Jesus Christ is the Savior and King of the Universe! We can only come to salvation through Him, the Lamb who sits upon the throne (Revelation 5:13). Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of the Solemnity of Christ the King with his encyclical letter Quas Primas in 1925 to remind all people of the Sovereignty of Christ. In a world that focuses on many false idols and false kingdoms, such as power, fame, wealth, Western individualism, “gay rights,” “same-gender marriage,” “abortion rights,” moral relativism etc.… we need to be reminded that it is Jesus who saves us and it is Jesus who is our King.
It is easy to fall prey to many false idols that are present in our world. There is certainly a difference between enjoying a football game and worshiping a football team or worshipping a musical artist, rather than just enjoying their music.
We can even make the mistake of making an idol out of something good like marriage. If a person thinks that their spouse is the one who will fulfill them, they are placing their spouse upon a pedestal upon which they do not belong. A human relationship will never satisfy the longings of the human heart. Your spouse will never fulfill you fully. Only Jesus will satisfy your greatest longings. He will use marriage as a great vessel for this fulfillment, but it is only fulfilled in Him.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises the repentant thief that he will be with Jesus in paradise, in His kingdom. Earlier in the Passion Narrative, Pontius Pilate asks Jesus about his kingship and kingdom. Jesus responds, “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36). The answer to the fullness of Jesus’ kingdom is found in the last line of our creed, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Jesus’ Kingdom is the life of the world to come and the resurrection. The resurrection of the body will be the real experience of Christ’s kingdom. It is here in the resurrection of the body, the fullness of Christ’s kingdom, that we will experience the fulfillment of all our greatest desires and longings. The ache that our human heart feels for union will be answered in fullness.
In his beautiful work “The Theology of the Body,” St. John Paul II completes his three major themes on human anthropology with a series of reflections on the resurrection, which are ultimately reflections on the kingdom of Christ.
St. John Paul II explains that God’s most personal “self-giving” will be fully communicated to humanity only in the resurrection (TOB 67.5). In the resurrection of the body it will be Christ who reigns and yet through Him we are able to experience more greatly the mystery of God’s love. Commonly, when we think of a king or a kingdom it is servants who serve the king, but Christ’s Kingdom is God’s total gift of self. The life that sin has brought gives the anti-gifts of anger, shame, guilt, fear, lust, and anxiety. Saint Augustine said “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you O God.” It is in the resurrection that our hearts will have that full rest.
All grace that we experience now is experienced as a veiled reality. We totally receive his grace through the sacraments, but even these are veiled signs of God’s grace for us. In the resurrection that veil will be lifted. The love that expressed through Christ’s kingship will be made fully known to each one of us. St. John Paul says, “Eternal life should be understood in an eschatological sense, that is, as the full and perfect experience of the grace (charis) of God in which man can share through faith during his earthly life and which, by contrast, will not only be revealed to those who will participate in the “other world” in all its penetrating depth, but will also be experienced in its beatifying reality (TOB 67.5).” The resurrection will be the “face to face” encounter with the God who is love.
John Paul explains that the kind of change that we will experience in Christ’s kingdom is a change not only in soul or body, but in the entirety of the human person (TOB 67.3). This isn’t to say that we will be swallowed up by the kingdom or all this grace and love, rather John Paul says that man’s personal subjectivity (the who’s who of you!) will be known in the greatest measure (TOB 67.3). God doesn’t want to simply destroy the evil that is in you. He wants to raise us up as his own children. St. John Paul reflects that we will be “sons of God” and “sons of the resurrection (TOB 67.3).” So God doesn’t love us in the resurrection out of pity; he loves as his own children in Jesus Christ. There is a definite difference between loving your child and loving them out of pity. God’s love is that of Father, passionately loving his children! To God we are not simply a homeless person that he is giving a cup of soup to or the naked person to whom he gives cloths; we are his own intimate possession of love. We are His and we will be fully His in the resurrection. (Oh how I want to rest in his arms!)
This is the kingdom we are celebrating today: The kingdom in which God gives himself to us completely today and forever and we are enabled fully to give fully of ourselves, which is what we really long for but continually fall short of this side of heaven! We begin sharing in this kingdom now through God’s gift of grace: every good prayer, every work of mercy, every sacrament, and every other intervention of God. All this will be perfected in His Kingdom to come. Reflect on the Our Father today and listen to what your pray – “thy Kingdom Come.”
Fr. Dan Good is a priest for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He serves as the Parochial Vicar at Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and serves as the Chaplain of McGill-Toolen Catholic High School. He is currently working on a degree in Canon Law at the Catholic University of America. Fr. Dan has attended the Head & Heart Immersion Course in January 2007, TOB 2 in January 2011 and Love & Responsibility in January 2012.