Archbishop Follo: Christ, the King who has the Power of Love, Draws Good from Evil
November 20, 2020. With the invitation to look at Christ the King who from the Cross rules with merciful love.
XXXIV Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A – Christ the King of the Universe, November 22, 2020
Ez 34.11-12.15-17; Ps 23; 1Cor 15.20-26.28; Mt 25: 31-46
2nd Sunday of Advent
Is 51.7-12a; Ps 47; Rom 15: 15-21; Mt 3,1-12
The solemnity of Christ the King is always celebrated on the last Sunday of the liturgical year and prompts us to look at Christ who reigns on the throne of the Cross and tells us “Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you dressed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me “(Mt 25, 34 -35).
Contemplating the story of the Crucifixion and that of the Last Judgment, we could identify five ways of looking at Christ: the way of the leaders of the people, that of the soldiers, that of one of the two criminals who cursed Jesus, that of the good thief who prayed Christ and that of someone who, like this “good” criminal, was able to recognize Christ in the suffering and destitute neighbor. Only the last two are the right ways: only the fourth and the fifth free us from the power of darkness and transfer us to the Kingdom of the Crucified Son.
Then we must clearly understand each one of the five ways.
The leaders of the people, the soldiers, and one of the two thieves cry out to the Crucifix “Save yourself” and the reason why the Crucifix must save himself is that he must demonstrate that he is “the Christ of God”, namely that he belongs to God, and “the king of the Jews”, that is someone strong and powerful. Therefore, the first three ways of looking at the Crucified King all arise from a certainty: the salvation of oneself is the demonstration of one’s strength; the affirmation of oneself is the act that manifests one’s personality; royalty means dominion, it means to have, to be powerful, to appear. If the Crucifix does not prove that he is capable of saving himself through a sensational manifestation of his power, he is – for the leaders – religiously cursed, politically – for the soldiers – a powerless, and personally – for the thief – a failure.
Chiefs, soldiers, and thieves looked at the Crucifix measuring his truth with the yardstick of human expectations, and they do not understand anything. Thus, the passage from the power of darkness to the Kingdom of the Son and to the participation in the destiny of the saints in the light, was precluded.
However, there is a fourth way of looking at the Crucifix, that of the other thief. It begins with the amazement of seeing him condemned to the same punishment, of seeing him fully share our condition, of seeing him immersed in our own misery. The amazement at the divine sharing makes me discover the truth of my injustice: we are guilty, we deserved to die. “He did nothing wrong”. Then the ultimate question arises: why is He on the cross? To be close to man, to be with man even where he feels cursed, desperate, alone in his death, and to bring him back to life. Looking at Jesus on the cross, man discovers both who God is and salvation. He is grace, He is mercy, He dies so that we can live.
The fifth way of looking is the way of those that Christ places on his right hand because, with pure eyes and a big heart, they knew how to recognize him in the hungry, the sick, the poor, the prisoner, and in all those who, asking for bread, perhaps without knowing were asking for the Bread of Life.
1) Shepherd king
On this Sunday in the Roman Rite, we celebrate Christ King of the Universe, ruler of a kingdom of mercy, justice, and peace founded on the gift of himself that He gave to us on the Cross.
Jesus did not descend from the throne of the cross because it is from the Cross that he rules the new and joyous Kingdom. From his “scandalous” throne, the Lord Jesus looks at us straight in the eyes as he looked at the good thief, and says “Today, you will be with me in Paradise, in the eternal Kingdom, in the infinite love.”
The Kingdom of Earth becomes the Kingdom of Heaven through the cross by which he offers us his love of Shepherd King, as the first reading taken from the book of the prophet Ezekiel tells us.
Ezekiel (34.11 to 17), disappointed by the shepherds of Israel (kings, priests and teachers) who care for themselves rather than for their flock, dreams of a different shepherd, a shepherd who does not “scatter” but “gather”, leads his sheep to pasture and there let them rest, goes in search of the lost sheep and dresses its wounds. These are all the traits of Jesus that we find in the Gospels.
Christ is the true shepherd who cares for his flock, who goes in search of all the lost sheep because none of them can be left out from his love and from his look of divine goodness. Christ exercises his kingship as a good shepherd, because his majesty, which we celebrate today, is the kingship of love and service, of giving, and of mercy.
2) King of life.
In the Second Reading, the passage from the first letter to the Corinthians helps us to capture in a concise way the meaning of the Solemnity of Christ the King. The Apostle Paul tells us about the true kingship of Christ which He exercises in the mystery of death and resurrection. A royalty that will be brought to fullness when, after having passed the barrier of the death of the body, he in the day of the judgment will overcome this barrier for all humanity. Death, in fact, will be for us the last “enemy” to be overcome while now we think of it as a passage to eternity of which we must have absolutely no fear because Christ has conquered death. He has won everything.
Thus, inspired by Jesus, our beloved King and Lord of the universe, let us pray to God the Father who has opened his Kingdom of love with the resurrection of Christ to make us passionate and sincere workers so that the kingship of his Son may be recognized in each corner of the earth. At the end of the liturgical year, which is a time of holiness and perfection of charity, let us join the prayer of the celebrating priest and let us say with him “Almighty and eternal God who wanted to renew all things in Christ, your Son, the King of the universe, make all creatures, free from the slavery of sin, serve and praise you without end.”
3) Judge King.
However, it is the third liturgical reading, the Gospel of Matthew (25, 31-46), that shows us the most amazing side of the kingship of Jesus. The parable of the judgment (Matthew 25.31-36) is a page that calls attention not only for the strength of its message but also for the grandeur of its scenery. There are three parts: the introduction that presents the glorious coming of the Son of Man, the call of the people and their separation (25.31 to 33), the dialogue of the King speaking first with those to the right and then with those to the left (25.34 to 45), then the conclusion which describes the execution of the judgments (25,46).
In this parable we see a Judge King holding court with love and understanding but also with the strict rules which he has laid down for the eternal salvation of his children. The basic rule is charity, attested and realized in our behavior and in simple actions such as to feed, quench the thirst, assist and be close to those in pain, those who suffer, and those who are marginalized. What touches us is that God will not judge us by scrolling through the list of our weaknesses, but through one of our acts of kindness. He will not regard our shadows, but he will consider the seeds of light and goodness that we have sown. If, like David in the Psalm of tears and repentance, we say “Look away from my sin,” God hears our cry of pain, confirms us in his love, and on the last day will turn away his look from evil and will set his eyes forever on goodness, on simple and concrete goodness because God has bound salvation to the gift of a little of the bread, a glass of water, a dress, a visit to the poor or the sick. God is not bound to things but to the heart which uses things. St. John of the Cross wrote, “At the end of life, we shall be judged on love.”
This is the greatness of the evangelical Christian faith: the ultimate contrast between man and God is not sin but good. The measure of God and, therefore, the measure of man and of history, is goodness; it is the love of God. Our future, heaven, and sky, is generated by the loving good that each of us has donated to the countless “Lazarus” of the Earth who deserve much more than the crumbs they ask for. The judgment of God is the gesture which tells the ultimate truth of man and to find it He will not look at us, but around us: to our relationships and to the portion of poor people, tears and love that was given to us and that we must preserve with our life. If there is something eternal in us, if something is left when nothing is left, this is Love.
4) Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Of all the creatures of the universe, God has chosen the Virgin Mary to associate her in a special way to the kingship of his Son made man. The Virgin regally and maternally distributes what she has received from her King Son. By her power she protects us, her sons and daughters acquired at the foot of the Throne of the Cross, and gives us joy with her gifts because the King commanded that all grace goes through her hands of generous motherly queen.
May Mary teach us to bear courageous witness to the Kingdom of God and accept Christ as King of our existence and of the Universe.
To this testimony are called in a special way the consecrated virgins in the world. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (922 – 923) teaches ” From apostolic times Christian virgins called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in the respective states of virginity or perpetual chastity “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven”. (Mt 19:12). “”Virgins who, committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.” By this solemn rite (Consecratio virginum), the virgin is “constituted . . . a sacred person, a transcendent sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an eschatological image of this heavenly Bride of Christ and of the life to come.” The consecrated Virgin bears in a special way witness of the kingship of Christ who deserves everything, and with her whole person is a message of love and a sign of the regal character of the Christian life. Those who keep their virginity become like the Virgin Mary. “In the same way that from Her the Son, the Word of God who rules the world, was born, so those who keep their virginity generate effective words that instruct others in virtue” (Card. Spidlík) and hold them in everyday life.
In short, today’s liturgy invites us to contemplate the kingship of Christ and then asks us to live like a king, that is, to make ours a way of life high, noble, and solemn because so is charity. How can we not think of that small and frail woman who was Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta? All the powerful of the earth bowed in front of her. Her life was that of a queen without scepters and crowns but made beautiful by all the poor people she loved. And we know that in each of those poor people she loved Jesus. Let us virginally do the same.