The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
First Reading: 2nd Book of Samuel 5:1-3
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 122:1-5
Second Reading: St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians 3:7-12
Gospel: According to St. Luke 23:35-43
About two weeks after Election Day way back in November of 2000 I had an article published in the Religion section of the Plain Dealer. Unlike the 2016 election, the 2000 election was mired in hanging chads and Supreme Court decisions. Like the 2016 election, that one was very contentious and many on the eventual losing side claimed that the Electoral College was outdated and kept the real winner from taking office.
My article was not so much about the election, but about the election within the context of my Catholic faith and the Christian faith of most of the readers of the Plain Dealer. My ultimate point was that no matter who moved into the White House in January 2001 he was not our savior. He would do some things well and he would do some things poorly. In the end he was a fallible human like the rest of us and for us to put our “faith” in him did a disservice to him, as well as to the Person in Whom we should be putting our faith.
As Christ hung on the cross those who mocked Him gave Him one last chance to earn their vote: “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Despite any theological difficulties with the Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel The Last Temptation of Christ, he definitely got the subject matter of the title right: the last temptation – to get off the cross – was the fulcrum on which salvation history rested. The election of one president in one country at one point in the history of the world is a spec of sand on the beach compared to what is described in this weekend’s Gospel reading.
Each election season we are promised that bread will be made from stone, that governmental angels will catch us before we fall economically or socially, that if we just bow down before this mighty savior all will be well. These temptations have been with us at least since a hungry and thirsty Jesus walked the desert. He shunned the offer to be an earthly messiah, and His reward for turning His back on fame and power was to be arrested, beaten, mocked and murdered. We’ve had some pretty selfless public servants over the years, but I can’t think of any who would not have cut and run if faced with what Jesus endured.
The ‘campaign trail’ of Jesus ended at Calvary, but it ended in a way unique to history. After listening to the mocking of those who made sure that He didn’t win, He gives maybe the shortest, but certainly the least concessionary, concession speech ever. He speaks words that no defeated candidate could ever utter, and words that no victor would ever utter. These words show the chasm that separates a mere politician from the King of the Universe because they offer a promise that coming from any other person could never be believed, yet coming from this Person they must be believed if we are to live with any real hope for the future: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”