Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Christ, the merciful and compassionate King

Christ the King, Year C.
November 21st, 2010
Luke 23:35-43

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

As Americans we have a hard time accepting the idea of kings and kingdoms; but as Catholics we know that Christ is not a president, he is a King. Christ did not found a democracy, he established a Church, which is his Kingdom. However, when we think of Christ as King, we must remember that he far excels all earthly kings and rulers, he is the Good King, the King of justice, the King of peace.
If we want to understand who Christ is as our King, we must consider what a good king is meant to do for his people: he provides for their needs, especially in difficult times. The good king judges his people in fairness, he is eminently merciful. Moreover, the good king protects and defends his people from outside invaders, he is their safeguard against the enemy.

This image of the good king, ruling over and providing for his people, is something of an image for the Kingdom of Heaven – that Kingdom of peace and justice, of security and eternal joy. When we consider that this is the Kingdom which Christ comes to establish, we ought not fear his coming, but we must look forward to that day with great joy – thus we pray, “Thy kingdom come.”
It is true that, when he comes again, the Lord will separate the just from the wicked, as sheep are separated from goats, but we need not fear – for we are the people he has redeemed, if only we turn to him in faith. The Kingdom which Christ brings is the fulfillment of our hope.

On the other hand, Christ wishes for us to know that we need not even fear his judgment, if only we entrust ourselves to his mercy. The Lord desires to prove to us that he is not a king who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses and suffering. And so we are given to think upon the Cross. It is particularly at this moment, when he is most humbled and most humiliated, that Christ reveals himself as our King.
The Kingdom of peace and justice is coming, yet we still suffer – but Christ proves that he knows our suffering, he shows that he is capable of compassion.

And, so that we might be more inclined to turn to his Divine Mercy, the Savior desired that the good thief should repent at the last moment. Then, in the midst of the greatest of all suffering, the Lord received the contrition of the penitent thief. A life of sin is reversed by the simple words, “Jesus, remember me. Oh my Jesus, do not deny me. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Here we learn that the mercy of Christ is greater than all human weakness and sin. Witnessing such great Love, how could we turn away? How could we flee from Christ’s mercy?

One thing, however, will not due – unfortunately it is something which is very common today – the one thing which will surely separate us from Christ and plunge us into Hell is this: If we deny that we have sinned, if we act as though we are not sinners, if we pretend that we are worthy of heaven, then Christ will deny us. So many people today will say, “Oh, I am basically a good person. I haven’t done anything that bad.” What pretense! What arrogance!
Only this – denying that we are sinners in need of Christ’s mercy – only this can separate us from the Love of God.

As we come to the end of the Church’s liturgical year, and as we prepare to enter into the season of Advent, we look forward to the coming of our merciful and compassionate King. For those who are faithful, his Day of Judgment, shall be a day of vindication and the beginning of life everlasting.