invisible God. A contemporary writer has called Christ, "the human face of God." Paul reminds us that it is through Christ that all creation has come into being. Therefore, he occupies a special role and brings together both creation and redemption. The Gospel acclamation repeats the words of the people when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem.
Our feast today reminds us how, if we follow Christ as true and faithful disciples, that we too shall be given the gift of salvation. When the first disciples followed Jesus they had no idea of the greatness of his role. After time, as the New Testament shows, and the impact of Christ's resurrection touched them, they began to express how they had come to know the fullness of his life and death.
We might reflect with them on how well we have grown this year as disciples of Christ. Have we come to know Jesus more deeply? Have we, as Luke taught us, grown in our prayer life?
Can we say the refrain of the responsorial psalm with conviction "Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord?" If yes, then truly Christ's words to the criminal who was crucified with him, will some day be said to us "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious
studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)