(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)
As King, Christ shows Himself to be Lord of all creation, and the One who draws us into His kingdom so that we might live forever in light and peace.
When we think of a king, most often, perhaps, we think of a glorious figure, living in a palace, surrounded by servants, used to all sorts of pomp and circumstance. Yet this week’s Gospel reading shows us not splendor, but humiliation and the agony of the cross. In the midst of His suffering Christ exercises His royal dignity and office by giving His life as a ransom for all. He who came “to serve, not to be served” reveals His kingship in an act of self-giving love.
During His earthly life, Jesus taught His disciples the very lesson He exemplifies on Calvary: true greatness manifests itself in humble service. The service of Christ consisted, first of all, in His own obedience to His Father. This obedience led Our Lord to become incarnate, to be born in humble circumstances, to live a life of simplicity and poverty, and ultimately to be tried and put to death as a criminal. Because of His obedience, however, the Father exalted Christ, raising Him from the dead and establishing Him as King over all. In all of this, though, Christ’s entire life had but one focus: to do whatever His Father wanted Him to do at every moment.
This is also our call. As subjects of Christ the King, we reign with Him when we become like Him, when we give of ourselves as He did, when we accept whatever crosses there may be in our lives. We reign with Christ when we refuse to bend our knees to anyone or anything that is not God. We reign with Him when we put on His mind and heart, when we act with mercy toward those who have done us wrong, when we practice the beatitudes and keep the commandments. In short, as King, Christ calls for our whole-hearted allegiance and loyalty, reflected in the witness we give.
Of course, this is not always easy to do. Each of us knows how we can be tempted to give ourselves over to something other than Christ. Often, we struggle with our sins, faults and imperfections. Many elements in our society, as well, offer very little support to anyone who tries to take and live the Gospel seriously. The obstacles are great, but even greater is Christ’s saving victory. This week’s Gospel passage shows Christ promising to one thief a place in Paradise, all because that thief turned to the crucified King and opened his heart to the power and grace of the redemption.
When we are discouraged, when the road seems too hard or difficult, when we stagger under the burden of our daily crosses, we should remember that we have nothing to fear. Like the repentant thief, we can always turn to Christ our King and beg Him to remember us in His Kingdom. And if we do so with a trusting faith and a ready obedience to serve Him, we will hear our King say to us, as He did to the thief, “You will be with me in Paradise.”