Christ the King
There is an air of finality in today’s Gospel – we are commemorating the last Sunday of the year in the Solemnity of Christ the King; we are at the end of another Church year before embarking on our advent journey next Sunday in the run-up to Christmas. The 5 weeks to Christmas include this last week of Ordinary Time and the 4 weeks of Advent.
The kingdom of God that Jesus inaugurated or established is not a kingdom of geographical or historical boundaries. It is not closed or confined to a specialised distinct, qualified group of people – it is open to everyone. Jesus is Universal King.
But what is this kingdom? It is among other things a kingdom of mercy.
One of the great events in life is reconciliation and forgiveness. It is one thing to know the joy of forgiveness and the clearing up of misunderstandings, but there is a certain poignancy and power in being reconciled with someone as they are about to die – TO BE AT PEACE. It is a tremendously sensitive time for all concerned if there is division, conflict or long-standing unresolved grievances or misunderstandings.
Forgiveness – not only seeking it but graciously granting forgiveness - is an important characteristic and quality of anyone wishing to be included in Jesus’ kingdom. It is a gift to be able to forgive and we need God’s help, but it is also an absolutely necessary requirement for entry into Paradise. Even the fact that it is at the eleventh hour, you could say is not too late. I have personally known many situations where a long-term silence between brothers and sisters has been broken, and parties reconciled at a late hour, which has brought indisputable peace and healing and allowed someone to let go and die peacefully as well as healing of memories for those left behind. The sad part is that it might take a terminal illness for people to see the shortness of life and the pettiness sometimes that has allowed hatred or resentment to fester beyond control or reason.
The Good Thief – as he is known, not only recognised in Jesus the Son of God with the authority to forgive, he clearly saw the injustice performed against Jesus, as well as having the humility and honesty of the just sentence and punishment his own sins deserved. Yet he has confidence and trust at the hour of his death in Jesus’ mercy. The Good Thief is in heaven. You could say, strange as it may sound, that he was the first saint! But he was also the first person, crucially, with Mary at the hour of his death, as we pray in every Hail Mary ‘pray for us now and at the hour of our death.’ She was praying for him, because at Calvary she became his mother too.
Let us avail therefore of Jesus’ mercy while we have the opportunity. We are members of His Kingdom only insofar as we seek and readily give forgiveness. Jesus said at the beginning of his public ministry – ‘Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy.’ If we have ever been present at the death of someone – we have often used the expression afterwards - ‘they died as they lived’; they die in keeping with their values, integrity and beliefs. Jesus is mercy – it is His greatest attribute. Now Jesus proves in deeds that he dies as He lived, and in His last gasping, valuable breaths on earth expresses His one dying wish – His desire to show mercy to those who seek it, and that we should do likewise.
‘Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Angels, saints and nations sing
Praised Be Jesus Christ our King
Lord of life earth sky and sea
King of Love on Calvary