Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of November 25, 2007
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
1st Reading: 2 Sam 5:1-3; Psalm 121; 2nd Reading: Col 1:12-20; Gospel: Lk 23:35-43
In the Old Testament it is written: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). Still today Jesus confounds and amazes us because His way of doing things is completely different from that of humans. Men love to emerge and, at times, to achieve this result, many have imposed on others with force. In the past and recent history, numerous characters, taking advantage of their power, have proclaimed themselves kings or emperors and gave an impromptu show of kingship by displaying the typical insignia of sovereignty, of those ruling over the nations.
Jesus, however, astounds and surprises us because he never wanted any royal insignia. The eternal God is sitting on an immensely and infinitely glorious throne that is due to Him only and with His incarnation He chose not to call or win men's approval. The throne he has chosen is that of the cross. For He said: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself" (Jn 12:32), and if this is not a sign of royalty and sovereignty, I do not know of any other just as big that can show it. The agony of the cross, according to human mentality, is the most humiliating blow that can be given to a convict while according to God's judgment; the only thing that matters is the throne exalting Him.
If all the past and present men of the Church would have accepted the judgment of God and followed His plan, today their way of thinking and acting would be completely different.
The Cross is the throne before whom all in the Heaven bow reverently because in God's plan it is a sign of sovereignty. When the Roman generals conquered the regions they returned to Rome in triumph along the sacred road on a wonderful horse-drawn wagon; at the head and tail of the procession there were all the insignia of defeated peoples. Jesus could have gone up on the most beautiful wagon in the world but has not done so, He climbed the cross, and what amazes us more, He did it on his own will.
"The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, "He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one." The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him, offering him sour wine and saying, "If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself." Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read "This is the king of the Jews". One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, "Don't you fear God, seeing that you've also been sentenced to die? We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong". Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom". Jesus replied, "I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise" (Lk 23:35-43).
I would like to point out the vast difference between the behavior of the people and that of their leaders, when Jesus was on the cross. The people just look, they dare not say anything as they are waiting to be enlightened, guided towards the truth, and absolutely no one dares to offend Christ. The leaders, instead, would sneer at Him, even challenging Him: "He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one" (Luke 23:35) and to make matters worse even the Roman soldiers mocked at Him with different words: "If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself" (Luke 23:37). But the latter, unlike the high priests of the Jewish people, have the excuse of not knowing the scriptures and prophecies about the Messiah.
Christ came for sinners, as He himself said: "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Lk 5:32) and on the cross He is flanked on the right and left by two robbers representing sinners.
One is the unrepentant sinner who, in spite of the commitment and effort from God, does not want to convert. He is not interested in God, but only to live well, surrounded by comfort and wealth. The repentant sinner, instead, is letting the light of God pierce his heart; this light illuminates and makes him understand his mistakes pushing him towards the truth to the point to ask to be forgiven. Believe me, I do not want to humiliate anyone, but let us acknowledge we are the repentant wrongdoer: to us too will be given the promise of Christ if we follow him in repentance: "you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43); this is exactly what matters for us.
There is a saying that can be adapted to us Christians: "Life is like a bridge, you can cross it but do not think to build your home on it". We live a committed life on Earth trying to make the most of our duty, but we know that life is a transition, not an end, and is not the ultimate reality of man. During our daily life we should try to glimpse beyond the human side, to reach after death the celestial shore, that of Heaven.
This step is possible, this daily commitment is realized if we accept as Mary, John and the holy women did, the sacrifice of Christ, and if with His blood we fill with joy and feed with His Body, in other words we are strengthened by the Eucharist.
Christ the King is showing us the signs of His kingship, claiming ownership rights over us, as He did with the apostles eight days after His Resurrection, showing them the signs of Passion, as glorious trophies and symbols of victory.
We too, just as Thomas did, at first were doubtful on Jesus because of our limitations and sins. However, if we later repented and bowed reverently before Christ, saying: "My Lord and My God!" (Jn 20:28) we are confirmed in a new dignity. It will make us feel what we are: children of God and members of the Mystical Body, members of the Church, as Paul clearly says in the passage of the second reading from the Letter to the Colossians.
"Giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross".
Christ is the true, authentic, current Head of the Church and is waiting for membership from those occupying important positions within the church hierarchy, from the nations and all men. We should not feel privileged, but committed. Our Lord is not expecting from us, or at least from most of us, strong or dreadful commitments, He is asking each of us to know Him, to love Him, to follow Him and to bear witness to His presence in our life; we can and we must strive to achieve this.
Today is the day of the triumph of Christ and it would be appropriate for every member of the Church in its many and different realities, to ask himself the question: "Do I consider Christ the true Head of the Church? Am I convinced that I must follow Him and not to be so presumptuous to place myself at His side, even less to place myself first and before Him, as, unfortunately, it has happened many times in the history of the Church?"
In fact, when man stupidly assumes to be first and before God, he is sinning as did the rebel angels: sin of arrogance and pride and becomes an element of confusion for him and for others. The true shepherd is one who follows in the footsteps of Christ, who bows down and asks the Lord, Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior, asks the light, strength and courage to render a good service and does not purport to impose on his brothers with authoritarianism and abuse of power.
God became flesh to serve us; during the last supper Jesus said: "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" (Jn 13:14-15); you too have to follow my example: love and help each another.
I really wish that this commitment coming from the Cross and lit by it, may instill in each of us such a force and energy that nothing and no-one is an obstacle in the march towards Christ, to be with Him, in Him and for Him, elements of salvation for so many of our brothers and sisters. Praised be Jesus Christ.