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The crucifixion

Gospel Reading: Lk 23:35-43
The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

In 1925, after World War I, Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Quas Primas, instituting the Solemnity of Christ the King. The encyclical declared Jesus Christ to be true King and Savior of the universe. Pius XI had spoken about the scourge and evil of war, how it was incapable of bringing about genuine peace to humanity. Enduring peace, the Pope wrote, could be found only in Jesus Christ who teaches us the law of love. The apostle Paul refers to Jesus as God’s beloved Son, as “the firstborn of all creation” who made peace “by the blood of his cross” (Second Reading). The Kingship of Jesus Christ is unique in that his emphasis is not on displaying power but on making himself powerless so that others may live. He wears a crown of thorns. His hands are nailed to the cross and cannot hold any scepter. His throne is the cross, an instrument of punishment and cruelty, a stark symbol of an ignominious death for a criminal.

Jesus wears no royal purple and is shamelessly stripped to his loincloth. Calvary Hill hisses and heckles like a venomous serpent, but the resplendent image of Jesus, forlorn on the cross, cuts across the sky as a gleam of glory.

Jesus Christ towers over everybody else in Calvary. He only has words of forgiveness for his tormentors. He assures one of the criminals, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus surprises the small group of loyal people who dare stand at the foot of his cross. He gives Mary his mother and the beloved disciple to each other. In his final hour, Jesus creates a community between Mary and John, between Mary and every future believer. In a larger sense, Jesus gives Mary to the People of God, also known by another name: the Church. We proclaim today that everything in this world originates, flourishes, and finds fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus is recognized by Nathanael as “the Son of God… the King of Israel” (Jn 1:49). At Calvary, where Jesus concludes his mission by offering his life on the cross, he is recognized by the centurion who exclaims, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (Mt 27:54). World leaders rise to