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I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Jesus’ Passion is also humanity’s greatest hour of hope

“He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

On Nov. 24, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King and the final Sunday of the liturgical year. It marks the culmination of Christ’s mission here on earth. He became king by surrendering His will, and therefore His life, to the Father, for our redemption.

God created mankind and through Abraham chose a people to be His very own. He would lead, first through the prophets, then judges, then kings. This is what takes place in the first reading.

All the tribes of Israel came to David and asked him to be king. They reminded David what the Lord had told him: “You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.” He agreed to lead them, and they anointed him king of Israel. From the tribe of Judah, Jesus was born.

In the second reading, Paul tells us much about the identity of Jesus, the firstborn of all creation. “For in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, …all things were created through Him and for Him. …and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the Church.”

Paul continues, “For in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile all things for Him, making peace by the blood of His cross…”

Jesus is our king because He led us out of darkness, died on the cross to take away all sin and condemnation, and opened for us the gates of paradise.

The Gospel captures all of this. This is the moment of Christ’s death, and triumph over sin and Satan. This is the moment of His agony and glory! Hanging on the cross, He was sneered at by the rulers who said: “He saved others, let Him save Himself if He is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” The Roman soldiers joined in by saying: “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” Pilate added to this insult by placing a derogatory inscription on the cross which read: “This is the King of the Jews.”

Jesus’ greatest hour of dread is also mankind’s greatest hour of hope. The good thief rebukes the bad thief by saying: “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”

What honesty. What integrity. What truth! Is it possible that the good thief’s witness to Jesus resulted in the conversion of the bad thief? We don’t know, but we know that God never wastes any witness we give to Jesus.

Meanwhile, the good thief’s rebuke prompted him to add: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This evoked an explosion of Jesus’ mercy: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Might it be that Christ’s absolution of the good thief enabled him to be the first person to enter heaven? We don’t know.

The readings for this feast tell us much about who we are. Jesus loves sinners. There is no shame, no suffering, or no pain He will not endure to save each of us.

If our eyes were opened to see the immense suffering which each of our sins cost the all-holy and all-loving Jesus, we would probably die of fright. That should move us to have a deep devotion to His passion and death. When He is at the height of His agony and confronted by the sorrow of the good thief, Jesus releases His mercy.

We would do well to spend much more time contemplating why Jesus Christ is King. His kingship demanded that He undergo daily insults, rejections, humiliations, intense hatred, persecution and repeated threats of death. All of these offered Jesus an outlet for His love of sinners.

What would happen in my life if daily I meditated on these sufferings of Jesus? Might I become more patient with the members of my family? Might I become more aware of the burdens which others are carrying and discover myself wanting to reach out and help them? Might that lead to an inner joy and satisfaction?

A king is a leader who knows where problems are brewing. Am I that kind of leader, willing to take the time to understand complex issues and help solve them? On the other hand, do I find myself skilled in detecting where problems exist and therefore very practiced in avoiding issues which are crying out for my help?

The more we study a leader and spend time with him, the more skilled we become in leadership. That is what Sister Faustina did, and she recorded in her diary what she experienced. This is a wonderful leadership book. It helps us to spend time with the Merciful One, learning His ways of love.

Real leadership flows from a heart that has grown generous through serving and caring for others. This generosity can only come from Jesus. The apostles became evangelists by first spending time with Jesus, allowing Him to form their hearts, and lead them to repentance for their sins. Hence, they were able to model for us that repentance leads to evangelization.

The Feast of Christ the King celebrates leadership that flows from the heart of Jesus, pierces our hearts and humbles us for service to others. The more you study Him, the more you will become a leader like Him.

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