Each time we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, what comes to my mind is the story of the six-year-old boy who tried to draw and color an elaborate picture of God. Asked by his mom, "What are you drawing, dear?" his response is, "I'm drawing a picture of God." "That's very nice, dear," says the mom, "but you know, no one really knows what God looks like." This boy replies, "They will now know, after my drawing." Wouldn’t that be great if the world comes to know that Christ is the King?
We can start this reflection with the questions, “Where does our world look for a king? Where does our time seek for someone or something to enthrone? Of course, not in the cross and not in things that challenge our ego. Maybe on the social media. The world would revolt if Twitter or Instagram is shut down than if the church is. The postmodern society will be angry if Amazon fails to function for one day than if churches are banned from opening. Students will quickly demonstrate on the streets because someone is refused participating in a game for gender/sex orientation than if someone is thrown out because she/he professes Christianity. Who and where are the witnesses to God’s kingdom? But it took just one minority criminal hanging beside the cross of Christ to help others see Jesus as king when he rebuked the negative voices and made a declaration that changed everything, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” That one single thief-believer, that one witness was all that’s needed to affirm Jesus’ reign before the Roman authorities, rulers, soldiers, and passersby. And here's Jesus' reward , “Amen I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”
The gospel is filled with contrasts each time Jesus is featured as seen in today’s passage: mockery vs. affirmation, denial vs. witnessing, power vs. humility, secularism vs. eternity, light vs. darkness, hypocrisy vs. faith, mediocrity vs. boldness. All these reveal the voices of oppositions against enthroning Christ. The evangelist John explained it right from the mystery of the incarnation, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (1:10-13). The kingdom of light and love is not determined by popularity but promoted by humility and truth.
Imagine having power and not using it. Your son, for example, fails to obey you while you take care of his bills, house rents, and feeding. You would throw him out. The gospel narrates how the rulers sneered at Jesus, the soldiers jeered at him. Even the criminal threw insult at him. Jesus showed heroic meekness and never uttered a word. Humility is not weakness; certainly Jesus isn’t weak. Rather humility is power restrained, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6). The Lord would have slayed those men as they mocked him. He said nothing. He looked to the will of the Father above everything else, thereby “making peace by the blood of his cross.”
The world still mocks Jesus in several ways and the devil fights desperately against the enthronement of Christ. Does that sound strange? At the beginning of his mission, the devil takes Jesus to a very high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, with the words, “I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.” (Matt. 4:8-10) But here’s the irony. The postmodern mentality has less loyalty than in the past and would do anything to oppose whatever preaches structure, obedience, and commitment. Yet the society would go extra mile to promote anything that enthrones the body, wealth, sex, power, celebrity, politicians. Anything that enthrones sales, clothing, liquor. The world today is loyal to greed, power, and whatever gratifies the flesh. Even more than the times of Pilate and the Roman soldiers, there is a big shift from the cross, the reason why humility is not a comfortable word for our time. The mindset goes like this, “I worship my body, then I must take revenge if you hurt me or do anything that affects my beauty. Anything that does not promote my look, my feeling, my convenience should be attacked. I love my ego so if you offend me, I can't forgive you. It's an insult to me. My feelings are hurt, so I take my pound of flesh. I do not look to any other reality because none is bigger than me.” The world enthrones the ego and can barely let go. The humble is seen as the weak. The powerful is worshipped.
The Feast of Christ the King reminds us of the true kingdom. Christ came to establish the kingdom of peace, justice, healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, faithfulness, mercy, compassion, and love. It is the kingdom of light over darkness. He did that through a humble, compassionate, faithful commitment to the will of the Father. But the question for today is, where does our world look for this kingdom? Where does our family look for this kingdom? Where does the society look for this kingdom? God speaks to our hearts because he wants to reign from within. God has delivered us from the power of darkness and is constantly desiring to transfer us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. But the devil also wants to reign. The devil works hard to establish his own kingdom as well -sin, injustice, hatred, greed, and insincerity, exploitative sex, wealth, and power. We can only find God’s kingdom by witnessing to the Cross of Christ, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
On this day, we recall the heroic faith of Blessed Miguel Pro. A native Mexican writer, Susana, says,
“After years in exile due to the persecution of the Masonic-led government, Padre Pro arrived back to Mexico in 1926 to a country in which crucifixes had been ripped off the walls, religious statues had been smashed, Catholic publications had been closed, and many other priests had left the country fearing for their lives. Being one of the few priests at that time in Mexico, he devoted his life to bringing hope to the people who were being oppressed by a government who were openly saying that they hated Jesus Christ and the Catholic Faith. Thus, Padre Pro offered himself as an expiatory victim for all priests, the lay faithful and the good of all Christ’s Church in Mexico.”
Blessed Miguel Pro was sentenced to death amid the Cristero War (1926–29), which broke out in response to the brutal persecution of Catholics. While facing his firing squad, Blessed Miguel forgave his persecutors before raising his arms in imitation of Christ and crying out, “Viva Cristo Rey!” That is, "Long live Christ the King!” Miguel Pro’s witnessing helps us to understand the deepest mysteries of our Catholic faith, that of laying one´s life down for the love of Jesus Christ and his Holy Church. I believe that Blessed Miguel Pro heard those same words of Christ spoken to the thief right from the cross, “Amen I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”
“Viva Cristo Rey!” Long Live Christ the King!
Readings: 1st- 2 Sam. 5:1-3; 2nd- Col. 1:12-20; Gospel- Lk. 23:35-43