Written by Sr. Christina Marie Neumann of the Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen (www.ndfranciscans.org)
There are so many beautiful hymns used for today’s feast, from “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” to “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” to “The King of Love my Shepherd Is,” to name a few. They can definitely be a powerful way of lifting our minds, hearts, and voices toward the throne above.
For me, though, more powerful still are the gospel readings used on this great solemnity which begins the last week of the liturgical year.
Each of these gospel passages offers a meaningful reflection on what kind of king Christ is, and how He is calling us to live our lives.
Last year’s passage was from John’s account of the Passion, where Jesus spoke with Pilate and was pressed for answers about His kingship. Here, Jesus reflected, “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth,” to which Pilate answered, “What is truth?” (John 18).
This year’s gospel recounts the dialogue between Jesus and the repentant criminal (St. Dismas, as we call him) as they both neared death, giving us an example and an inspiration. St. Dismas models for us both honesty with ourselves in acknowledging our sinfulness and a trustful turning to Jesus in our time of need.
Next year, we will again hear the passage from Matthew 25, which poignantly foretells the Last Judgement. In this scene, all are given their eternal appraisal based on their treatment of those in need. This passage can serve as an examination of conscience throughout the year. (This is one of the many reasons I am so grateful for the sacrament of reconciliation.) It is a passage that I find very impactful and urges me to treat those I’m called to serve with the greatest possible love.
But what does this have to do with kingship, you might ask, and what does this feast have to do with my life? The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes a clear connection, as it discusses our incorporation into Christ’s three-fold role of priest, prophet, and king (CCC 786). For Jesus, there was a clear connection between ruling and serving, as He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45)
The Church, in her choice of readings for this feast during the three-year cycle, clearly is teaching us a lesson.
As members of Christ’s body, we are to follow His example of love and forgiveness. We are to find our dignity and our place in His kingdom by serving others. We are to be committed to the truth, come what may.
As we end this liturgical year and prepare to embark upon another, these themes can serve as a guide for each of our lives.
I pray that you will be strengthened in your discipleship of Christ, our King, in the coming “church year” as you prepare for His birth, journey with Him through His infancy and childhood, hear His preaching, and enter with Him into His Passion.
May each of us follow His example this year, and throughout our lives, so as to finally hear Him say to us, “Come, you blessed of my Father…”
The Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe is on November 20