Christ the King - 34 Sunday C

Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration 

Way back in January we began the year by celebrating the Baptism of Jesus when a voice was heard calling him ‘the beloved Son’. During the year we have greeted Jesus under all the views of him we find in the gospels. Now today, at the end of the year, we greet him with the all-embracing title: Jesus Christ, Universal King.

The Christ is the one who will gather us all together at the end of time, the one who will judge the living and the dead, and then present his kingdom to the Father. In our pilgrimage of faith that kingdom of justice, truth, and peace is to be our beacon, and Christ our guide. But before we join Christ in his banquet, we must ask pardon for the times when we followed other paths and other ways, when we listened to false prophets of greed and materialism, and for when we have failed to work for the coming of the kingdom. 
Michel de Verteuil
General Textual comments

In order to enter into the celebration of today’s feast, two points need to be clarified.

The first concerns the meaning of “kingship” in this context. In modern Western culture, kings and queens do not exercise much power; in the Bible, however, their power is absolute. What we are celebrating in today’s feast, then, is the power of Jesus – who never used his power to his own advantage.

Secondly, this power, real and effective though it is, is very different from power as the world understands it. We must not therefore presume that we know what we are celebrating. The feast is rather an occasion to discover (or re-discover) the power of Jesus, how it works and what are its effects, so that we can celebrate it.

The rediscovery will be a true celebration as we experience that Jesus’ way of exercising power – the divine way – is good news for us as individuals and as communities, including the entire human family. It will also be a call to conversion as we become aware of how little this kind of power is known and practiced, even by Jesus’ followers. We will also feel a longing for the coming of God’s kingdom – a new civilization based on this kind of power.

We repent for the way we Christians have misrepresented the power of God, portraying him to the world as a despot, and often a cruel one, “not fully mirroring the image of our crucified Lord, the supreme witness of patient love and of humble meekness” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente).

It is an occasion to celebrate the great models of Jesus power of our century. We remember concrete scenes: Gandhi clothed in his homespun dhoti, standing before the British viceroy; Pope John Paul on his first visit to Poland as pope; Nelson Mandela leaving prison; Mother Teresa standing alongside Princess Diana. The power of truth, of honesty, of forgiveness – with no frills! How different the world would be if it was governed by this kind of power!

We are led to consciousness of Jesus’ power through lectio divina. Meditating on the Bible text we remember with deep gratitude moments when people entered our lives exercising his kind of power; other moments when by God’s grace we have been able to exercise it ourselves, as parents, church ministers, fellow-workers, friends. These moments are for us “seeds of the kingdom.”

This year, the gospel reading on this feast day invites us to enter into the extraordinary paradox – Jesus exercises power as he hangs on the cross. We enter the lowliness first – at the level of our feelings, as always in lectio divina. We feel for Jesus hanging between two criminals, “one on the right and the other on the left,” as St Luke puts it dramatically in the previous verse; there is no question of Jesus’ cross being slightly higher than the others, as in some representations of the scene. He is mocked by the leaders and the soldiers and by one of the criminals. Their humiliating taunt is true: he saved others, now he cannot save himself. We allow the text to remind us of similarly humiliating situations.

Our meditation then moves in one of two directions. We can celebrate great people who, like Jesus, enter freely into that lowly state so that they can exercise his power:

– leaders share their weaknesses with members of their communities;
– religious men and women choose to live among the poor and the vulnerable;
– groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have as their basic principle that all members must confess their addiction;
– the Church confesses its sins to other religious bodies and to the world.
More often people are brought into that situation – usually against their will – and by their faith they make it an experience of Jesus power:
– parents remain faithful to their children even when they see the children sent to prison, victims of drugs, rejecting their parents’ values;
– spouses maintain their dignity when deserted by their partners;
– we grow in compassion through falling into a sin we thought we had done with;
– our Church becomes more humble as it becomes engulfed in sex scandals;
– a political party is able to purify its goals because its members have been discovered to be corrupt. The passage invites us to celebrate the effect of Jesus power: the lowly are lifted up, “set in the company of princes” (Psalm 113:8).

The good thief is the perfect symbol of this process, and we must enter with deep emotion into his moment of grace. Up to then he was nobody. Now, because Jesus shares his lowly fate, he has his moment in history, he enters into his truth. Jesus thanks him for his faith (how he needed that!) and they enter into paradise together, companions in faith.

We can read the passage from either perspective – that of Jesus or that of the thief. We celebrate times when our failures brought us into communion with those we looked down on; other times when someone we were in awe of shared their story with us and we discovered our own greatness, perhaps for the first time.

It would be good to spend some time letting ourselves be touched by the setting of the story. This is a unique moment in human history – God’s power at its height; a sacred moment, too, when the great high priest is reconciling the world to God. But what do we see? Two human beings standing by each other, nothing more! What a judgment on how the world judges greatness – or holiness – whether of people or of places!

Sean Goan
Gospel Notes

The last Sunday of the year is always celebrated as the Feast of Christ the King and in each year of the liturgical cycle we are invited to ponder some aspect of Christ’s rule over the church and indeed all creation. In year C we have been reading the gospel of Luke over many Sundays and have been privileged to see how the great mystery of God’s universal love and mercy is revealed in the person of Jesus. It is appropriate then on this feast to focus on Jesus on the cross granting pardon to the repentant thief. For Luke this aspect of the kingdom of God has been central: Jesus has come to bring the healing forgiveness of God to all who seek it.

Gospel Notes

This is Luke’s crucifixion scene immediately before his account of the death and to appreciate it we need to break it into two parts:

first, vv 35-39; and
second, vv 39-43 (v 39 forms the link between the two parts).

The first section is made up of the various groups that mock and revile Jesus as he hangs on the cross and its content is found in all three of the synoptics. However, while Matthew follows Mark in both content and sequence, Luke re-arranges the material. Why he does this is not clear,
but the second part of this scene suggests that he wants to create a deliberate contrast between the expectations of those who mock Jesus as a fraud and the genuine way that the Royal Son of God, the Christ – when he is actually with humanity – behaves in history.

The key transition moment is v 39: ‘One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” What is remarkable here is that in Mark and Matthew it is both of the robbers on either side of him that revile him. Luke takes the scene of the three crosses (23:33 II Mk 15:27; Mt 27:38, Jn 19:18) and makes it a scene for the fundamental human decision. In Mark and Matthew there are no words given to those crucified with Jesus, so the whole section vv 39-43 is found only in Luke. One behaves exactly like the chief priests, elders and soldiers and mocks Jesus using their very words — we have to note the irony here that he sides with the persecutors of Jesus who are also his own persecutors, rather than with a fellow sufferer. In ext remis, he can still only think of himself and his own perceptions of what God should be. The world of his selfishness and his demands is the only universe that exists. Then there is the contrast of the other criminal who can see both himself, his predicament, and the predicament of all three of them, and can ask for mercy.

This petition from the ‘good thief’, as he has become known in the tradition, then brings out Luke’s even deeper irony: the false perceptions of the Christ and of the Royal One elicit nothing; but the call in need elicits the divine words of mercy: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’ The irony points to the paradox at the heart of the mystery of the incarnation in Luke that can be seen from his crib scene (2:7) right through to this moment: there are the expectations of power, might, and noise from the Christ of God, yet there is silence, suffering and powerlessness. When there is a divine judgement, a word of divine power (‘truly, I say to you’), and a display of divine knowing, it comes in response to a cry of need from a suffering criminal on the cross,


‘If you are the king of the Jews then save yourself.’ This cry of mockery from the crowds on Calvary is worthy of our reflection on a feast such as today’s. It is precisely because he is the king of the Jews, and indeed king of the whole world, that Jesus does not save himself. He is more concerned to save others. This he does, not by the majestic use of power or a dramatic manifestation of his glory, but rather through a humble giving of himself in which the mercy of God is offered to everyone in an act of overwhelming generosity. Today we celebrate a king whose wealth lies in his love for all, and whose authority is exercised through service of those who are considered the least important of all. Jesus does not seek servants who grovel before his throne in the hope of being granted favours, he is looking for disciples who can stand before the cross and see there their own worth and the worth of every other human being, and who will be prepared to do what they can to uphold the dignity of their brothers and sisters.

Homily notes 

1. A good starting point today is to try to get the assembly to see what images – not their theological theories or sound­bites from a catechism – the words ‘the End of the World’ bring to their minds. First, it is not something that people like to dwell on; second, there is a natural fearfulness about the future in most people; third, there is legacy of apocalypticism in western culture; and fourth, disasters that are looming is big business in our society.

2. It depends on the size of the gathering and on how used they are to homily-experiences other than the talking head as to how people access these images. If they can talk about it, or if even a few people can give their images, it will be a much richer learning experience than if one just says: ‘Now think about this for a moment.’

3. The likelihood is that many will have images that portray the universe as a dangerous, unfriendly place, indeed, a place where God is either just an impersonal force or else the Juggernaut of vengeance. It is part of our complexity as human beings that we can say ‘God loves each of us’ – and mean and believe it – while at the same time having images deep within our consciousness of the cosmos that imply that God does not care or is cruel judge. Having that mind of Christ is not something that just happens when we accept a creed; it is a slow process of love and conversion.

4. It is worth dwelling on the sources of fear and giving them names.

5. We tend not to like to think far into the future – it brings up the thoughts of times of loss and death. This is something that seems common to all of us: we want to put the future be­yond tomorrow or after the next few years’ on the long finger’. Many do not like thinking about retirement, pensions or making a will.

6. We have another natural, and seemingly universal, fear of the future: if the future is open, then things can go right or they can go wrong. This is the fear that makes us prudent and it is also the frisson of excitement when we make a bet. The future is a challenge to us and we are fearful lest we fail. We have all felt this whether it is before a test, or before doing something in public, or even trying to figure out the way to fill in a form we have just been sent.

7. There is a long tradition of using the images of disaster as part of the Christian message: God will come with fire and brimstone, and punish the wicked. We have to simply acknowledge this and ask is it the only Christian image?

8. A looming disaster is big business. We are all offered far more insurance than we need on every conceivable bit of kit we have. Movies and newspapers all need to hear about the latest disaster that is about to befall us. Governments use fear of ‘the threat’ from some vague other group or disease as a way of forming and justifying policy. It is much easier to lead by seeming to react to threat than to have a positive vision.

9. Now contrast the image of Christ as the one who hands back a kingdom brought to perfection in him through his love and forgiveness, to the Father. Christ is the omega point of our existence in his love and forgiveness.

10. Just such a contrast of expectations is at the heart of today’s gospel: the accusers think they know how the Christ will or should behave; but the reality is radically different. Today’s doom mongers are just as certain about the end, but we celebrate the end as Christ being all in all, ruling over all in love, and establishing peace. At this point it might be word read­ing the central section of today’s preface.

11. Where do we see a foretaste of that omega point: in today’s gospel. The end of the Christ in our bodily existence is not a moment of vengeance, but of love towards one suffering with him: Today you will be with me in paradise.

12. Lastly, we need to acknowledge that many religious people do not like this vision of the End as it seems to make ‘God’ too soft and too soppy. A God of power and stem justice seems a more robust being than one of love and forgiveness. And these people seem to be in the majority among the shareholders of religion TV stations. But does this ‘robust­ness’ belong to the very group that Luke sees being rejected for their images of the Christ in today’s gospel? 

Gospel Prayer Reflection 

Lord, we thank you that you showed us in Jesus the true meaning of power.
He exercised kingship by coming among us as a companion,
sharing our terrible experiences of lowliness,
of hanging on a cross with two criminals, one on our right and the other on our left,
having people jeer at us that we who are your anointed, specially chosen by you,
we who in many ways bring salvation to others,
are unable to save ourselves or our families.
Now we can share with you the pain
of having those who looked up to us as leaders in the community
angry with us because we could not save ourselves and them as well.
Give us the grace to follow in Jesus’ footsteps,
turning our moments of lowliness into moments of power,
when we enter into communion with those in need,
proving the values of the world wrong,
for when we learn to accept that w cannot save ourselves,
we bring salvation to all those who are being crucified.

Lord, we pray that your Church may not stand aloof from the world,
But be willing like Jesus to share the fate of the poor,
To accept hanging on the cross with them,
Alongside criminals at times, some on the right, some on the left.
Hanging there, your Church will experience mockery as Jesus did,
from religious leaders as well as ordinary foot soldiers,
will be abused by those who look for quick solutions to their problems,
but will discover heroic people among those whom the world has condemned
and will enter paradise walking hand in hand with them.

Lord, we thank you for people who have been for us what the good thief was for Jesus.
Whereas others rejected us because we could not save them,
They saw that we had done nothing wrong to deserve the harsh sentence we had received,
called us tenderly by our names
and asked us to be remembered among our friends.

Lord, we thank you for addicts who join rehabilitation groups like Alcoholic Anonymous.
Like the good thief, they experienced disgrace but continued to fear you.
Then one day they stopped abusing others for their plight
And recognized that they deserved the sentence of condemnation they had received
From family and friends,
And that they were paying for the evil they had done.
Very humbly, they turned to the Jesus you sent to share their pain
And asked to be admitted into the company of the converted.
They received the assurance that on that very day they would enter into your kingdom.

Lord, we pray for those who feel excluded
– from positions of power because they have failed
in their professional or personal lives,
– from the Church because of failures on their personal relationships.
We pray that they will discover greatness and holiness in themselves
By contemplating Jesus on Calvary
– a king with no royal throne,
– a priest with no temple or altar of sacrifice,
just himself and the good their in their integrity,
willing each other into paradise.

1.     From Connections: 


Throughout his Gospel, Luke has portrayed Jesus as the humble, obedient servant of God.  In the resurrection, such humility and selflessness will be exalted by God.  In Luke’s account, Jesus steadfastly refused any demonstration of power for himself but manifested the power of God only for the faith and healing of the poor, the troubled, the lost and the rejected.  Even while hanging on the cross (an incident recorded only by Luke), Jesus only claims power to save the “good thief” who places his trust in him.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion is a pretty hopeless depiction:  Jesus, the generous teacher and the loving healer, is hung on a tree like a common criminal; he is the object of scorn and derision by the very people he came to serve and save.  But in one of his last breaths, Jesus offers peace and healing to a criminal hanging there with him.  Such is the transforming and redemptive love of Christ.  From the crosses and crucifixions of our world, the reign of God takes shape when we imitate the humble selflessness of Christ in bringing his spirit of hope and reconciliation into the lives of those around us.

On this last Sunday of the Church year, we honor Christ the King whose kingdom knows neither boundaries nor walls, neither castes nor classes; Christ the King whose rule is one of humble service; Christ the King whose crown is compassion, whose scepter is humility; Christ the King whose court belongs to the poor, the forgotten, the lost, the despairing; Christ the King whose coin is forgiveness and reconciliation.  

To be a disciple of Christ demands a clear, conscious decision, not passive, rote compliance; to claim Christ as King means to make his vision of compassion and justice the measure of our integrity and the compass for our journey through this life to the life of the world to come.

In Luke’s account of the crucifixion, only the “good thief” recognizes the grave injustice that is taking place.  In recognizing the innocence and goodness of Jesus, he is able to see and accept responsibility for his own sinfulness and need for forgiveness.  With that realization comes hope -- the thief understands what even Jesus’ closest disciples do not: that God will vindicate the injustices of this life in the fullness of the next.   

2.     Fr. John Speekman 

One hundred and ten years ago, in his first encyclical, Pope Pius X said that he didn’t want to be Pope because he was: terrified beyond all else by the disastrous state of human society today. For who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is - apostasy from God... . This holy man could clearly see that to desert God was to court disaster: "For behold they that go far from you shall perish" (Ps 72:17). 

Now if you are one of those puzzling individuals who cannot see anything especially wrong with the condition of modern society, or who cannot see any approaching perils, or who continues to cling to a kind of compulsive optimism which is stubbornly determined to look on ‘the bright side’ of every clear sign of impending disaster and destruction for humanity – then you will find these words of Pope Pius X entirely baffling. And, no doubt, you will go on ‘eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building’ (Lk 17:28) as the people in Lot’s day..

 But perhaps you may be moved by the words of Pope Pius XI who, in 1925 could see even more clearly the increasing degeneration afflicting society. In his encyclical Quas Primas, he wrote: In the first encyclical letter which We addressed at the beginning of Our Pontificate to the Bishops of the universal Church, We referred to the chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind was labouring. And We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. 

Apostasy from God ... For behold they that go far from Thee shall perish (Ps 72:17).

And then only last week Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio delivered an address to the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). In his address the Nuncio quoted these lines spoken by Pope John Paul II in 1978: We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God’s Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously… 

I believe Pope John Paul II was perfectly right and that his words come from a wisdom and an inspiration which is more than merely human wisdom. I believe also that, as things stand, good is losing; evil is winning. 

Of course, you are perfectly free to go on pretending that it isn’t so: that the world is no more in the grip of evil than it ever was. Pope John Paul disagrees with you – and so did Pope Pius XI. And that’s why he instituted the Feast of Christ the Universal King, the feast we celebrate today.

Like most papal encyclicals it was read mainly by the intelligentsia in the Church and not by ordinary Catholics. But the encyclical still had extraordinary power because it also instituted a feast: the Feast of Christ the King. He said at the time: Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ. 

The Pope goes on to show at some length how the sacred scriptures in both the Old and the New Testaments bear witness to the truth that Christ is the Universal King and therefore has supreme and absolute dominion over all things created.

We Catholics have been, in a sense, duped by false ecumenism into believing that Jesus Christ is King only for those who like to think of him in that way. We say, ‘He is our king. He is king of the Catholics’ but in reality is he king of the Hindus, the Protestants, the Buddhists and the Moslems too. He is King of the whole human race; indeed, heis King of the entire Cosmos – the only way to the Father (cf. John 14:6) – the only name under heaven by which we can be saved (cf. Acts 4:12) and his kingdom will have no end (cf. Lk 1:33). 

I am going to leave you with a question to which I will suggest an answer. What change can I make today in my outlook as a Catholic to begin to make the truth of Christ’s Universal kingship real in my life. My suggested answer is this: Begin to love his Church with the love with which she deserves to be loved – total, obedient, faithful love. 

The Catholic Church is the kingdom of Christ on earth. Are you comfortable with that truth or does it make you squirm? I assure you it is orthodox Church teaching. Christ as our Redeemer purchased the Church at the price of his own blood and planted her in this dark world as a light on a hill. We are all children of the Church and we should love her because she is our mother. 

And we are called to love one another as Christ has loved us and so to clear a way for the kingdom to grow strong among us – so that the kingdom of Christ may then grow among all men. 

3.     Fr David Vincent Meconi, SJ 

Purpose: To invite all to see Christ as the King who chooses to rule through love, and not by force or threat.  He is the perfect image of the Father, but also the Son of Mary, who in his very person unites all contraries and reconciles all tensions.

To counter the ever-increasing nationalism Pope Pius XI sensed in Europe, he instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925. This Solemnity was meant to teach the entire world that there was ultimately only one ruler, only one sovereign—the God-man, Jesus Christ.  In the encyclical which inaugurated this feast, Pius XI tells us that he chose this year to proclaim Christ’s kingship because it is the sixteenth centenary of the Council of Nicaea, where Jesus was definitively proclaimed “consubstantial” with the Father and is, thus, worthy of our absolute devotion.

… by reason of the keenness of his intellect, and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind. He reigns, too, in the wills of men, for in him, the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the Holy Will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration, he so subjects our free-will as to incite us to the most noble endeavors (Quas Primas §7).

In 1969, Pope Paul VI changed both the name and the date of the feast, but the meaning remains the same: Today is a day to hail the true King of all!  Yet, this was not a realm obvious from the beginning. From Eden to Calvary, God slowly disclosed the nature of his realm, and the purpose of his rule.

For this reason the Church gives us readings which show us the “progression” of God’s Kingdom.  In the Old Testament prophets, like Samuel, we hear of the Kingdom being one of “bone and flesh,” one tied to the land of Israel.  As such, the original vision of God’s Kingdom was still very much one of natural kinship and provincial protection.  In Christ, this understanding is amplified universally to include every man, woman, and child.  Whereas the kingdoms of old were terrestrial, and determined by bloodlines, Christ’s Kingdom is one of love. This love of the New King is now manifested as his adopting many brothers and sisters into his Father’s patrimony—making otherwise unworthy servants into his own brothers and sisters.  This is the beauty of adoption: all depends on those who adopt, and not those who are adopted.  We have been made members of Christ’s Kingdom, not out of anything we have done, but out of his immeasurable love for each of us.  The power and glory are all his; the Good News is that he has chosen to share it with us.

In all likelihood, it is a first century baptismal hymn which Paul incorporates into his letter to the Colossians.  Here, God is thanked and praised for unifying all things in Jesus Christ, and for even conforming us to such perfection.  Through his holy Cross, and in his holy Church, Christ has reconciled all things: now, through his death is found life, in his mortality is found eternity, in his humble service is found greatness, in his humanity is found divinity.  Christ is the great promise to us: even though we may now know mockery, derision and even, perhaps, forms of martyrdom, in that darkness and in those deaths, we shall come to know God’s reconciliation and redemption more powerfully and personally.

Accordingly, the Gospel today reminds us that the Kingdom of Jesus is not one simply of command and might but, first, one of weakness and vulnerability.  It is a crown of thorns before it is a crown of gold.  Such a new sense of rule ushers in a new liturgical year as well, as Christ the King always leads into Advent: our savior comes to us weak and dependent upon our desires to care for him, and to make him known in this world.  He is a King, not a micro-manager, and he is willing to share whatever he can—his work, his mission, his very body and blood—with his members.  On the Cross and in the Cradle, Christ undergoes a second kenosis, a continual outpouring of his glory so that the inglorious might come to him without fear.

This selection from Luke reaches its crescendo with Christ’s promise that those who come to him will be with him in paradise.  So, we need again to stress how heaven for the Christian is not simply a place “out there,” apart from the trials and the crosses of this present life. Instead, heaven is a living, robust relationship with Jesus who longs to inform every moment and movement of our day here and now.  We will be with Christ the King forever (cf. Thes 4:10) and in Christ and in his Church, forever begins today!


1.     Andrew Greeley: 


This is a medieval feast which uses the metaphor of “king” -- a powerful one in those days – to describe the role of Jesus. Today the implications of such a metaphor are harder for us to comprehend, though the fascination with the late Princess of Wales suggests that we still like royalty and royal families – though perhaps we don’t quite understand any more the tragedy that is inherent in royal leadership. 

 In fact, the kingdom which Jesus preached was the kingdom of his Father in heaven, a kingdom of forgiving love with no royal trappings at all, a kingdom which had always been there but which now (through Jesus) we're beginning to recognize for the first time. The kingdom of Jesus is summarized in the words of the Our Father – forgive us as we forgive. No matter how many times we say that prayer, the meaning seems to allude us. We expected to be forgiven, but we don’t want to forgive.


Once upon a time a young man grew up bitterly angry at the girl down the street. He was bright enough but slow spoken and shy. She was quick-witted and funny. He said and did stupid things, he was tongue tied in class and stumbled on the playground. She made fun of him. He was terrible in sports. She laughed at him. He resented her popularity and her intelligence and her success. 

It was not right that she was so good at everything and he was so bad. Then the boys noticed how pretty she was and they all chased after her. The girls sort of like him, but she said he was a nerd and they all agreed.   

Then his family moved away. He was glad to leave the neighborhood. He hated everyone in it and especially he hated her. In his new neighborhood he was treated like everyone else. He stopped stumbling, he thought more quickly. He got good marks in class, he became popular. It was all her fault that he had not been popular in the old neighborhood. She had ruined the early part of his life. Someday he’d get even.

 Then, when he went to college, he met her again. She was beautiful now and very friendly to him. She didn’t seem to remember how cruel she had been. He  thought she’d be a very interesting date – maybe someday even more than that. She kind of thought the same thing.  

But he turned his back on her and ignored her.  

From Father Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 

1.     A Man for All Seasons:  

There is a great scene in the play that fits very well with today’s feast of Christ the King. You might remember that the play was about the determination of St. Thomas More to stand for the faith against the persuasion and eventually persecution of Henry VIII of England. In the scene I’m referring to, Henry VIII is trying to coax his second-in-charge, Thomas More, to agree with him that it is proper for him, the King, to divorce his wife Catherine since she was also his sister-in-law and since she had not given birth to a male heir to the Kingdom. After the King made all his arguments, Thomas More said that he himself was unfit to meddle in this argument and the King should take it to Rome. Henry VIII retorted that he didn’t need a pope to tell him what he could or couldn’t do. Then we come to the center point. Thomas More asked the King, “Why do you need my support?” Henry VIII replied with words we would all love to hear said about each of us, “Because, Thomas, you are honest. And what is more to the point, you are known to be honest. There are plenty in the Kingdom who support me, but some do so only out of fear and others only out of what they can get for their support. But you are different. And people know it. That is why I need your support.” In the presence of integrity, Henry VIII knew who was King and who was subject.

2.     The shivering and hungry king:

There is a story about an Irish king. He had no children to succeed him on the throne. So he decided to choose his successor from among the people. The only condition set by the king, as announced throughout his kingdom, was that the candidate must have a deep love for God and neighbor. In a remote village of the kingdom lived a poor but gentle youth who was noted for his kindness and helpfulness to all his neighbors. The villagers encouraged him to enter the contest for kingship. They took up a collection for him so that he could make the long journey to the royal palace. After giving him the necessary food and a good overcoat, they sent him on his way. As the young man neared the castle, he noticed a beggar sitting on a bench in the royal park, wearing torn clothes. He was shivering in the cold while begging for food. Moved with compassion, the young man gave the beggar his new overcoat and the food he had saved for his return journey. After waiting for a long time in the parlor of the royal palace, the youth was admitted for an interview with the king. As he raised his eyes after prostrating before the king, he was amazed to find the king wearing the overcoat he had given to the beggar at the park, and greeting him as the new king of the country. When he comes in glory, Christ the King is going to judge us on the basis of our corporal and spiritual works of mercy. 

3.     Christ is in charge:  

Susan C. Kimber, in a book called Christian Woman, shares a funny piece of advice she received from her little son: "Tired of struggling with my strong-willed little son, Thomas, I looked him in the eye and asked a question I felt sure would bring him in line: 'Thomas, who is in charge here?' Not missing a beat, he replied, ‘Jesus is, and not you mom.’ " 

4.     “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!”
Of thirty Roman emperors, governors of provinces and others in high office, who distinguished themselves by their fanatical zeal and bitterness in persecuting the early Christians, one became mentally deranged; another was slain by his own son. One of them became blind; another was drowned. One was strangled; another died in miserable captivity. One of them died of so loathsome a disease that several of his physicians were put to death because they could not abide the stench that filled his room. Two committed suicide; another attempted it but had to call for help to finish the work. Five were assassinated by their own people or servants, five others died the most miserable and excruciating deaths and eight were killed in battle, or after being taken prisoners. Among those who died in battle was Julian the Apostate. In the days of his prosperity he is said to have pointed his dagger to heaven, defying the Son of God whom he commonly called the Galilean. But when he was wounded in battle and saw that all was over with him, he gathered up his clotted blood and threw it into the air, exclaiming, “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!” (Boise)

 5.     Sleep-inducing sermon on Christ the King:  

"I hope you didn't take it personally, Father," an embarrassed woman said to her pastor after the Holy Mass, "when my husband walked out during your sermon on Christ the King." "I did find it rather disconcerting," the pastor replied. "It's not a reflection on you, Father," she insisted. "Ralph has been walking in his sleep ever since he was a child."

6.     Co-pilot Christ the king:  

Many people love bumper sticker theology. Bumper stickers may not always have the soundest theological statements, but they generally at least have the ability to make us think. One such, “God is my Co-pilot," has also been found on church signs, where the theology is just as much fun and sometimes sounder. In this case, the Church sign says, "If Christ the King is your Co-Pilot, change seats." 

7.     Long live Christ the King!  

In the 1920s a totalitarian regime gained control of Mexico and it tried to suppress the Church. To resist the regime, many Christians took up the cry, "Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!" They called themselves "Cristeros." The most famous Cristero was a young Jesuit priest named Padre Miguel Pro. Using various disguises, Padre Pro ministered to the people of Mexico City. Finally the government arrested him and sentenced him to public execution on November 23, 1927. The president of Mexico (Plutarco Calles) thought that Padre Pro would beg for mercy, so he invited the press to the execution. Padre Pro did not plead for his life, but instead knelt holding a crucifix. When he finished his prayer, he kissed the crucifix and stood up. Holding the crucifix in his right hand, he extended his arms and shouted, "Viva Cristo Rey" “Long live Christ the King!” At that moment the soldiers fired. The journalists took pictures; if you look up "Padre Pro" or "Saint Miguel Pro" on the Internet, you can see that picture. (Fr. Phil Bloom) 

8.     On His Majesty’s Service:  

Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was arrested and brought before the Roman authorities. He was told if he cursed Christ, he would be released. He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king Jesus Christ who saved me?" The Roman officer replied, "Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt." But Polycarp said, "You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgment to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish."

9.     Desperate deaths of autocratic kings & dictators:  

The death of Josef Stalin (1879-1953), the Communist dictator was described by his daughter as difficult and terrible. Silenced by a stroke shortly before he died, Stalin’s “last words” were more visual than audible. Newsweek magazine quoted Svetlana Stalin who said, “At what seemed the very last moment, he cast a glance over everyone in the room. It was a terrible glance, insane, angry and full of fear of death. With one final menacing gesture, he lifted his left hand as if he were bringing down a curse on us all.” Philip III of Spain (1578-1621), who proved an unfit king, indifferent to the plight of his people, breathed his last, wishing, “Would to God that I had never reigned. What does all my glory profit, but that I have so much the more torment in my death?” Charles IX, who in 1572 had ordered the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of the Huguenots throughout France met death with despair, “What blood! What murders! I am lost forever. I know it.” When she lay dying, Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) was said to have offered, “All my possessions for a moment of time.” Today’s gospel challenges us to compare to these deaths Christ the King’s death on the cross, offering his life to God his Father in all serenity and elegance. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez) 

10.  “Honey, take a long, long look”:  

As the body of Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state for a few hours in Cleveland, Ohio for mourners to pay their tribute, a black woman in the long queue lifted up her little son and said in a hushed voice: “Honey, take a long, long look. He died for us, to give us freedom from slavery.” Today’s gospel gives us the same advice, presenting the crucifixion scene of Christ our king who redeemed us from Satan’s slavery by his death on the cross.

1. Background: 

 It is fascinating to compare the vision of Daniel with the image of Jesus before Pilate. In both the Lord of Creation is depicted in a moment of triumph. Daniel has no sense of the paradox of that Lord being treated like a common criminal. 
 There was of course no reason why he should, though the author of the section of Isaiah dimly saw that reality. At the heart of the paradox, however, is the insight that Jesus is the Lord of Creation, the king who triumphs, the leader whom we follow precisely because he suffers with and for us and goes down with us into the valley of death.   

That’s why He is not only the Lord of creation but Our Lord too.

A new boy moved into the neighborhood just before he football season began. He was a little guy, thin and scrawny and clumsy. He went out for the football team and made a fool out of himself against the big kids. The coach, who had a kind heart, did not cut him from the team. However, he came home from every practice bruised and battered. Most of the kids made fun of him at school. However, he would not quit. He was quiet but he was also stubborn. One of the girls, who knew more about football than any of the boys and even the coach, kept muttering that the new kid was really quick. Fastest boy on the team she told everyone. No one, however, listened to her.
 Finally there came the season opener against the “next parish down the road” which almost always won the historic contest between these old rivals (well, it went back to 1975). The next parish was bigger and always had better football teams. This year was no exception. They held our heroes scoreless and with only five minutes left in the game our guys were down thirteen to nothing. Knowing that they would never catch up, Coach sent in our little friend to play safety. On the next play, the quarterback for “next parish” through a pass which was tipped by one of our lineman. The little guy dashed across the field, intercepted it and scampered towards the goal line. See, said the girl, I told you. (Which is what a girl would say). The other team caught up with him as he crossed the goal line,  knocked him to the ground, and piled all over him.

 At first he lay flat on the ground, Then his face covered with mud, one of his eyes black, he staggered to his feet. The coach called a two point conversion. The quarterback, no dummy either, saw our runt standing dazed behind him – the coach had forgot to take him out – and threw him a lateral. Our guy ran through the opposing team like a knife cuts threw butter. Again they piled all over him in the end zone, but the refs didn’t call any penalty. He was carried off the field. After his team got the ball back with only thirty seconds to play, the coach took a deep breath and sent him back in. The QB through him a screen pass and  . .  . . . well, you know the rest. After the game he was hailed as the new leader of the team. Like one of the big kids said, he’s earned it. He’s learned how to take the worst and still win.

2. “Who’s on first?”  

That was the opening line of a classic baseball sketch acted out in 1945 by the vaudeville comedy team of Abbott and Costello. The big joke was that the ball players’ last name were “Who” (first base), “What” (second base), “I Don’t Know” (third base), “Why” (left field), “Tomorrow” (pitcher) “Today” (catcher), etc. Any conversation about “Who was on first?” was a question that involved both identity and physical position. But for the person “in the know,” those who knew “Who” was the name of the first baseman, it was simply the affirmation of a fact. “Who” WAS, in fact, on first base.

Pontius Pilate, the local governor, a kind of “Chief of Police” for the Roman Empire in Jerusalem, was caught in a similar situation. The powerful members of the Sanhedrin (think your locally elected city council representatives) brought Pilate a prisoner, a man they accused of endangering Roman rule, by proclaiming himself to be some sort of ruler and so outside of Roman law. The Sanhedrin accused Jesus of proclaiming himself “King.” Politically that was treason — a flagrant flaunting of Caesar’s rights and rule. To declare himself “King of the Jews” not only disregarded the ruling power of Rome. It provided potential fodder for the local rebellion and even violent, militant reactions of the Jewish population in Jerusalem and beyond.

But in today’s text Jesus puts forth a “Who’s on first” kind of question to Pilate…

3. What Pilate Believes

In the NIV, the first part of v. 37 is a declaration by Pilate: "You are a king, then!" In the NRSV (and my Greek text) it is a question: "So you are a king?"

 In some ways, this is another wrong question. Jesus turns it around: "You are saying that I am a king." With that statement is Jesus again putting Pilate on trial: "You have said it, but is it what you believe?" 

Here is a story that illustrates what is going on in this dialogue between Jesus and Pilate:

An Amish man was once asked by an enthusiastic young evangelist whether he had been saved, and whether he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior?

The gentleman replied, "Why do you ask me such a thing? I could tell you anything. Here are the names of my banker, my grocer, and my farm hands. Ask them if I've been saved." 

Jesus could tell Pilate anything. What is important is what Pilate believes.

Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes

4. Ordinary People

 In the story of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus we do not have a rascally, villainous cast of characters. We have ordinary soldiers, policemen, officials, priests, magistrates, and citizens - all doing what soldiers, police, officials, priests, and zealous citizens do every day. It is the usual "morality play," with a suspected criminal, arresting officers, prosecutors, a trial, and sentencing. With the exception of Jesus, none of the actors appear to be sterling characters. They are ordinary human beings, with a fair measure of hypocrisy and callousness. But each carries out with fidelity the role that society has assigned to him or her.

"The fundamental reason why Jesus has to die makes the question of responsibility for his assassination pointless. Every society, Jewish or Gentile, that is founded on money, power, and law, condemns him. He puts people first, making economics and politics less important than men and women. In contrast, society, even when it says the opposite, deceiving others as well as itself, considers individuals simply as a means." (Sulivan, Morning Light, p. 75)

John C. Purdy, God with a Human Face


5. Part of the Ritual 

The story is told about the baptism of King Aengus by St. Patrick in the middle of the fifth century. Sometime during the rite, St. Patrick leaned on his sharp-pointed staff and inadvertently stabbed the king's foot. After the baptism was over, St. Patrick looked down at all the blood, realized what he had done, and begged the king's forgiveness. Why did you suffer this pain in silence, the Saint wanted to know. The king replied, "I thought it was part of the ritual."

I am here to tell you that your king was stabbed in the foot . . . and the hand, and the side and the head and that WAS part of the ritual. And, you and I are the ones who held the staff. I ask you. Will you beg the King's forgiveness?

Brett Blair,


6. Jesus Wins 

George III of England, America's enemy in the Revolutionary War, felt terrible about the loss of the colonies. It was said, in fact, that for the rest of his life, he could not say the word "independence" without tripping over it. He was an odd duck in many ways, but he had good insights. When the fighting in America stopped, King George and all his royal cronies in Europe were sure that George Washington would have himself crowned "Emperor of the New World." That's what they would have done. When he was told, on the contrary, that Washington planned to surrender his military commission and return to farming at Mt. Vernon, George III said, "Well, if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." There is power in giving up power, in emptying oneself. Jesus knew it, Pilate didn't.  

Jesus wins, Pilate loses.  

William R. Boyer, A Confusion of the Heart

7. They Write Better Than They Know

 It is the accepted wisdom of priests and soldiers alike that one who possesses power always uses it for his own advantage. Why be a king if you cannot prove it by spectacular demonstrations of force and might? For Jesus these mocking words must bring back the echo of an earlier time when he is standing on the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem and hears the voice of the Tempter: "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here" (Luke 4:9). He resists such a temptation then, and resists it yet again. But the criminal evidently sees in Jesus' refusal to bend to the demands of his powerful tormentors an authority which is not compelled to prove itself. Is there a greater act of authority, courage, and dignity than to refuse to save oneself in order to save others? The criminal, with great effort, turns his head and looks again at the inscription on the central cross. "This is the King of the Jews." Perhaps he thinks, "They write better than they know." 

J. Will Ormond, Good News among the Rubble, CSS Publishing


8. Prose 

What kind of a Kingdom has Jesus? No castle nor palace has he. No congress nor parliament sitting, deciding what laws there will be. Perhaps he has need of but two laws: Love God and your neighbor as well. To obey them is all that is needed, as all of the saintly can tell.

He has neither army nor navy, no air force to guard the frontiers to keep out the strangers unwanted and maintain the enemy’s fears. Immigration he seems to encourage, of some quite disreputable, like fishermen, publicans, sinners. To such he is hospitable. 

It seems there’s no revenue service or taxes we must calculate. He surely cannot run a kingdom on what we put into the plate! No 1040 form comes in April to fill out before the fifteenth, with penalties charged for nonpayment, beginning upon the sixteenth.

No currency’s here with his picture, no coinage engraved with his name. And where are the posters and slogans proclaiming his power and fame? And I see no trappings of kingship, no robes made of velvet and fur, no crown made of gold set with diamonds, to befit our supreme arbiter. 

Jesus said that his kingdom was really not what Pilate had thought it had been. It was not of this world. And its glory was not of the kind to be seen. For those of us here in his kingdom, there is one other thing we have known: of the kingdoms around in his lifetime, it’s the only one left with a throne.

Andrew Daughters, The Kingdom of Jesus, CSS Publishing.

9. Freedom Riders 

Recently I heard someone tell a story about the experiences of the Freedom Riders in the American South during the '50s and '60s and their struggle for civil rights. The story was a vivid illustration of how life changes when Jesus has the last word, when Jesus is King.

When the Freedom Riders traveled through the South staging their sit-ins and marches and protests, they were often arrested and jailed. The guardians of racial segregation and the status quo were not going to let them have the last word. While in jail the Freedom Riders were often treated poorly and brutally in order to break their spirits. They were deprived of food or given lousy food. Noise was blasted and lights were flashed all day and night to keep them from resting. Sometimes even some of their mattresses were removed in order that all would not have a place to sleep.

 For a while it seemed to work. Their spirits were drained and discouraged, but never broken. It happened more than once and in more than one jail. Eventually the jail would begin to rock and swing to sounds of gospel singing. What began as a few weak voices would grow into a thundering and defiant chorus. The Freedom Riders would sing of their faith and their freedom. Sometimes they would even press their remaining mattresses out of their cells between the bars as they shouted, "You can take our mattresses, but you can't take our souls!" 

The Freedom Riders were behind bars in jail, but they were really free. They were supposed to be guilty, but they were really innocent. They were supposedly suffering, but they were actually having a great time. They were supposedly defeated but they were actually victorious.

Why? They may not have said it, but they could have: because Jesus has the last word, because Christ is King! 

Steven E. Albertin, Against the Grain -- Words for a Politically Incorrect Church, CSS Publishing


10. Gandhi's Strength 

In the published diaries of Joseph Goebbels, the infamous Nazi Propagandist, there are two or three references to Mahatma Gandhi. Goebbels believed that Gandhi was a fool and a fanatic. If Gandhi had the sense to organize militarily, Goebbels thought, he might hope to win the freedom of India. He was certain that Gandhi couldn’t succeed following a path of non-resistance and peaceful revolution. Yet as history played itself out, India peacefully won her independence while the Nazi military machine was destroyed. What Goebbels regarded as weakness actually turned out to be strength. What he thought of as strength turned out to be weakness.  

Kevin M. Pleas, Sufficient Grace

11. King and Kingdom 

Ironically, it is not so much the priestly or prophetic aspect of the work of Christ which John highlights in his narrative of the crucifixion. Rather it is the kingly role of Christ as the dying Savior which dominates John's account of our Lord's final hours.

 I say ironic because John's gospel does not feature the kingdom of God; nor does he focus upon Christ's claim to be the coming king—until chapter 18. Whereas Matthew, Mark and Luke from the very beginning of their gospels describe Jesus proclaiming the imminence of the kingdom of heaven—the miracles of Christ as signs of the kingdom breaking-in to history—the parables (which are completely absent from John's gospel)—as parables of the kingdom, John only mentions the words "king" and "kingdom" six times prior to chapter 18…
12. Man for All Seasons:

            There is a great scene in the play A Man for All Seasons that fits so well here.  You might remember that the play was about the determination of St. Thomas More to stand for the faith against the persuasion and eventually persecution of Henry VIII of England. In the scene I’m referring to, Henry VIII is trying to coax his second in charge, Thomas More, to agree with him that it is proper for him, the King, to divorce his wife Catherine since she was his sister-in-law and since she did not give birth to a male heir to the Kingdom.  After the King made all his arguments, Thomas More said that he himself was unfit to meddle in this argument and the King should take it to Rome.  Henry VIII retorted that he didn’t need a pope to tell him what he could or couldn’t do.  Then we come to the center point.  Thomas More asks the King, “Why do you need my support?”  Henry VIII replies with words we would all love to hear said about each of us, “Because, Thomas, you are honest.  And what is more to the point, you are known to be honest.  There are plenty in the Kingdom who support me, but some do so only out of fear and others only out of what they can get for their support.  But you are different. And people know it.  That is why I need your support.”

            In the presence of integrity, Henry VIII knew who was King and who was subject. 


13.   St. Ignatius of Antioch   

            The patron of our parish, St. Ignatius of Antioch, was the second most powerful Christian in the Roman Empire, second only to the Bishop of Rome.  He had written letters to Christians to stand up for the faith in the face of persecution.  And then he, as a venerable old man, was arrested.  He was put on a ship that would eventually end up sending its cargo to Rome.  There he would be fed to the lions in the Colosseum.  Many early Christians could not bear the thought of losing Ignatius.  He was too important, too needed in the Church.  They plotted to raise money to bribe the sailors in one of the ports the ship would stop before reaching Rome.  They had plenty of time to do so, the trip would take two to three years.  Evidently they also had  plenty of money.  Wealthy Christians were determined to save Ignatius.  They just didn’t understand Ignatius’ integrity.  He was not going to buy his way out of a fate that he had encouraged others to have the courage to accept.  Nor was he going to use  some sort of skillful legalese to save his skin. So he walked into the Colosseum with the other Christians in control of the direction of his life.  He was a frail old man; yet, he was more powerful than the lions who would destroy him or the Romans who did not have the courage to stop the absurd spectacle.  Ignatius was a man of integrity.

            Ignatius of Antioch and Thomas More and so many others followed Jesus Christ in being people of integrity.  The powerful Pilate could have Jesus tortured and killed, and he did, but Pilate himself remained a prisoner because he lived a lie.  And Jesus remained a King because he testified to the truth to his last breath.
 14. Long live Christ the King!

In the 1920s, a totalitarian regime gained control of Mexico and it tried to suppress the Church. To resist the regime, many Christians took up the cry, "Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!" They called themselves "Cristeros." The most famous Cristero was a young Jesuit priest named Padre Miguel Pro. Using various disguises, Padre Pro ministered to the people of Mexico City. Finally the government arrested him and sentenced him to public execution on November 23, 1927. The president of Mexico (Plutarco Calles) thought that Padre Pro would beg for mercy, so he invited the press to the execution. Padre Pro did not plead for his life, but instead knelt holding a crucifix. When he finished his prayer, he kissed the crucifix and stood up. Holding the crucifix in his right hand, he extended his arms and shouted, "Viva Cristo Rey" “Long live Christ the King!” At that moment the soldiers fired. The journalists took pictures; if you look up "Padre Pro" or "Saint Miguel Pro" on the Internet, you can see that picture. (Fr. Phil Bloom).

15. “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”  

St Thomas More is the patron saint of politicians. He was a brilliant lawyer and diplomat in 16th century England. His patriotism and loyalty to the throne attracted the attention of King Henry VIII who made him Lord Chancellor of England.  What Henry VIII did not know was that Thomas More’s first loyalty was to Christ, the King of kings. When Henry VIII, decided to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn, and make himself head of the Church of England, More thought this was not right. Rather than approve what he believed to be against the divine will, he resigned from his prestigious and wealthy position as Lord Chancellor and lived a life of poverty. Since he would not give his support to the king, More was arrested, convicted of treason, imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534 and beheaded in July of the following year. On his way to public execution, More encouraged the people to remain steadfast in the faith. His last recorded words were: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” For More, it was not simply enough to confess Christ privately in the safety of one’s heart and home; one must also confess him in one’s business and professional life as well as in the laws and policies that govern society. (Fr. Munacci).

16.  On His Majesty’s Service:  

Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was brought before the Roman authorities and told to curse Christ and he would be released.  He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my king Jesus Christ who saved me?"  The Roman officer replied, "Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt."  But Polycarp said, "You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgment to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly.  Do what you wish."   (L/12)


17. Christ is in charge:  

Susan C. Kimber, in a book called Christian Woman, shares a funny piece of advice she received from her little son: "Tired of struggling with my strong-willed little son, Thomas, I looked him in the eye and asked a question I felt sure would bring him in line: 'Thomas, who is in charge here?'  Not missing a beat, he replied, ‘Jesus is, and not you mom.’ " 
18.  Co-pilot Christ the king:  

Many people love bumper sticker theology.  Bumper stickers may not always have the soundest theological statements, but they generally at least have the ability to make you think.  One such, “God is my Co-pilot," has also been found on church signs, where the theology is just as much fun and sometimes sounder.  In this case, the Church sign says, "If Christ the King is your Co-Pilot, change seats."