An aerial view of the statue of Christ the King in Świebodzin, Poland
[In the New Liturgical Calendar] Sunday, Nov. 20, is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Mass readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43.
Jesus Christ is King of Thieves, though he never stole. He is Savior of Sinners, though he never sinned.
Today’s Gospel presents Jesus as reigning from the cross. Nothing could be more paradoxical.
Let’s look at it from four perspectives:
Today’s Gospel presents Christ, crucified, between two thieves. We are all sinners and have used the gifts and things that belong to God in a way contrary to his will. To misuse things that belong to others is a form of theft. Consider some of the things we claim as our own and how easily we misuse them: our bodies, our time, our talents, our money, the gift of our speech, and the gift of our freedom. We call them ours, but they really belong to God, and if we use them in ways contrary to his intention, we are guilty of a form of theft.
Consider, also, that the two thieves were very different. In the Church we have saints and sinners, and in the world there are those who will turn to Christ and be saved and others who will turn away and be lost.
1. The “Bad Thief” derides Jesus and makes demands of him: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
2. The “Good Thief” reverences Christ and rebukes the other, saying, “Have you no fear of God?” The Good Thief recognizes his guilt: “We have been condemned justly.” He asks, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom,” but he leaves the terms of it up to Christ and places his life under the authority of Christ the King.
Christ came to call sinners — thieves, if you will. Yes, we are all thieves, but pray God that we are the good thief, the repentant thief, the thief who is now ready to submit himself to the authority of Christ, who is King of all creation. Heaven is a real steal, something we don’t deserve; but it is only accessed through repentance and faith. The Good Thief does open the door of his heart and thereby is saved.
A king has authority. Does Christ have authority in your life?
Consider whether you acknowledge that everything you call your own really belongs to God and think about how well you use those gifts.
How do you use our time? Are you committed to pray and to attend Mass every Sunday without fail? Are you chaste? Do you reverence life? Are you generous enough to the poor and needy?
It is one thing to call Christ our King, but it is another to be truly under his authority. The Lord is clear enough in telling us that he expects our obedience: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord” but do not do what I tell you?’” (Luke 6:46). Is Christ your King?
The thief who asked Jesus to remember him manifested repentance, faith and a kind of baptism of desire. In so doing, he moved into the victor’s column and claims the victory through his choice for Jesus Christ.
Will you have the victory? That depends on whether you choose the prince of this world or the King of the Universe, Jesus.
Some think that they can tread some middle path, choosing neither Jesus nor Satan. But if you do that, you’ve actually chosen the prince of this world, who loves compromise. Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30).