A KING ON THE CROSS.
HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE (THIRTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C). Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122; Colossians 1:12-20 and Luke 23:35-43.
Today’s Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe marks the end of the liturgical year C. In this celebration, we adore and worship Christ our King, whose Kingdom is established through his blood on the cross.
Originally, Pope Pius XI established this solemnity in 1925 against the influence of secularism and for pastoral reasons the Church in Nigeria combines it with the solemn procession of Corpus Christi, which ought to be celebrated Thursday or Sunday after Trinity Sunday as thanksgiving for the institution of the Holy Eucharist. The title of this feast was “Iesu Christi Regis” (Jesus Christ the King). Later in history, Pope Paul VI in his “Motuproprio Mysterii Paschalis” of 1969, gave it a new title as: “Iesu Christi Universorum Regis” (Jesus Christ, King of the Universe) and it was transformed from feast to Solemnity. Interestingly, today’s readings bears witness to the Kingship of Christ.
The first reading presents to us how David was anointed king of Israel after defeating his enemies and his kingdom became a symbol of peace and justice that God would one day establish on earth. All the tribes of Israel came to him and made three appeals for David to be their king. In the first appeal they said, “Behold, we are your bone and your flesh” (2 Sam 5:1), in a way to say we are your kinspeople. In a narrow sense, that is not true. David is from Bethlehem of Judah, so his tribal affiliation is with Judah in the south, not in the north. However, in a broader sense it is true. Both Israel and Judah are descendant from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Their ancestors suffered side by side through the long siege of slavery in Egypt and their forty years trek in the wilderness. The second appeal was when they tell David that, even while Saul was their king, David “led out and brought in Israel” (v.2b), referring to the military leadership of David, and the third appeal of the elders was when they said, “You shall be shepherd of my people Israel” (v.2c). Shepherds provide leadership and protection to their flocks, and it is a common metaphor for kings and other leaders. David could conceivably ignore the first two appeals, but cannot ignore the Lord’s call, “and they anointed David as King over Israel” (v. 3). However, it is the Lord, not David who is the shepherd of Israel (Ps 32:1-6).
It is on this note that Christ the good Shepherd will come from David’s lineage (Lk 2:4; Jn. 10:11). David did not campaign for himself, he did not impose himself on the people, and he did not waste resources/money to be elected as king or ruler, neither did he say it was his turn. The people genuinely chose and acclaim him as their king, as we acclaim Christ as our King today. Isaiah 11:1 helps us to trace the royal origin of Christ as King. It says, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse” Jesse was the father to David and from David’s lineage shall come the King whose reign shall have no end. On a historically note, Christ came from a royal family and his kingship is not of military might but of mercy, love and peace.
In the gospel, Luke who has journeyed with us from the beginning of this liturgical year down to this day presents to us that the Kingship of Christ is a unique one. Generally, people give up their lives for their king, but Christ as King gave up his life on the cross for His people. As king, his throne is the cross, and by his suffering and death on the cross, he established his Kingdom, through which he gives life in eternity. His kingship was also revealed on the cross, that even when the rulers scoffed at him, they confess more than they intend as they echo the word of God at the Transfiguration, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Lk 9:35). The soldiers mocked him saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself” (Lk 23:36), it was precisely because He did not save Himself that He can save others. If he were to save himself, he would abort that salvation ministry. It could be rightly said that love kept Jesus on the cross, not nails. There was also an inscription over him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS” (v.33) with an intention to mock him on the cross but ironically states his true identity.
Also, one of the criminals who were hanged railed at him saying, “Are you not the Christ, save yourself and us! But the other rebuked him, acknowledge his guilt and Jesus’ innocence (vv. 39-41) and lastly he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come to your kingly power” (v.41). Here is something truly remarkable: a deathbed conversion and a biblical example of last-minute salvation. Jesus answered the second criminal beyond his expectation. The second criminal on the cross had some distant time in mind when making his request, but Jesus said today; he asked only to be remembered, but Jesus said, you will be with me; he looked only for a kingdom, but Jesus promised him Paradise. It was on the cross he offered Paradise to the repentant criminal and from this criminal we learn that the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world.
Paul in the second reading presents to us the Christological hymn, otherwise known as a song of praise to Christ, in which he said, “God has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13). This is exactly what Christ did on the cross, to deliver his followers (Christians) from Satan’s domain with his sovereign power. The prize for our redemption was paid with his blood on the cross. This is why pleading the blood of Jesus (in the right sense, not in a magical or superstitious sense) has such great significance in spiritual warfare. It shows the ‘receipt’ of our lawful purchase as redeemed people. This hymn also expresses the deity of Christ as “the image of the invisible God and through him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, principalities and powers… for in him, the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” (vv. 15-19). Invariably, Paul affirms that Christ is God and King.
Just as Christ was tempted on the cross to save himself and us, we too are tempted to question his Kingship. Hence, let every kings, rulers, president and leaders or shepherds of any given group learn from Christ the Universal King, who did not rule with iron hands or military might but with love and mercy expressed through his blood on the cross. If Christ is our King, then we must collaborate in his kingdom of justice, love and peace, made by the blood of his cross.
God bless you!
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ