Are you a sheep or a goat? Opt to be a sheep and strive to enter through the narrow gate!
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to celebrate the Jubilee Year and the 16th centenary of the Council of Nicaea, and to reassert the sovereignty of Christ and the Church over all forms of government.
The Feast was also a reminder to the totalitarian governments of Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin that Jesus Christ is the only Sovereign King. Christ is our spiritual King and Ruler who rules by truth and love. We declare our loyalty to him by the quality of our Christian commitment, expressed in our serving of others with sacrificial and forgiving love, and by our solidarity with the poor.
The readings are clear and almost seem to portend the end of the world. And that is a healthy reminder for all of us to be aware of our mortality and to always be prepared to meet God face to face.
Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is constantly striving to round up his sheep and lead them all home. But we are constantly straying off into the wilderness and getting into trouble; thankfully, our Shepherd seeks us out and brings us back.
As is written in the book of the prophet Ezekiel:
“The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.”
Today’s Gospel presents Christ the King as reigning, not from a throne, but from the gibbet of the cross. Like the “suffering servant” of Isaiah (53:3), He is despised and rejected, as the bystanders ridicule the crucified King, challenging Him to prove His Kingship by coming down from the cross. The Gospel also tells of the criminal crucified beside Jesus who recognized Him as a Savior King and asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered His kingdom. Jesus promised the good thief that he would be with Him that day in Paradise. Tradition remembers the criminal on Jesus’ right side as “the good thief” who repented of his sins at the last moment, though Mark and Matthew call him a “revolutionary.”
King of the Jews
Although the Romans intended the inscription on the cross, “This is the King of the Jews,” to be ironic, it reflected the popular Jewish speculations about Jesus’ possible identity as the Messiah of Israel. For Luke and other early Christians that title was correct, since the Kingship of Jesus was made manifest most perfectly in his suffering and death on the cross, followed by His Resurrection on the third day, as He had foretold.
As we celebrate the Kingship of Christ today, let us remember that we belong to his Kingdom only when we try to walk with him, when we try to live our lives fully in the spirit of the Gospel and when that Gospel spirit penetrates every facet of our living.
Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, have mercy on us.