2 Samuel 5:1-3

Psalms 122:1-5

Colossians 1:12-20

Luke 23:35-43

The actual feast day was created during the reign of Pius XI, but if a liturgical reform had not wisely made it the very last Sunday of the liturgical year, we might not be celebrating it at all. I say “wisely” deliberately, for it is a most fitting end to a liturgical year which is always headed in the same direction, toward a proclamation of Christ as King of the Universe. Regardless of which cycle of readings we proclaim during the year, they are all headed toward a proclamation of the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, and it is there that we catch a glimpse of Jesus’ true royalty, a royalty not found in the things of this world. When we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension next Spring, we celebrate Jesus taking His place at the right hand of His Father, that place from which He will rule and begin His second coming.

Our journey through Ordinary time focuses on Jesus’ preaching and teaching. It forms what we might call the instructional part of what it means to be Christian. It’s not as though the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter have nothing to teach us, for they do. They reinforce and reiterate truths that are found in Jesus’ preaching and teaching, and they ‘enflesh’ the birth of our Lord and King (Advent) and His ignominious death on a cross (Easter). While there is so much more to the gospels/Bible than what is contained in the readings from our liturgical year, the readings of Ordinary time give us a glimpse of what Jesus came into our world for, to preach and teach the good news.

The readings from today’s liturgy might at first appear to be very disparate, but they all reinforce the notion of kingship celebrated on this day. The first reading from the second Book of Samuel recounts the anointing of David as king of Israel. He will be in the background of our Advent story, for the Savior will trace his lineage back to this moment in time when a young shepherd boy, David, becomes the king of Israel with the Lord’s anointing.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians reminds his readers how grateful they should be that God has transferred them from an earthly kingdom (like that of David) to a heavenly kingdom, “the kingdom of His beloved Son,” who “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” All the fullness of the God they have been worshipping resides in Him, and through Him all things will be reconciled. He will “make peace by the blood of His cross.” The Colossians reading forms the perfect prelude to today’s gospel which might first seem out of place. However, when we recognize the uniqueness of Jesus’ kingdom, it is a perfect ending to Ordinary time.

Our snippet of the Passion narrative from Luke says it all. Jesus is not like any other king, and yet He is truly ruling from the cross which has become His throne. In His moment of agony He continues to teach just as He did during His earthly ministry, raising the “good thief” from the death that will soon overtake him and promising him a place in His kingdom where He truly rules. The inscription over Jesus’ head was meant to be a snide insult, but instead those who crucified Him got it right: “This is the King of the Jews.” All the trappings of an earthly king are gone, and “sneers” and “jeers” replace the adulation normally given to those high in authority.

On this solemnity we acknowledge Jesus as our king, and we are happy to give Him permission to rule our lives. The instruction manual has been laid out for us over the last liturgical year, and we have no illusions about the difficulty of following in the footsteps of our King who has gone before us to that kingdom where He lives and reigns, forever and ever. May we live our lives in such a way that when our time on earth is finished we will here our king whisper to us: “Amen, I say to you, today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

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