Christ the King
November 15th, 2016
By Deacon Faiva Po’oi
On this last Sunday of the liturgical year of the church, we focus our attention on Jesus Christ as the king of the universe. What a divine irony there was on Calvary when the cross became his instrument of victory, and a condemned thief was the first to be assured of a place in his kingdom.
In our fantasies, the possibility of being a king might seem pretty appealing. We would be the center of attention. Everyone would wait on us. We would have everything we want in life. We mistakenly think that living this way would bring us the fullness of life. Jesus, however, shows us otherwise.
The fullness of life that Jesus offers is not found in wealth or power, but only in giving ourselves over for the good of others. Jesus himself modeled such self-giving when, on the cross, he responded to the good thief’s cry for compassion and mercy. This Sunday we celebrate the reign of Jesus Christ and in so doing, we identify him as the one who offers us the fullness of life in his kingdom both now and forever. Even though Jesus’ kingdom is established from the very beginning of creation, as mentioned in the second reading, and through the Davidic kingship in the first reading, his reign is one of mercy, not power, one of self-giving, not self-service, one of eternal salvation, not material wealth. His throne is the cross. Such a king the world has never seen. Yet this is how God’s kingdom is established and precisely where our discipleship begins: Allowing ourselves to be crucified on the cross of self-giving.
Jesus reveals his kingship to us not by power, but by his loving reassurance that paradise awaits the faithful disciples. Only by starting here, with our embrace of the cross, will our discipleship be rewarded by hearing Jesus say to us – as he said to the good thief: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus’ kingdom has come. We are living in God’s kingdom now. Living the paschal mystery means living the cross. As the cross is the means to Jesus’ exaltation, so is the cross the means to our own entry into paradise. It is unlikely we will encounter someone dying on a cross who begs for our compassion and mercy, and yet we daily encounter our king in the face of others in need. Our embracing of the cross challenges us to reach across boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and disabling conditions.
Be inclusive of others, most especially those who are different than ourselves. Serve those who are poor and vulnerable, and give generously of time and talent. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a shelter for the homeless. Work with Habitat for Humanity or visit a nursing home. Give generously to those in need at home and abroad. Be an advocate for public policies that protect human life, promote human dignity, preserve God’s creation, and build peace in the world, our country, our community and our families. This is the fullness of life to which Jesus summons us.
The kingdom of God is present among us, in us, and through us to the extent that we open ourselves to his risen presence among us. By giving of ourselves, we enter with Jesus into paradise. The cross is the door to paradise and eternal life.
Christ Jesus is present in our assembly, in our local church, and in the inspired word. He awaits us in the Eucharist. Let us recall that he is all we need. With him, we have everything.
Deacon Po’oi serves at St. Timothy Parish, San Mateo.
From November 17, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.