Today we celebrate the last Sunday in Ordinary time by celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King, and the readings remind us that no other king has or will reign over what Our Lord does, nor will any king reign in the same way.
In today’s First Reading the tribes of Israel come to David and acknowledge them as their king. In today’s solemnity believers in Heaven and on earth acknowledge Our Lord and Redeemer as the King of not just an earthly kingdom, but of all creation, a reign that will only fully be revealed at the end of time. Today’s First Reading commemorates when David became king of all of Israel, not just the southern part and southern tribes. A few verses later in chapter 5 it says, “At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years” (2 Samuel 5:5). The way David reigned, and the extent of his reign progressed, is a foreshadowing of the reign of Our Lord that we celebrate today. Our Lord reigned over the disciples who welcomed him during his earthly ministry, but his reign soon extended not just to the disciples who believed into him, but to everyone, as St. Paul teaches in today’s Second Reading.
Today’s Second Reading reminds us that we’ve already become a part of the kingdom of Christ, rescued through baptism from the reign of sin and death that oppresses and dominates a fallen world. All of creation was made with the Son in mind, and all of creation becomes his throne from which he conquers sin and death in order to present the kingdom to Our Heavenly Father at the end of time. His reign is a reign that liberates from sin and death, gradually conquering all enemies, the last of which will be death. Therefore today, the last Sunday this year in Ordinary time, we remember Our Lord reigning from his cross, but especially the day when he will return in glory and his reign will be total and complete.
The good thief crucified alongside Our Lord in today’s Gospel thought he would only be remembered in the kingdom to come, and Our Lord promised him paradise. The Lord’s detractors were mocking his claims of royalty (of being the Messiah), since his situation and his apparent inability to extricate himself from it disproved it in their minds. When Pilate placed the inscription “King of the Jews” above the Lord’s head the Pharisees balked, but it doesn’t seem that Pilate was mocking Our Lord: he saw some royal nobility and dignity in the man whose kingdom “was not of this world” (cf. John 18:36-38), but that didn’t lead him to justice in Jesus’ regard, just political expediency. The mocking thief wanted to ride the coat tails of the injustice being inflicted on Our Lord. If the Lord was really who he claimed to be, he would not only free himself from this injustice, but free the criminals too. The good thief knew it didn’t work that way. Unlike the Pharisees or the mocking thief, he didn’t put the royal dignity of Our Lord on trial, demanding proof. He humbly submitted himself to it. It is only with the eyes of faith that you can see that Our Lord is reigning on the Cross, not just hanging on it. Which of the spectators recalled in today’s Gospel do you identify with?
The Lord gradually conquers sin and death throughout history, and he wants to do it in our personal history too. Next Sunday we start a new liturgical year, this can be the year Christ the King helps you throw off the shackles of sin in your life, big or small. Spend this last week in Ordinary Time asking your King to show you the chains and help you break them. We were born into sin and death, Original Sin, and rescued through Baptism, but we can return to slavery if we don’t turn to Our Lord repentant and ask to be remembered in his kingdom. Let’s ask him to reign in our lives, today and forever.
Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1–3; Psalm 122:1–5; Colossians 1:12–20; Luke 23:35–43. See also Solemnity of Christ the King, Cycle C, Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Cycle B and Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.