We close out this liturgical year by celebrating the feast of Christ the King.
Since Jesus is part of the Trinity, He has all of the attributes of God. He is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent — which means He is all-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful.
I’d say those are fairly good qualifications for being a king, wouldn’t you? So, as long as we believe Paul’s theological description of Jesus, as long as we understand that we owe our very existence to Jesus, we have no trouble bowing down in worship and proclaiming that Christ is the king. Then we come to the gospel reading. Do we find our sovereign king sitting on a glorious throne? Is our divine Lord and ruler resplendently attired in His palace as faithful subjects bow before Him? Not quite.
It requires eyes of faith to look past the obvious and see the underlying truth of a situation. One of the other criminals being executed that day, siding with the soldiers and religious leaders, did not see a king. Scripture says this criminal “reviled Jesus.”
But another criminal, hanging from his own cross, had eyes of faith. He replied, “Have you no fear of God?” Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
This criminal looked at the bruised, bloodied, and dying man hanging next to him and saw a king. He knew that our natural world is not the only realm of existence.
The faith-filled criminal did not have St. Paul’s theological grasp of Jesus’ cosmic identity. But he knew there is more to existence than just this natural life. He knew death was not the end, but rather a transition to the next life. He had the faith to realize that Jesus had a special connection with that next life.
Jesus rewarded his faith by promising, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
But the faithful criminal did not know any of that. He put his trust and hope in Jesus anyway. His natural eyes saw a fellow criminal being put to death. But his supernatural eyes saw a heavenly king. Because of his faith, at this very moment and forevermore, he is in Paradise. We should all be like that faithful criminal and proclaim that Christ is indeed the king. If we do, we can one day join Him in Paradise.