“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise,” says Jesus, as he is dying on the cross, to the good thief (as history remembers him). The promise of salvation is being accomplished. The thief being crucified beside Jesus recognized this as he had asked Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The interchange was prompted when the other thief had asked Jesus: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” His plea to be saved was being accomplished by the very act from which he sought deliverance. As Jesus is “lifted up” on the cross he becomes the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the King of the Universe. Hence he can say to the “good thief,” “today you will be with me in paradise.”
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe. It is also the last Sunday of the liturgical year as Advent begins the new year next week. The cycle is complete. Jesus’ triumph is celebrated and the kingship that has been prepared for him by the Father is established.
In his Letter to the Colossians, St. Paul speaks of Jesus in this way: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Jesus’ kingship is universal. Everything that “is” is subject to him. His kingship is established through the reconciliation he achieved on the cross — “making peace by the blood of his cross.”
The triumph of Christ on the cross brings life through the mercy of God. This weekend we also mark the closing of the Year of Mercy. During this year we have been focusing on the gift of mercy, the power of mercy in our lives and the call to be merciful. The passion, death and resurrection of the Lord manifests, in the greatest way possible, the mercy of God for through it the Father “delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Our celebration calls us to worship Christ as King. In doing so we recognize the love that our king has for us. He emptied himself in love. We are called to do the same for our king is not a “ceremonial” figure as many kings and queens are today. He is a king to be followed, from the depths of our hearts and in every aspect of our lives. He has not only taught us to love God and neighbor but showed us how to love.
Christ is the king. While his kingdom is “not of this world” (cf. John 18:36) it exists “among us” (cf. Luke 17:21). We are invited through this celebration to consider just that, “the Kingdom of God is among you.” When we live the law of love, the law of mercy, in our lives we begin to recognize the Kingdom and the Lord of Life whom we serve.
As we serve the Lord in this life, we await his return and the celebration of his final victory in the heavenly feast. There the law of love, the law of mercy, will be fully manifest. So our lives are motivated by love, directed by love and are led to love. Christ is our king and he shows us the way.