Do we place our faith in the Eternal King?

By: By Tim Irwin

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Nov. 24

2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122:1-2,3-4,4-5; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43

This Sunday marks the close of the church year. It offers a fitting occasion to consider the goal of salvation history. Salvation is the Catholic code word for happiness. Each soul that enters heaven realizes the goal of salvation history. The Catholic philosopher Boethius described this kind of happiness as “the whole and perfect possession of unlimited life at once.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Aren’t we all striving to inherit the “whole and perfect possession of unlimited life at once?”

That said, it’s still easy to lose one’s way. It’s that darn problem of sin that we just can’t seem to avoid. When that happens, we need a leader that can get us back on the path to the happiness that we crave. The first reading recounts the people of Israel recognizing that God had anointed David to be their king to get them back on the road to happiness: “And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.'”

Despite being called by God, anointed king of the Children of Israel, and authoring numerous psalms, David was no choir boy. Adultery and murder highlight the story of his life. The Eternal King, Jesus, had no such faults and St. Paul proclaimed this to the Church at Colossae: “Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

The Colossians had become preoccupied with some cultic practices concerning angels — principalities and powers. Paul invites them to refocus on Christ the King, the source of our eternal happiness. “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,” Paul teaches.

THE PATH TO HAPPINESS
This week’s Gospel recounts the crucifixion of Jesus according to Luke: “The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.'” Like the Colossians, the rulers have missed the point. Paul’s words clarify, “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.”

Beyond the theological significance of the crucifixion as described by Paul stands the personal significance of being invited into the whole and perfect possession of unlimited life at once. Jesus’ conversation with the Good Thief, who has become known as St. Dismas exemplifies this.

St. Dismas had accepted that his crucifixion was a just punishment and he acknowledged the innocence of Jesus. He placed his eternal future into the hands of the Lord. St. Dismas said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The readings for the last Sunday of the church year remind us of the goal of salvation history — the whole and perfect possession of unlimited life at once. Like St. Dismas, we will find the path to happiness by placing our faith in the Eternal King. When we each in turn finish our journey and stand on the threshold of the Kingdom of God, may we hear the Lord proclaim, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

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TIM IRWIN teaches at Peoria Notre Dame High School, where he chairs the Theology Department. He is a member of St. Mark’s Parish in Peoria.

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