Today’s reflection is for The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 24, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
I often say that God speaks to us at unexpected times and through the most unlikely of people. As Jesus’ disciples, we believe that God’s Spirit dwells within us and opens our eyes, ears, and heart to hearing the voice of God and the message he has prepared, and today’s Gospel proves the rule.
As we celebrate the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we celebrate more than a title; we celebrate the Lordship of Jesus Christ over absolutely every single thing that exists, both visible and invisible, animate or inanimate, past, present, and future. We humbly recognize that without Jesus Christ we are nothing and have nothing. He is our all in all. And that’s the necessary beginning to salvation. It’s the only way that we know to enter Paradise–and all this from a criminal.
The words of the criminal on the cross are our words too. He said, “Indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes.” The criminal knows what he is and he acknowledges what he has done. No doubt he has tried time and time again to be otherwise but has failed as many times to change his ways. Now he has been caught, appropriately condemned, and the only thing left is his punishment.
The criminal has hit rock bottom and acknowledges his brokenness. He is not a king, but a slave. He is not righteous, but left to his own is unholy and unrighteous–not a king but a pauper. Are we there yet? Each of us falls short of the glory of God. Each of us has sinned against God and neighbor. Each of us is as unholy and unrighteous as the criminal, and we too stand condemned.
The humility with which we approach the King of the Universe comes from an honesty about our limitations, weaknesses and failures. In fact, a failure to recognize our weakness blinds us to calling out to the King in the first place. It is he who grants pardon because of who He is as the benevolent King. He doesn’t pretend that there has been no offense, but instead loves and shows mercy in spite of it.
The rulers, soldiers, and criminals all sneered and told Jesus to save himself if he is who he claimed to be. In other words, they were wrong both about who he was AND who they were. They did not believe that he was indeed the King, and they did not believe that needed his help. If they had believed either in who he was or understood who they were, they would have been begging him to save them instead of telling him to save himself. They would have known that they needed a savior and that we was the savior. They had neither faith nor humility–and both are necessary prerequisites to Paradise.
As we come to the end of our liturgical year, we recognize Jesus’ rightful place as king of our lives and of the universe. We acknowledge our countless failings and seek his pardon. As we approach the throne of the King we seek not fortune nor fame but instead only one thing…to be remembered.
After acknowledging his unrighteousness, the criminal says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” What a beautiful request. I want the same from my wife, children, and friends when I’m gone–to be remembered. To remember another is to affirm the strength of the relationship and the impact it had on our life. How is your relationship with Jesus? Have you had an impact on him? Would he weep for you as he did for Lazarus? Have we pursued him? Have we nurtured the relationship with Him? Have we allowed him to transform our lives? Or have we kept a safe distance so as not to be challenged, but because of it have not grown in love? Would He even remember us? Is that even our only request?
As we end this year, may we always acknowledge Him as King of kings and Lord of Lords, draw near to Him and grow in relationship with Him, and at our last hour may we too hear, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”