‘The King of Mercy’

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Gospel commentary LK 23:35-43

This Sunday, we conclude the end of the liturgical year with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Before we begin the church year anew with Advent, this solemnity calls us to focus on the One Who reigns over all, Jesus Christ. He is the King to whom every knee should bend (Phil 2:10). He is the King to Whom all glory belongs (Rom 11:36). He is the King without Whom we are nothing.

He is also the King Who comes to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1). At our judgment on the last day, there may be many of us for whom Christ's death and resurrection and kingship was in vain: people who have turned from the truth He gives us, people who denied Him as their Savior, people to whom He could say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41). 

We may not think Jesus could ever speak like this, but they are the words He speaks in His own description of the final judgment (Mt 25:31-46). When we wonder why He wants us, His subjects, to hear such harsh words, we realize that reflecting on them can lead us to greater conversion. Thinking about our judgment before the Lord helps put things in perspective. Are the fleeting things of this earth so important if they become obstacles to our preparation for, and our entrance into, eternal life with our King?

Yet even in the harshness of the final judgment, we cannot forget that God grieves the loss of even one sinner who turns from Him. St. Peter tells us that God looks upon us with love and patience, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pt 3:9).

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we see the depth of the love Our King has for us. There, His throne is the cross. His crown is made of thorns. His subjects do not shout his praise, but instead sneer and jeer at Him in His suffering. Yet even surrounded by such hatred, He calls the sinner dying at His side to repent in the moment of death. When the thief responds with faith, Jesus promises him salvation. It is the salvation Our King accomplishes with His greatest act, the one powerful enough to change the history of the world: He dies for our sins; He dies for us. 

This Sunday, as we honor Our King, we also celebrate the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It has been a year to reflect upon the mercy of Our Great King. It is the mercy that flows from the Sacred Heart of Jesus and is united perfectly with the judgment due the Ruler of the Universe. In our own minds and hearts, this interplay of mercy and justice seems contradictory. Yet in Our Divine King, it leads to our salvation. Jesus told St. Faustina, to whom He revealed the depths of His Divine Mercy, “Before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy” (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 83). 

So as we mark the end of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we may fear the judgment that comes before us, and that is understandable. St. Paul says that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). We remember, also, that we cannot despair in our sins as we seek holiness, for the mercy of God is greater than any sin we can commit. May we always remember the depth of God’s mercy, our need to seek it for ourselves and to share it with others. His mercy endures forever. Let us never despair.

Fr. Wagner is Bishop Paul S. Loverde’s secretary.

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016