What is the relevance of the title, Christ the King of the Universe? What’s the point of kings in this day and age, after their dominions have been overthrown or their sovereignty limited by constitutional constraints?
Of course, the archetypal force of kingship still parades through our dreams and legends or even in our films. Nonetheless, why celebrate kingship in the twenty-first century? And what sense does this make in the life of Jesus?
Today’s Gospel gives me some insight.
Saint Luke here portrays the title as a mockery of the crucified Lord, as his crime, punished by Roman imperialism. Oddly enough, despite their cruel execution, a fellow criminal believes in Jesus’ kingship and kingdom. Perhaps one has to hit bottom to recognize what Jesus’ kingship means and to hope in it. It would seem to be a kingship of powerlessness, of solidarity with the suffering and oppressed, but also of mercy and forgiveness and redemption. Powerlessness, suffering and oppression shape the experience of most people on this planet.
And I wager that if I could scratch the surface of that minority who have accumulated enough wealth, influence and privilege to acquire the illusion of security, I’d find not only anger, anxiety and fear but the desperate flight from disgrace and ruin. Aren’t we all one step away from hitting bottom? Either I face that or deny it.
Should I permit myself to hit bottom I will find this crucified, powerless, thorn-crowned King, the only person who can truly say, today you will be with me in paradise.