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Archbishop Francesco Follo, courtesy of the Holy See Mission , UNESCO

Archbishop Francesco Follo, courtesy of the Holy See Mission , UNESCO

Archbishop Follo: A Lamb as a King

With the wish to understand that Christ, Lamb of God, is a King who reigns by giving his life for us.

Roman rite

XXXIV Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – Solemnity of Christ the King – November 24th, 2019

2 Sam 5, 1-3; Ps 122; Col 1, 12-20; Lk 23, 35-43

 

Ambrosian rite

II Sunday of Advent

Bar 4.36-5.9; Ps 99; Rm 15.1-13; Lk 3,1-18

The children of the Kingdom

 

1) A strange king: the immolated Lamb

The Kingdom of God is founded on his love and Christ, the innocent Lamb slain for us, “sits” on the throne of the Cross. This King shows that God is love. His kingdom is based on his love and is rooted in the heart giving to those who receive it peace, freedom, and fullness of life. All of us want peace, freedom, and fullness of life. Let’s Christ reign in our hearts, and we will have peace, freedom, and fullness of life.

Therefore, the Gospel of today, the Solemnity of Christ the King, presents Jesus, not as a King who will reign by force at the end of time. It shows us Christ who is placed on the throne of the Cross from where he begins to reign with love. From there he begins to reign making the regal gesture of granting the good thief the certainty of being “today with Him in Heaven”. This sinner is the first man to enter heaven following Christ the King.

To that criminal who implores him and recognizes him as Lord on the Cross, Christ grants his forgiveness and his friendship.

The Cross, this act of infinite love that we have removed from public places and schools with superficiality and presumed civism, continues to be the only true answer to the profound suffering of man. It continues to be the definitive call of God to all men to make themselves a gift, and, like God, an offer to the others. Without it only the bitterness of the last, the poor, the defeated remains. If man does not make himself a gift for the others, he becomes, even not willing, an instrument of torture. The fact is that either we are crushed under the cross, or on the cross we reign with Christ (as the liturgy sings: “God reigns from the wood of the cross”). Certainly, the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but of the other world, of the true and holy world, and it is the kingdom of truth, love and eternal life.

Therefore, before continuing our meditation, let’s make our own the words of St. John Paul II: “While we pray that your kingdom will come, we realize that your promise becomes reality: after following you, we come to you, in your kingdom, attracted to You raised on the cross (see Jn 12: 32), to You, lifted up on history and at the center of it, alpha and omega, beginning and end (see Rev 22,13), Lord of time and of centuries!

Let’s address You with the words of an ancient hymn:

“It is for your painful death, King of eternal glory,

that you have obtained eternal life for the people,

therefore, the whole world calls you King of men.

May Christ the Lord reign over us!”

2) The important thing is not to be like Jesus, but to be with Jesus, like the good thief.

Jesus, during His earthly life, reigned[1], supported his friends by telling them words of truth, making gestures of charity, serving them up to washing their feet, and showing his infinite love by going to the throne of the Cross after being crowned with thorns by Pontius Pilate. Doing so, Jesus responds to the call to guide the people of God, to be their leader (see today’s first reading). His kingship is of divine origin and has primacy over everything because in him the Father has placed the fullness of all things (second reading). Yet the Gospel of Luke presents the kingship of Jesus narrating his humanly scandalous investiture on the cross as king of Jews. Two pieces of wood embedded one in the other are the paradoxical throne of the Lord of peace and unity, who – let us not forget it – had as a cradle a manger in a poor stable where he was honored as a man, as God, and as King by the shepherds and by the Magi (myrrh for humanity, incense for divinity and gold for royalty).

Let us not forget, however, that if Christ the King goes on the cross it is not to give a show of humility, but to reveal God’s passionate love for us. His passion is not so much the scourging, to which spits and nails followed, as his heart, which is only and “passionate” love for each of us. The Cross is the rigorous and necessary conclusion of the discourse of the Kingdom of Heaven made on the Mount of Beatitudes.

The One who carries the Love is at the mercy of hate which is overcome only accepting condemnation and forgiving. The One who is Love forgives and declares it “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing”.

I believe that the thief who was on the cross next to the Cross-Throne of Christ felt this declaration of love, was shocked to the point that he converted[2] and asked Christ to remember him. We can consider him the last person converted by Jesus during his earthly life.

This forgiving prayer of Christ the King was so new to the thief that he felt called to feelings foreign to his spirit and to his whole life. The intercession of forgiveness brought the “good” thief back to the most forgotten age of childhood, when he too was innocent and knew that there was a God to whom one could ask for peace as the poor ask for bread at the door of the lords. Nowhere, no matter how much he remembered, there was a question of forgiveness like that, so out of the ordinary, so absurd on the mouth of someone who is about to be killed. And yet those unbelievable words found, in the desiccated heart of the thief, a connection with something he would have liked to believe, especially at the time when he was about to appear before a Judge more terrible than that of the courts.

He remembered what he had heard of Jesus, few things and, for him, unclear. But he knew that he had spoken of a Kingdom of peace and that he himself would return to rule it. Then, in a fit of faith as if invoking the commonality of that blood that was dripping at the same time from his criminal hands and from those blameless hands, he outburst these words: “Lord, remember me in your Kingdom!” And Jesus, who had not answered anyone who questioned him under the Cross, turned his head, as much as he could, towards the pitiful thief and replied: “I tell you the truth that today you will be with me in Paradise”. The humble request of the Good Thief was enough to obtain his acquittal.

This man was saved because he knew how to transform the condemnation to the cross into a gesture of piety. He was with Christ and Christ right away (“today”, Jesus said to him) welcomed him in his piety[3].

3) The continuation of the amorous way of the Cross.

The Church, and we with this great and beautiful Mother, if she wants to celebrate the royalty of the Lord, must retrace the way of the Cross.

Jesus is an innocently condemned king and in the eyes of men, his seems to be a mock royalty: men are accustomed to other kings and to other manifestations of royalty. Jesus had already made it clear earlier: ” The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’, but among you, it shall not be so. “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22: 25-27) . There is, therefore, a radical difference between the royalty of the world and the kingship of God, between the manifestations of the first and the manifestations of the second. The scene of the crucifixion of today’s Gospel (Lk 23: 33-43) gathers the dispersed motives bringing them to completion. First, the kingship of Christ is affirmed. St. Luke uses an emphatic construction: “This is the king of the Jews” (v. 38). This is the reason for the condemnation that would mean, in the minds of the leaders, the end of the absurd claim of Jesus. Instead, it is the unconscious affirmation that right there, on the Cross, the kingship of Jesus manifests itself in all its splendor.

Jesus dies between two condemned men (throughout his life he was always accused of going with publicans and sinners). One of them does not understand because he is prisoner – like everyone else – of the worldly scheme of royalty (“Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us”), but the other sees, behind the weakness of the Cross, the power of love that shines through. “Remember me when you come in your royal majesty” (v. 42). Now, the central motive is clear to us: the kingship of Jesus shines in the obstinacy of love and in the refusal of the power to save himself and to escape contradiction.

Here is what is unheard of: Jesus does not use his divine power to save himself, to escape the complete gift of himself and to force those who refuse to admit they are wrong. Jesus abandons himself totally to the apparent weakness of non-violence and love.

Therefore, the kingship of Jesus is linked to the Cross. However, even those aspects that we indicate as splendor, glory, victory, and power are not absent. In fact, the Crucifix is ​​risen, and the Son of man will return in the majesty of his glory. But it is always a question of the glory of love, of the triumph of the way of the Cross. Resurrection and the return of Jesus are the revelation of the splendor and of the victorious power that the way of the Cross hides. It is in this perspective that the affirmation of St. Luke must be understood, that is, that the Christ, crucified and risen, reigns already now.

4) Spouses of Christ, the crucified King.

It is indeed worthwhile to follow such a King and to respond to the spousal vocation that makes people co-redeemers bearing with him on the Cross the weight of the world. The most natural answer to God who says, “Do not be afraid, do not fear because I am with you and I love you” (Is 43, 45), is “yes”. Example and testimony of this are “The consecrated virgins who celebrate a mystical marriage with Jesus Christ son of God and dedicate themselves to the service of the Church” (Canon 604 of the Code of Canon Law). In the Rite of consecration of the Virgins, the Bishop asks the candidate: “Do you want to consecrate yourself and be solemnly married with our Lord Jesus, supreme son of God?” “And, in the prayer of consecration, the Bishop says:” May you always remain faithful to Christ your bridegroom and imitate the fidelity that is required from married people “. And then: “Lord, you that glorify yourself with the sanctity of the body and with the purity of the soul … be her love, her joy, her will, her comfort in pain, her advice in uncertainty, her defense in injury, her strength in tribulation, her abundance in poverty, her nourishment in fasting, her medicine in infirmity. She who has chosen you, in you will find everything “(n 24).

Saint Teresa of Jesus, speaking of the religious profession, wrote:

“Oh, consecrated marriage!

The king of majesty has married.

Oh, lucky girl, because she took as a husband

he who reigns and who must reign.

Rich jewels will give you this groom,

king of heaven, who is king and can do it well.

Oh, what a splendid fate

had been prepared for you!

That God willing loves you!

In serving, be very strong,

since you have professed him.

The King of Majesty

is already married to you! ”

Let us not forget, however, that we are all chosen from eternity (see Ephesians 1: 4) so ​​that we may reign with Him, “in praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12). To each of us he says: “All that is mine is yours, and all that is yours is mine” (Jn 17:10) and we pray “Thy Kingdom come” into our heart, into our mind, and into our will to support with Christ the world that yearns to rise again. As sons and daughters of the King let’s pray “Thy kingdom come”, that is, may Your power of love, O Lord, save the whole world.

 

Patristic reading

From a notebook On Prayer

by Origen, priest

(Cap. 25: PG 11, 495-499)

 

Your kingdom come

 

The kingdom of God, in the words of our Lord and Savior, does not come for all to see; nor shall they say: Behold, here it is, or behold, there it is; but the kingdom of God is within us, for the word of God is very near, in our mouth and in our heart. Thus it is clear that he who prays for the coming of God’s kingdom prays rightly to have it within himself, that there it might grow and bear fruit and become perfect. For God reigns in each of his holy ones. Anyone who is holy obeys the spiritual laws of God, who dwells in him as in a well-ordered city. The Father is present in the perfect soul, and with him Christ reigns, according to the words: We shall come to him and make our home with him.

Thus the kingdom of God within us, as we continue to make progress, will reach its highest point when the Apostle’s words are fulfilled, and Christ, having subjected all his enemies to himself, will hand over his kingdom to God the Father, that God may be all in all. Therefore, let us pray unceasingly with that disposition of soul which the Word may make divine, saying to our Father who is in heaven: Hallowed be your name; your kingdom come.

Note this too about the kingdom of God. It is not a sharing of justice with iniquity, nor a society of light with darkness, nor a meeting of Christ with Belial. The kingdom of God cannot exist alongside the reign of sin.

Therefore, if we wish God to reign in us, in no way should sin reign in our mortal body; rather we should mortify our members which are upon the earth and bear fruit in the Spirit. There should be in us a kind of spiritual paradise where God may walk and be our sole ruler with his Christ. In us the Lord will sit at the right hand of that spiritual power which we wish to receive. And he will sit there until all his enemies who are within us become his footstool, and every principality, power and virtue in us is cast out.

All this can happen in each one of us, and the last enemy, death, can be destroyed; then Christ will say in us: O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory? And so what is corruptible in us must be clothed with holiness and incorruptibility; and what is mortal must be clothed, now that death has been conquered, in the Father’s immortality. Then God will reign in us, and we shall enjoy even now the blessings of rebirth and resurrection.

[1] To reign comes from the Latin verb “règere” = 1. to rule, to govern, to dominate, to administer, to command; 2. to direct, to drive; 3. to adjust, to correct, to guide on the right path; 4. to establish, to trace the borders

[2] Converting in Greek is indicated with two verbs. The first is epistréfo which means turning towards, the second is metanoéo which means “to change mentality, thought”. Christian conversion involves the two things: turning to Christ and assuming His mentality.

[3] The word piety means first of all “custom of love” so much so that with the expression “practices of piety” we mean “prayers”.

About Francesco Follo

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