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Click here for a Print Copy of this Homily for the The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Homily- Solemnity of Christ the King

When I looked at the Gospel story for today, I thought to myself this is no mere coincidence that I am preaching this weekend. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King with Luke’s story of final moments of the crucifixion which includes our Lord’s exchange with the Good Thief- St. Dismas.

Fr. Robert Barron, one of the sources I use each week on my blog posting- summarized this weekend’s gospel beautifully when he said:

“[The] wonderful irony at the heart of the Christian proclamation: the King of the Universe is a crucified criminal, who utterly spends himself in love.”

The title Christ the King is an interesting one. When I was researching the many different designations we give to Jesus- The Word/ Teacher/ Son of Man/ Son of God- the one Jesus seems to distance himself from is the title of king. Our Lord seemed to be more interested in being seen as a lowly Sheppard than as royalty.

In today’s gospel Christ is mocked by the crowd and those he is crucified with for his lack of kingly POWER:

“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”

Jesus is unlike any earthly king in all of history and the story of His interactions with the Good Thief point this reality out for all of us to witness. Dismas is the name given to the penitent thief and he is considered by the Church to be a saint. It would seem that his life, up until his final moments was anything but saintly.

We do not know why he and the other criminal were sentenced to hang beside Jesus that day. In Mark and Matthew’s Gospel, there is no indication that Dismas reaches out to Jesus, we see in these accounts that both criminals taunted him.This leaves us to conclude that Dismas decides to seek comfort from Jesus and ask for mercy at the very last moment when all seems lost and hopeless.

Luke captures the very essence of Christ’s unconditional love in this story.

Jesus has been tortured, humiliated, abandoned, spat upon and within moments of his own death. The final act of his human life, in Luke’s gospel, is responding to the request of the thief, a sinner who says:

“Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”, and without hesitation he looks over at the one who only moments early had been taunting him for his lack of kingly power and says: My friend today you will be with me in paradise.

Jesus dies minutes later as Fr, Barron says-“the King of the Universe a crucified criminal, who utterly spends himself in love.”

One lesson from this story is that we are truly, all of us, the beloved of our God. When we find the courage to reach out and seek that love, that acceptance, the forgiveness for the worst of our sins, we will be embraced in love.

There is another lesson in today’s gospel which is perhaps more difficult for us to follow.For many of us, it is relatively straight forward to put ourselves into the story as the Good and penitent thief. The challenge comes in putting ourselves on that cross as Jesus, as the one who will leave this life “utterly spent in love” and not just in love to those who love us in return but in love to the least of our brothers and sisters.

In Jesus’ time of greatest pain and despair- when it would be quite natural for a person to react negatively to someone wanting a favor from him, Jesus, the King of Kings,  does not reject Dismas but instead offers to take him with him into paradise that very day.

Today, we are all being asked to follow Jesus’ example of that cross and to reach out and spend some of our love on a person or a family we don’t know and will most likely never meet. My friends, after mass today in the large hall we carry on a tradition here at St. Patrick’s of helping our brothers and sisters in need at Christmas. The program is different this year as the needs of those we help are changing.

I realize there are different requests that come your way at this time of the year many from us here at the Church- I understand times are difficult and many of you might question the wisdom of sharing with people you don’t know.I can only point you to today’s gospel- to the example of our heavenly king- our brother Jesus. When the world was yelling at him, when it was torturing him, he found a way to hear the call of another who said to him- Remember Me.

Jesus asks us to spend ourselves utterly this Christmas by being there for the ones we don’t know and remembering them.

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