Jesus has come to serve and give his life as a ransom for all. Those who belong to him discern and welcome his kingship.
The inscription on the cross proclaims Jesus as the king of the Jews. And it is the truth: he is the king of the Jews and of the universe. But who could discern the kingship of someone who is crucified?
To discern kingship in the Crucified One is something that rulers cannot imagine. For them, the inscription only announces the charge against Jesus. They, in fact, consider him an impostor. So, they sneer at him, asking that he shows his power by saving himself.
And the soldiers jeer at Jesus. So does one of the crucified criminals. They do so almost in the same way as the rulers. What they all have in common is the reason why they find it hard to discern that Jesus is king.
It is their common belief, yes, that king spells power. And so, they cannot accept as king someone hanging on the cross, powerless, helpless.
It is, of course, the popular belief. For people know that rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt (see Mk 10, 42-45). But popular belief should not be the Christian belief. Jesus teaches that whoever wishes to be great among his own will be their servant. And whoever wishes to be first among them will be the slave of all.
And Jesus exemplifies this teaching absolutely on the cross. His crucifixion proves unquestionably that he has come to serve and to give his life for others. He is king because he cannot save himself.
To discern the kingship of Christ means poverty, compassion, denunciation of injustice.
The other crucified criminal acknowledges he is poor and in the same situation as Jesus. He cries out also against the unjust punishment that the one who has done nothing criminal goes through. And Jesus grants him entry into his kingdom. This criminal becomes a model, then, for those who seek to discern and welcome the kingship of the Crucified One.
And to discern Jesus’ kingship and welcome his kingdom does not mean passivity. Rather, it urges us, says J.A. Pagola, “to bring in justice where the defenseless suffer abuse. It is to cry out for compassion where there is only indifference in the face of those who suffer. This will bring us conflict, rejection and suffering.” But if we stand by Jesus in trials, we shall also reign with him (2 Tim 2, 12).
Lord Jesus, let us not think as the one who says that to maintain authority, one must make it clear that one is the superior (SV.EN XI:313). And grant that, getting to discern your body in poor people, who are our bone and our flesh, we eat and drink at your table in your kingdom, and share in your fulness.
24 November 2019
34th Sunday in O.T. (C) – Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
2 Sam 5, 1-3; Col 1, 12-20; Lk 23, 35-43