Gospel commentary LK 23:35-43
This Sunday, we conclude the end of the liturgical year with the
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Before we begin the church
year anew with Advent, this solemnity calls us to focus on the One Who reigns
over all, Jesus Christ. He is the King to whom every knee should bend (Phil
2:10). He is the King to Whom all glory belongs (Rom 11:36). He is the King
without Whom we are nothing.
He is also the King Who comes to judge the living and the dead (2
Tim 4:1). At our judgment on the last day, there may be many of us for whom
Christ's death and resurrection and kingship was in vain: people who have
turned from the truth He gives us, people who denied Him as their Savior,
people to whom He could say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal
fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41).
We may not think Jesus could ever speak like this, but they are
the words He speaks in His own description of the final judgment (Mt 25:31-46).
When we wonder why He wants us, His subjects, to hear such harsh words, we
realize that reflecting on them can lead us to greater conversion. Thinking
about our judgment before the Lord helps put things in perspective. Are the
fleeting things of this earth so important if they become obstacles to our
preparation for, and our entrance into, eternal life with our King?
Yet even in the harshness of the final judgment, we cannot forget
that God grieves the loss of even one sinner who turns from Him. St. Peter
tells us that God looks upon us with love and patience, “not wishing that any
should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pt 3:9).
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we see the depth of the love Our King
has for us. There, His throne is the cross. His crown is made of thorns. His
subjects do not shout his praise, but instead sneer and jeer at Him in His
suffering. Yet even surrounded by such hatred, He calls the sinner dying at His
side to repent in the moment of death. When the thief responds with faith,
Jesus promises him salvation. It is the salvation Our King accomplishes with
His greatest act, the one powerful enough to change the history of the world:
He dies for our sins; He dies for us.
This Sunday, as we honor Our King, we also celebrate the end of
the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It has been a year to reflect upon the mercy of Our
Great King. It is the mercy that flows from the Sacred Heart of Jesus and is
united perfectly with the judgment due the Ruler of the Universe. In our own
minds and hearts, this interplay of mercy and justice seems contradictory. Yet
in Our Divine King, it leads to our salvation. Jesus told St. Faustina, to whom
He revealed the depths of His Divine Mercy, “Before I come as the just Judge, I
am coming first as the King of Mercy” (Diary of Saint
Maria Faustina Kowalska, 83).
So as we mark the end of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we may fear
the judgment that comes before us, and that is understandable. St. Paul says
that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). We remember,
also, that we cannot despair in our sins as we seek holiness, for the mercy of
God is greater than any sin we can commit. May we always remember the depth of
God’s mercy, our need to seek it for ourselves and to share it with others. His
mercy endures forever. Let us never despair.
Fr. Wagner is Bishop Paul S. Loverde’s secretary.