Kuwait City – 22nd, 23rd, 24th November 2013
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio, His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King
Thirty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time – C
2 Sam 5:1-3; Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43
Christ our Lord is a very different King. He came into the world in order to unite himself with mankind by becoming a man like us. We know from Sacred Scripture that Jesus had no palace or any home at all. He spent his childhood in Nazareth with his Mother Mary and Joseph in a simple dwelling, but once he began his mission, he no longer had any permanent residence. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58). He never had nice clothing and only had a scarlet robe placed on him once, while being mocked by the Roman soldiers who then even stripped him of his outer garment on Calvary (Mt 27:28). He never had succulent meals but ate the food of the poor common people and what they had to offer. He certainly had no servants, because he came into the world to serve and not to be served. He possessed no land or territory that could be called his reign or his kingdom. In fact, the only thrones ever given to him were a wooden manger when he was born and the wood of the cross on which he was crucified and died!
Jesus truly lived radically differently from all other world leaders that have ever existed. Nevertheless he remains a King forever! While still hanging on the cross, with his hands and feet nailed to the wood, ensuring that he could not move, nor get down, yet making certain that he would eventually die, three times he was approached by the onlookers, the soldiers and one of the crucified criminals, who mocked him by saying “if you are the King of the Jews save yourself!” They wanted to see a sign of force and for them coming down from the cross would have proved his power and that he truly was King before these men. This is the tactic and understanding of the world, what Hollywood movies are made of, signs of revenge and punishment towards evil doers, where the bad guys always lose and the good guys always win in the end. But Jesus did not respond to the mockery of men, nor did he provide them with a sensationalistic sign of his divine power. He knew well that no outward sign of supernatural powers would ever be able to convince the cynical and distrustful of heart. His divine strength is best made manifest in the hearts and minds of the humble and meek.
On the other side of Jesus there was a different criminal, who asked for a different sign. He wanted a sign of goodness and mercy from Jesus and asked: “Remember me!” Jesus replied only to this man and he gave him a benevolent response thereby showing his goodness and that he is a true King, according to the heart of God.
What did this simple thief, a criminal, recognize in Jesus that awoke in him a desire to be saved? He noticed the goodness of Jesus. “This man has done nothing wrong” he said. In these words we find the true essence of real royalty. There was no evil at all in Jesus, only goodness, an innocence unseen in the world before, without even a trace of violence or hatred. Recognizing this in Jesus was enough for this criminal to open up his heart to Christ.
“Jesus remember me when you come into your kingly power”, were the words of the penitent criminal. The prayer of the dying thief was “Jesus, remember me”. The answer of the kind and loving King on the cross were “today you will be with me in Paradise”. The fear of the criminal provoked him to cry out to Jesus “remember me”. The courageous and strong King replied “today you will be with me!” ‘Just remember me and this will be enough’ says the dying man and Jesus who is the giver of life says to him ‘today you will be with me in Paradise’.
This dramatic dialogue between Jesus and the penitent thief are truly consoling for all of us. We too can identify ourselves with the crucified good thief, who implored mercy from Jesus for his sins. In our prayers to God all we ask of him is to remember us as well. Remember me Lord and your divine kingly power that provides me with forgiveness and hope! Remember me during the difficult times, when I’m suffering, when I’m down and discouraged. Remember me when nothing seems to go right for me and I lose hope. Remember me especially when I fall into sin and forget about you! Do not abandon me Lord, even if I abandon you at times! If our prayers are sincere and we wish to improve our lives and make a true return to God, in humility and deep faith, then we can be sure that Jesus will remember us and repeat the same words, ‘today you will be with me’. Today! He will not wait long to come to our assistance. He will not leave us alone to our own weak resources. He will never forget us if we do not forget him!
A common criminal was the first to enter heaven with Jesus. God’s love reaches out to all and no one is excluded from his invitation. We can ask ourselves today, do we truly believe in Christ and accept him as the King, ruler and leader of our lives? Do we submit to him in humble obedience, obeying his commandments, living according to his teachings? Do we respect him for who he is, the Son of the living God, who offered his life up on a cross so that we could live? Do we follow in his footsteps by renouncing our own will, accepting the crosses of our life and living our lives according to his example? If we can say yes to all these questions then we can be certain that Jesus is truly the King of Kings, who gives our lives purpose, vitality and honour, who calls us to participate in his royal service that leads us to the reward of the Kingdom of God.