Christ the King of the Present Moment
Solemnity of Christ the King
November 20, 2022
There are three cycles of gospels for the Solemnity of Christ the King and in many ways, this year's gospel is the most disturbing (Luke 23:35-43). Rather than seeing Christ coming triumphantly at the end of time on the clouds of heaven, he instead is seen reigning from the cross on Calvary. And truth be told, in our brief lives on earth we tend to see Christ more in this visage of suffering than as a triumphant King vanquishing all our foes. Jesus reveals himself to us with our limited human vision in a series of disguises that look anything but triumphant – in the poor, the outcast, and especially in our own lives when we are confronted with the mystery of suffering.
The image presented to us this year for Christ the King is more like what we would expect on Good Friday. When we do think of Calvary, we tend to think of Christ alone on his cross. But he is not alone. Notice that Christ is between two thieves. There were three crosses on that hill, and all three men looked equally guilty to all the passersby. This is what Christ endured for each one of us. These two thieves on either side of Jesus represent the choices that each of us must make each day.
Each thief is presented with the same situation: both are suffering terribly, and Christ is in the middle. In fact, he is sharing in their sufferings. One thief in despair blasphemes Christ, while the other one puts his faith in Jesus. Jesus on the cross does not look like a king, much less someone who can grant favors – but the “good thief” makes his choice for God in that terrible moment, just as we are often asked to do, in those often terrible moments of suffering when Christ does not look like a king.
Christ the King is with us in every moral dilemma that we face, every suffering, every encounter with unfortunate or difficult circumstances. In ways both small and large, we have choices to make, for or against God. In fact, life presents us with many daily choices. We find ourselves first on one side of Jesus, unable to accept the will of God and not recognizing Christ's kingship, while at other times, we fully embrace him even in our suffering.
These two thieves had only one day with Christ, but we have a whole lifetime of choices. Our lives are a summary of all the choices we have made “for God”, and the times we have chosen “not God” (sin). When we have repented, Christ is always waiting to forgive us in the sacrament of Reconciliation and a good act of contrition. Every time we find ourselves faced with daily moral choices, we are one of the two "thieves" who has an opportunity to choose his kingship or reject it, one choice at a time. It is in the present moment that we choose, or reject, Christ the King.