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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING

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This Sunday we celebrate the last Sunday of the year with the feast of Christ the King. This feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, to remind us that our allegiance was to one who exercised power not by force or might, but by love and service for others. The gospel reading for this Sunday is part of the passion that we read on Palm Sunday the scene opens as Jesus hung on the cross between two condemned criminals. Jesus had uttered his famous words of forgiveness “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” and his last possession his clothes had been gambled away by the guards. Jesus had nothing to look forward to but death and the scene ends with one of the thieves asking Jesus to remember him in his kingdom. Jesus reply was the beautiful words “today you will be with me in paradise”. The “good” thief acknowledged he and the other criminal were rightly condemned for their acts by legitimate authority.

But Jesus was unjustly condemned by an authority which had no jurisdiction over him. Later when the disciples interpreted Jesus’ life and ministry they applied Isaiah’s image of the Suffering Servant to him,  the servant who was like a lamb led to slaughter; who bore our infirmities so that we could be healed and raised up. From the cross and through the power given us by the Holy Spirit, we are able to respond to hatred with love; forgive when we have been offended and serve those who cannot return the favour these are just a few of the ways Jesus gives us his power and shows us how to use it for the sake of his Kingdom and the good of all. While this gospel closes the liturgical year, it is not the end of the story. Here we are over 2000 years later thinking about the cross as well as Jesus’ promise of life given to the thief. The kingdom of God is a kingdom where everyone is valued and no one is left out. The cross is evidence that God, in the person of Jesus, really does care about each of us. God cares about both thieves in the gospel not just the one who acknowledged his sin.

God cares so much for us that he wants to share in every part of our lives. He knows our pain, the anguish that comes from living in an imperfect, often hate filled world. He embraces it as a standard, a light that demonstrates his unconditional love for each and every one of us. The kingship of Christ has nothing to do with triumphalism or lording it over other people. Jesus is no victor entering the city at the head of tanks, leading rank upon rank of infantrymen there is no fly-past with jets or other warplanes nor is there a great flotilla of warships or boats. The King we celebrate this weekend is the Son of God who walks the dusty roads of our daily lives finding the weak, the ill, the oppressed, the ones whose hearts are wounded, the ones whose minds are confused by the bright lights of materialism and the things that they see going on around them. Jesus finds all kinds of people as he journeys with us along the dusty roads, he finds ordinary folk as well as the elite, the powerful as well as the weak and he invites all of them and all of us to walk his way as we prepare to begin another Church Year with the advent season.Are we prepared to take up the challenge to start walking down the road that leads to salvation as we end this liturgical year and begin anew?

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