by f. Luis CASASUS. President of the Idente Missionaries.
Rome, November 20th, 2022. | The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
2Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Saint Luke 23:35-43.
On the occasion of today’s feast day, we are used to remembering that Christ is a very different King.
He came into the world in order to unite himself with mankind by becoming a man like us. Jesus had no palace or any home at all. He spent his childhood in Nazareth with his Mother Mary and Joseph in a simple dwelling, but once he began his mission, he no longer had any permanent residence. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58).
He certainly had no servants, because he came into the world to serve and not to be served. He possessed no land or territory that could be called his reign or his kingdom. In fact, the only thrones ever given to him were a wooden manger when he was born and the wood of the cross on which he was crucified and died.
Jesus truly lived radically differently from all other world leaders that have ever existed. But, for some reason he says of himself that he is King. For us it is essential to understand this, since we already know that His whole message is directed to explain what the Kingdom of Heaven is, of which neither He nor anyone else gives a definition in the way we humans do.
Let us simply look at two implications of Christ’s kingship.
- He is able to heal human loneliness.
The words we hear today from Dismas, the so-called “Good Thief,” are revealing. This is a person in excruciating physical and emotional pain, who knows that death is imminent, but does not ask to be redeemed from pain, nor to be saved from death. There is something more painful, even more profound and dramatic: loneliness.
That is why Dismas pleads with Christ: Jesus, when you come into your Kingdom, remember me. And, furthermore, in an effort to achieve intimacy with Him, he addresses Jesus by name. He feels that it is enough to know that someone “will remember him.” What is truly revealing about this episode, of course, is Christ’s forceful and affectionate response: I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.
The story is told that many years ago, a little boy was visiting London with his family, and he decided he wanted to see the Queen. Of course, when he arrived at the palace, the gates were closed and the soldiers refused his request to see the Queen. He took his case to a nearby policeman, who said,
“I’m afraid you’re not allowed in there.”
A well-dressed gentleman had walked up and heard the conversation. He turned to the boy and said, “What’s the matter?” The boy answered, “I want so much to see the Queen.” The gentleman took the boy by the hand and said, “Come with me.” As they moved toward the gate, the soldiers sprang to attention and a guard quickly opened the gate for them to enter. He led the boy into the palace and up the steps, and no one tried to stop them as they went right into the Queen’s offices.
The reason is that the well-dressed gentleman was the Prince of Wales, the Queen’s son, and he was the one who could give the boy access to his mother, the Queen.
So it is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, alone can give us access to God the Father, and he purchased that access with his own blood, shed on the cross. And he says to each one of us too, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” It has been suggested that there are two dimensions to loneliness:
- Social loneliness refers to a lack of connection with others and difficulties with integration into social networks. The elderly and those with lower education are more likely to experience social loneliness.
- Emotional loneliness means an absence or inadequacy of one’s intimate relationships. People who live alone, are jobless, have a some physical or somatic problem, or have been experiencing psychological distress (e.g., anxiety, depression) are more likely to report emotional loneliness.
But loneliness goes beyond that. That is why Christ responds with a far greater scope than the expectation of the unfortunate thief: He will not limit himself to remembering him, but they will be together. And moreover, forever.
Even if our social or emotional loneliness are more or less alleviated, there always remains the certainty and the fear that “it all comes to an end”, that one day our loved ones will leave us, that the unity may deteriorate or break. This explains how some people die immediately after the death of their spouse, with whom they have shared decades.
Dismas perfectly represents the Beatitude of the poor in spirit. He recognizes his faults and also his inability to remedy the evil he has done and surely the sad abandonment of which he was the victim. He was never in good company, as is revealed in the words of his crucified colleague.
But Christ, our King, has the capacity to go beyond human justice and his forgiveness can be described as a true journey to Paradise, to his Kingdom, for which we need his company. This has its image in Plato’s Myth of the Cavern: the courageous prisoner who discovers reality, outside the cavern, puts all his effort into sharing his discovery with others, in trying to lead them to the light… but the response he receives is insults and finally death at the hands of the unbelieving prisoners.
The journey to Paradise, to the kingdom of heaven, already on this earth, today, means above all not to be alone, not to feel alone, because a dialogue is established with our heavenly Father, in which words are not the most important thing. He makes us understand his pain and his joy, insisting that Christ “pleases him in all things” (Mt 17: 5). Just as Christ points to the Father, so does the Father point us to Christ. Some authors say that the famous book “The Imitation of Christ” (Thomas of Kempis) is based precisely on this central idea, the need to turn away from oneself in order to imitate Christ and thus please God in all things.
But many times, consciously or not, our attitude is that of the man-instinct, of which our Father and Founder speaks in his book “The Heart of the Father“:
If God the Father Himself were to present Himself to the “instinct-persons” to begin a dialogue with them, it would be totally impossible because the only thing the “instinct-persons” would talk to Him about would be themselves; naturally, if there is no attentive listening, there is no dialogue with the Father, or any possibility of dialogue with Him would be broken. There could be dialogue only if we are generously disposed to listen.
- The King’s Word. If we declare that Christ is King and sincerely think that it is something more than a beautiful phrase, we may have to demonstrate, to ourselves and to others, that we are attentive to his word and meditate on it with interest and perseverance.
Our Father Founder calls this effort “Intellectual Acceptance of the Gospel“. This involves an interior discipline, which in many saints is indeed outstanding, and leads us, among other things, to a preventive reflection, a necessary preparation for when the conflicts of the passions appear. In addition to the attention that each of us must pay to what the Holy Spirit puts in our hearts, my prayer must contemplate and translate into my own life what Christ says and does.
It is surprising how much time we waste (I say this with reference to my own case) in trivial and unnecessary thoughts, which could be replaced by moments of reflection, of authentic contemplation of the steps of Christ in the Gospel. Even simply using our imagination, which will undoubtedly be enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
Personally, when I had the opportunity to live with our Father Founder, I was surprised at how he ended every conversation talking about the Gospel. It was nothing forced or artificial, but he was used to looking for Jesus’ opinion, his point of view, his conclusion in the face of any fact or any problem, however trivial it might seem. Science, politics, cinema, philosophy, work… everything could be illuminated with the perspective of Christ. Is this not the right way to look at the one we consider King?
This day reminds us what the true Christian thing is all about: that Jesus really is the King, the Lord of our lives; that we belong utterly to him; and that we can say, with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”
Jesus Christ is a King with a saving and liberating mission: to free mankind from all types of bondage so that we may live peacefully and happily on earth and inherit Eternal Life in Heaven. His rule consists in seeking the lost, offering salvation to those who call out to him and making friends of enemies.
The Kingdom of God is the central teaching of Jesus throughout the Gospels. The word Kingdom appears more than any other word throughout the four Gospels. Jesus begins His public ministry by preaching the Kingdom.
The Solemnity of Christ the King is not just the conclusion of the Church year. It is also a summary of our lives as Christians. On this great Feast, let us resolve to give Christ the central place in our lives and to obey His commandment of love by sharing our blessings with all his needy children.