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11/20/16 Christ the King - Fr. Reggie

We all believe that Christ is the King of the universe, and that his Kingdom "will have no end." We profess this belief every week in our Creed.

But what is the nature of this Kingdom? What kind of a Kingdom is it whose King is enthroned on a cross, as our King is? Kings are responsible for bringing peace and prosperityjustice and order to their people. Christ did that for us, and for the human race, from the cross. But Christ's peace is not always visible to the naked eye. It takes faith to see it, because it is a peace that lasts forever, an interior peace that comes from being brought into friendship with God.

The bad thief and the rulers didn't see this peace - they were looking for a king who would bring them earthly prosperity.

The Good Thief did see it. He recognized that Jesus was no ordinary, earthly king, and that he had a bigger plan in mind.

What was that plan? The source of all evil and suffering in the world is sin - mankind's interior and ongoing rebellion against God, instigated by the devil in the Garden of Eden. End that rebellion, and you will have lasting peace. Jesus came to do that. As St Paul writes in the Second Reading, Jesus came to "deliver us from the power of darkness and transfer us to the kingdom" of God. He did that through his loving obedience "unto death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8), which reversed Adam and Eve's self-centered disobedience and made friendship with God possible again.

In Christ, the rebellion ended. Through obedience to Christ our King, as the Good Thief teaches us, we can have the lasting peace of living in friendship with God: "Today you will be with me in Paradise."

Usually when we think about the crucifixion, we think about it from the perspective of the people standing around the cross and looking up at Jesus.

But what did it look like from Jesus' perspective? He was looking down at his torturers and his disciples, and in his mind's eye he saw us as well - we are present there, mysteriously but truly, every time we come to Mass. As he looked, he hoped that we, like the Good Thief, would accept his gift of salvation, of true interior peace.

Here is how one writer has expressed the thoughts of our King on the throne of his cross: "The people watched and stared at me hanging and dying on the Cross... The rulers sneered at me; the soldiers mocked me; one of the thieves reviled me... You were there too, and all of those who have called themselves Christians. "Every time my followers fail to come to their neighbor's aid they join Calvary's passive spectators; when they disdain the teachings of the Church they join the sneering rulers and mocking soldiers; when they give up their faith or let it smolder because they prefer the passing kingdoms of this world, they join the reviling thief. "I saw your face looking up at me as I hung upon the cross. At first you laughed and mocked, you were distracted and careless, just like the others. Then you saw that I was looking at you, waiting for you, hoping in you... A flash of recognition flitted across your eyes. I knew that you had glimpsed my love, that you were sorry. And even then, in my agony, I smiled. "Whenever you repent, whenever you come to me in your need and ask me to be your King, I take you by the hand and rejoice in leading you to Paradise."

Our King's throne is a cross. It is through Christ's obedience unto death that he untied the knot of Adam's disobedience, and reopened the gates of heaven to the fallen, sinful human race.

How can we thank our Lord for such a gift? There is only one way - by following him through those gates. But if he opened the gates by dying on the cross, then we can only go through those gates by climbing onto the cross with him.


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