Saturday, 23 November 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013 - CHRIST THE UNIVERSAL AND ETERNAL KING - What one action will you do today to show that you are readying to receive Christ the King?

To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 5:1-3; Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43

The feast of Christ the Eternal King was introduced through the encyclical Quas Primas – (“In the first”) of Pope Pius XI on December 11, 1925.  One main purpose of the encyclical was to communicate hope to a world which seemed to be giving into despair.  Another purpose was to give the world a whole new idea of kingship, dominion and authority. There could be no better model of kingship which the Church could put before the world than Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the servant king.

This feast is celebrated every year on the last Sunday in Ordinary time. It brings to a close the Ordinary time of the liturgical year and it begins the preparation for Advent and the coming of the redeemer child at Christmas.

The readings for today all speak of Kingship. The first reading tells of the kingship of David who had been anointed king over Judah and now, over the northern tribes of Israel. Thus, David becomes king over all of Israel. However, even as he is anointed king, he is reminded of the kind of king that the Lord wants him to be, namely a Shepherd king. He began life as a shepherd of the flocks of his father.  Now, he is shepherd over the people. Like the shepherd looks after his flock and leads them, so David will look after his people and lead them. The anointing of David as king is not something done on a mere whim. It is the Lord who ordained it.  It is the Lord who said that David would be shepherd and rule over Israel. David had shown his care for his people when he led them out and brought them to the glory that they now experience.

The kingdom that God established in David promised newness. The shape of power in this kingdom will be governed by shepherding and covenant making. Israel’s future hope has, for the moment, become its present hope. This present hope was made even more visible when God chose and anointed Jesus to be king, not only over Israel but over the whole of humanity. Like David before him, Jesus would also be a shepherd of the people.  The covenant that he made with God would be a covenant on the Cross. It would be an eternal covenant, one that no amount of negatives could ever erase.
The Gospel text of today brings out this truth powerfully. Through the irony of the taunts of the leaders and soldiers, Luke highlights both Jesus’ real identity and the true meaning of his death. The leaders and soldiers think that they are ridiculing Jesus. They think that they are making fun of him.  However, even as they do this, they are unaware that this is exactly the kind of king that he has come to be.  Just as Jesus had taught that those who lose their lives for his sake would save them, so now he is willing to lose his life so that all might be saved. Jesus’ death did not contradict the Christological claims; it confirmed them. For him to have saved himself would have been a denial of his salvific role in the purposes of God. Both what is said and what is done at the cross, therefore, confirm the truth about the one who is crucified: He is the Christ, the King of the Jews, the Saviour of the World.

This salvation that Jesus effected on the Cross is made even more visible and more tangible in the response of Jesus to those crucified with him. Though rebuked by one of the thieves, Jesus does not react negatively. He is willing to accept even this taunt. The pronouncement that Jesus makes to the thief who asks for remembrance is solemn. It is the last of the six “Amen” sayings in Luke and the only one addressed to a person. It is also the last of the “Today” pronouncements. That “Amen” and “Today” have been used together is an indication that the pronouncement is emphatic and that there is to be no delay.  What Jesus promises will happen now.

The salvation pronounced to one of the thieves on the Cross is also the salvation being pronounced to each of us who are willing to receive it. This is because, through his passion and death, Jesus has rescued us, as the letter to the Colossians points out.  He has rescued us from the power of darkness and sin.  He has transferred us into the kingdom of light and all that is good. It is therefore, in the visible image of Jesus Christ that we can comprehend who God is and what God wants to do for each of us. God wants the whole of creation to be reconciled in Jesus. God wants all of creation to be saved in the shepherd and self-sacrificing king.

As we come to the close of another liturgical year, and as we prepare to welcome Christ our eternal king, we need to realize that our king can come only if we are willing to open our hearts and minds wide to receive him. We can do this by removing from our minds and hearts anything that will prevent us from receiving and accepting him. We can do this by removing selfishness and self-centeredness that makes us seek only our own good rather than the good of others. We can do this by reaching out in love and forgiveness as he did, even when on the Cross. Will we ready our minds and hearts to receive our King?


  1. Very refreshing and very challenging and encouraging thoughts. Thank you Fr. Errol. This is an ideal preparation for tomorrow's Mass.

  2. Fr. Errol,
    There is one thing in today's that I am unable to understand, which is the need for having sour wine/vinegar at the site of the Crufixtion. What was the social/cultural significance of this practice?

  3. Sorry: please "gospel" after today's.

  4. All four evangelists mention the offer of sour wine/vinegar and differ slightly in details. Below are the interpretations:
    LUKE - In addition to the verbal taunt, the mockery by the soldiers includes offering Jesus sour wine to drink—perhaps a mockery of offering a king the best wine. However, the action, unknown to them, fulfils Scripture (Ps 69:21), as each of the evangelists makes clear in one form or another.
    Ps 69:21 - They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
    MATTHEW - One of the bystanders wants to offer Jesus a drink of some of the cheap wine carried by soldiers (“vinegar”) in order to prolong his life a little.
    MARK - The crowd, still looking for a miraculous rescue, misinterprets Jesus’ words as a cry to Elijah. Someone offers Jesus sour wine, although such wine was a common peasant drink, probably brought to the execution site by the soldiers who would have to watch over the dying men for hours, the psalm text suggests that the gesture was not intended as an act of kindness. The person who offers the wine also wonders whether Elijah will rescue Jesus. Mark’s reader knows that Elijah will not save Jesus from suffering, since Elijah has already returned in the person of John the Baptist and has been executed (9:11-13).
    JOHN - Ps 69:21, contains the same words for “sour wine” (oxos) and “thirst” (dipsao) and this is why the Psalm seems to be used as a background by all the Synoptic Gospels. John provides a fuller narrative illustration of the psalm and is alone in referring explicitly to its fulfilment. Second, in the Synoptic Gospels, someone in the crowd takes the initiative to offer Jesus a drink, but in John, Jesus takes the initiative with his words, “I am thirsty.” Third, in the Synoptic Gospels, the offer of vinegar is a mocking gesture, but there is no mockery in John. Jesus remains a figure of dignity.
    On the most mundane level, Jesus’ thirst acknowledges the pain that accompanies his death by crucifixion. On a deeper level, his words recall his question to Peter at the arrest, “Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (18:11). Jesus’ thirst thus symbolizes his willingness to embrace his death, and the offer of sour wine takes on an ironic note as one more example of the world’s misunderstanding of him.
    Jesus thirsts for God’s cup and is offered sour wine. There also may be a related ironic contrast between the “good wine” at Cana through which Jesus revealed his glory (2:9, 11) and the “sour wine” that he receives at his glorification. The world falsely attempts to assuage the thirst of the One who is himself the source of “living water” (4:10, 13-14; 7:37-38). Interpretations that associate offering vinegar on a branch of hyssop to Jesus with the sprinkling of the blood of the Passover lamb on lintels and doorposts with a bunch of hyssop (Exod. 12:22).


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