As we celebrate the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we offer a Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM for your prayer. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection November 24 2019. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Photos: St. Ignatius Church, Houghton, Michigan
[The people stood by and watched;] the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “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.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
All the readings for this Feast are specially chosen to emphasize some theological aspect of Jesus as King of the Universe. The first impression that this gospel makes may be that it seems like a strange text for the feast of a king. The people, the rulers, the soldiers, and even one of the criminals hanging on a cross beside him ridicule Jesus. Jesus himself appears to be just another pathetic Jew caught in the Roman system of justice. He hangs on a cross with his crime clearly posted so that those passing can ridicule him too. The special inscription is meant to be a reminder to everyone of what happens to those who challenge the order of the Romans.
But the real truth is revealed in the statements that are spoken, even if they are uttered in cruel mockery. The statements are misguided because they come from people who believe that God, or even the Son of God, would act to prevent this crucifixion from taking place. Jesus maintains his silence in spite of all of their barbs. When he breaks his silence, it is to reassure a criminal, one condemned to the same cruel manner of death, that in fact he is not condemned. It is here, in the act of divine forgiveness, that Jesus reveals the authority that is his. He reassures this criminal that he will receive what he is asking for. In his cruel unjustified death, Jesus becomes the perfect sign of the invisible God. Jesus’ death, so blatantly unjustified and cruel, points to a compassionate God, who is Love, and who loves all people and all of creation.
1. Can you recall a situation when you thought you were supposed to do one type of task, and other people had totally different expectations of you?
2. When you think of Christ the King, what images, phrases, and feelings come to mind?
3. Why do you think the Church has chosen this text for the feast of Christ the King?
4. One of those crucified with Jesus said: “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” What does his statement say about himself, Jesus, and his hopes?
5. The other criminal said: “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… Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” What do his words express about himself, Jesus, and his hopes?
6. Can you take some time to talk with God about whatever thoughts and feelings this feast or this gospel raises within you?