Thirty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

  • 2 Samuel 5:1-3
  • Colossians 1:12-20
  • Luke 23:35-43

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According to our liturgical calendar, today is the last and 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the close of another liturgical year. Beginning next Sunday, we will begin our procession through Advent and into the Christ Mass. It is something beautiful to consider that right before we turn our attention to the infancy narratives of Christ Jesus, we pause to reflect on the inheritance of His Kingship and on our dependence on Him as our King.

The First Reading today for the Solemnity of Christ the King comes from Second Samuel 5:1-3, and is filled with beautiful, covenantal, and prophetic language. Chapter five, concerning the anointing of David to be King of all of Israel, opens up with all the tribes of Israel coming to David in the city of Hebron and saying “Here we are, your bone and your flesh.” This is creation, covenantal, and sacramental language. It sounds like what Adam exclaimed when it first saw his bride, “This one, at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman.” The People of Israel identifying with their new king in this way signals that they belong to him and him to them. Another example of covenantal language is in the next verse when Tribes recount what God had done for them through David and how he was chosen by God, not them, in the way same that a father would repeat the Haggadah on the night of the Passover to remind his family what God has done His people through Abraham and Moses and that they could not save themselves – God needed to miraculous step into creation for them to be saved. Here they say, “In days past, when Saul was our king, it was you who led the Israelites out and brought them back. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.'” Yet, David has a choice to participate in this calling. He could reject this tribal and earthly kingship, just as Jesus would in centuries to come, but he does not. He accepts the call of God upon his life and on that day, before the Lord, he made a covenant with the Tribes to be their King and they anointed him as such; David the King of Israel. In verse four the text informs us that David was only thirty-years-old when he began his reign, which, tradition informs us, was the same age when Jesus would begin His earthly ministry.

David being anointed King of Israel should not only call us into understanding how the promise of God to give Israel a King forever is perfectly fulfilled Christ Jesus, the King of Heaven and Earth, but should also remind of our own inheritance and anointing that we received through the liturgy on the day we were anointed with the sacred chrism oil of Baptism. On that day, our anointing by the Holy Spirit incorporated us into Christ who was anointed priest, prophet, and king. Through Him, we participate in this threefold office in the world and fulfill in another way the promise of God to give His People their King forever through the seed of David who came as the bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, but also as God.

The Second Reading from Colossians 1:12-20 contains an early confessional and creedal hymn of the Church, beginning in verse 15. This hymn should remind every Catholic of the truths we confess in the Gloria in Excelsis Deo and in the Creeds about who Christ Jesus is and of His role in creation and in salvation history.

Reminiscent of our confession about Christ in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed and in the opening of the Gospel of John, the first stanza of this hymn (vv. 15-17), declares that Christ’s dominion as King encompasses the entire cosmos because they were created by Him and for Him. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

The second stanza of this hymn (vv. 18-20) speaks of Christ’s role as redeemer of His fallen creation. Man cannot save himself, because he did not create himself. Man cannot save the environment because he did not create it. We alone cannot save the Church because we are not the head of it. Only the author of creation can save what He created. Only the one who has dominion over all things can heal all things. Only the head of the Church can save the Church. For, “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.”

During this C Cycle of our liturgical year, our Ordinary-Time Sunday Gospel readings have all been drawn from the Gospel of Luke and have taken us on a journey through the prayerful life of our Lord and Redeemer and those who had followed Him. Today our reading from Luke is drawn from 23:35-43.

It is truly something to consider that the life of Jesus of Nazareth began with a King (Herod) trying to kill Him because he felt that the coming of the Messiah threatened his kingship. While throughout His ministry He had to reject the efforts of His followers to make Him their earthly ‘King’, before His crucifixion He enters Jerusalem on a donkey, looking very much unlike any earthly king, and then His life here on earth concludes with Pontius Pilate placing a crown of thorns on this head, a purple cloak about His body, and affixing a placard above His head on the Cross that read “King of the Jews”. Yet, shortly after He ascended into Heaven, Stephen “saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56).

What type of message are the sacred Scriptures conveying to us? It seems as though the Holy Spirit is communicating to us that ‘Yes’ Jesus the Christ is your King, but He is not the king that you expected, desired, or even tried to make on your own. This message draws us back in today’s First Reading from Second Samuel 5:1-3 when the tribes of Israel reminded David that it was God, not them, who chose him to be their King.

Salvation is really that simple. It is as simple as accepting in love that Christ Jesus is King of every aspect of our life.  Just as the tribes of Israel turned to David for leadership, guidance, protection, and justice as their king, so too do we turn to our King Jesus for those things and more. Salvation is not hard for God. Salvation is as simple as a criminal being crucified and telling (not asking) Jesus, “remember me when you come into your kingdom,” and Jesus tells him “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” This man understood the most basic thing to know about humanity and the most important thing to know about God; that is, we, our mere humanity, does not have the power to save anything, most especially ourselves, but it is Christ Jesus alone, through His redemptive work on the Cross that has that power to save all things today.

The beautiful thing about all of the liturgical traditions of our Church is that all they want to do is to show us who Christ Jesus is and to remind us that we cannot save ourselves. The liturgy just wants to impress upon our minds and our hearts that we have an Eternal King who loves us so such that He came to participate in our humanity so that we might come to participate in His divinity, through which we will receive our inheritance in Him forever in Heaven.

The world may not know that Jesus is already King and that there is nothing that we can do to crown Him King, nor is anything that we can do to dethrone Him, inasmuch as they have tried. Christ is King forever and eternal. He is King all things and of every aspect of our life, even those aspects that we refuse to voluntarily place under His authority. In this way too, the liturgy, through its repetition of incorporating our entire body, senses, and languages into an active participation, wants to train us into being devoted to our Eternal King. That’s what the liturgy is doing. It is not subjecting us to our King; rather, it is courting us into loving our King because it is essentially vital for ourselves, our families, and for all of creation that we do.

This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.