Reading I – Daniel 7:13-14
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 93:1, 1-2, 5
Reading II – Revelation 1:5-8
Gospel: John 18:33b-37
Priority of Christ
- Christ is King of the entire universe because “in him were created all things in heaven and on earth. … All things were created through him and for him.” The Church (Pius XI, Encyclical Quas Primas) instituted this feast day in 1925 to remind an increasingly secular world that only by acknowledging our origin and end in Christ will human individuals and societies find peace, justice, freedom, and happiness. Christ is the authentic measure of all creation, including governments, states, and societies.
- This is true of life in the Church as well. As St. Paul says, Christ is “the head of the body, the Church.” The goal of life in the Church—the sacramental, moral, and spiritual life—is communion with the Triune God, which we realize by being drawn ever more deeply into the life of Christ. The eternal life we receive in the midst of the Church comes ultimately from Christ, and the Church connects us to Christ, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” In following him and allowing ourselves to be transformed by grace, we find authentic freedom.
- In the book of Samuel, the people of Israel acknowledge David as their rightful king: “the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.’” We acknowledge a different king, one who was in the line of David but who was not victorious by leading his armies into battle against his enemies. He triumphed by dying as a criminal on a cross.
Hope in the Mercy of God
- While describing the preeminence of Christ, St. Paul also includes a note that is key to Christian hope: Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead.” Jesus rose from the dead, showing us what we can hope for: the Resurrection. We too will rise with Christ, body and soul, and have a share in his glory.
- We act on this hope by clinging to Christ and striving to live as his disciples, being connected to him as members of his body, the Church. The spiritual and sacramental life of the Church has this aim: to draw us together as one body, intimately bound to the head. It is not by our works but by our being in communion with Christ, through the grace of God, that we attain the goal of our deepest desire: eternal life with God.
- The repentant thief who was crucified alongside Jesus, St. Dismas, beautifully shows what hope in the mercy of God looks like. Although he faces execution for wrongs he has committed, he entrusts himself to Jesus’ mercy.
- One of the most important virtues that Christians must ask for is hope. Hope is often thought of as a desire for a good that is possible to achieve. To share eternal life in communion with God can only be achieved by God’s grace, and so hope in Christ is a gift from God. Hope is a kind of engine that pushes us forward in the Christian life. When we stumble in sin, as we so often do, hope drives us to get up, seek healing in the confessional, and carry on in the journey. On the other hand, when we lose hope, we fall into despair, refusing to stand back up and accept God’s healing mercy. But St. Dismas shows us that it is never too late to reach out to the Lord and ask for mercy. On this day, we can ask Christ the King, the firstborn from the dead and head of the Church, to kindle in us that flame of hope.
Gift of Faith
- In this reading from the Book of Samuel, David is praised as a great king, but we do well to remember that when Samuel first identified David as the one called by the LORD to be king of Israel, he was not immediately recognized by others as being particularly significant. Samuel went to Jesse, knowing that God would tell him which of Jesse’s sons was the chosen one, but Jesse did not even bring David to Samuel. In that passage, God tells Samuel, “God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance” (1 Sam 16:7).
- How does a human person see beyond “appearance”? By faith.
- Many seeing Jesus on the cross see only a failure. In the passage from the Gospel of Luke, some of those people mock him. They ridicule Jesus in his suffering.
- St. Dismas recognizes Christ’s kingship. He not only notes that Jesus is not a criminal. He implores Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. Pope Francis comments: “On that day at Calvary, many voices remained silent; others jeered. Only the thief’s voice rose to the defence of the innocent victim of suffering. His was a brave profession of faith. Each of us has the same possibility: we can choose to remain silent, to jeer or to prophesy.” What brought about this conversion? The gift of faith. Faith is not something we can simply summon for ourselves. Like hope, it is a gift from God.
- When we see the sufferings of Christians in places like China and Nicaragua, it can be easy to allow discouragement to cloud our vision. This feast reminds us that Christ’s kingdom belongs to the poor and humble who embrace the cross. All we can do in the midst of trying times is ask God to illuminate our minds and strengthen our hearts to continue to cling to Christ our King.