This weekend, our Liturgical Year comes to an end once again, as we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, or, to give the feast its full title, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” Our readings for this Sunday bring out an important point about how we understand this “kingship” of our Lord. In speaking of our Lord as King, or indeed of the Kingdom of God, we think not so much of a place, but rather of something all-encompassing and reaching beyond simple time or space. It might be more helpful than to speak of the reign or kingship of Jesus Christ: something dynamic and that is at the very heart of our faith and who we are and what we do. 

In the First Reading (2 Samuel 5: 1-3) we hear about a very important historical event. At Hebron, King David unites all the tribes of Israel into one people of God. This was not just some sort of political event or treaty. Instead, God’s chosen people are now truly one people under God. Indeed, one interpretation of the name Israel is “God rules!” A sacred trust is therefore given to King David; that is to lead and guide God’s people. This is kingship, of course, a pre-figuring or anticipation of the universal reign of Jesus Christ. 

Our psalm (Psalm 122) is often called a “psalm of ascents.” It was recited by people going on pilgrimages to major religious festivals. It is a song expressing joy and gladness as the people go not just to any house, but to God’s. It is also a psalm of unity: all are united in giving praise to God.  
Our Second Reading (Colossians 1: 12-20 is considered by many as a hymn. It is recited at Evening Prayer in the Divine Office. In fact, St. Paul used a number of hymns in his various letters that were probably part of the very early Christian liturgy. This hymn sings of Jesus’ kingship and lordship over all creation. So again, we see that the kingship of Christ is not limited to a time or place: it extends everywhere and to all times.  

Our Gospel reading (Luke 23: 35-43) may come as a surprise, as we read part of St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ Passion. Of course, there is a very good reason why this passage was chosen for our feast! St. Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention the repentant thief (often called Dismas in Christian tradition). St. Luke wants to remind us of the universality of God’s reign, most especially that of God’s love and mercy. It is never too late to be enfolded into this love and mercy, as we see in the thief’s 11th-hour request and act of faith. Dismas asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his Kingdom. The repentant thief indeed repents and acknowledges who Jesus is. For this, Dismas becomes a member of God’s kingdom. St. Augustine puts this beautifully when he writes …

“The repentant thief was the first person to declare publicly that Jesus is King: not some theologian, or religious expert, or a holy person, or a rich person. No. A common thief! And by his repentance and simple prayer of needing Jesus, he committed one last act of robbery: he stole the Lord’s heart and so entered his Kingdom.” 

Our feast day reminds us then of our citizenship, or belonging, to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is truly universal; composed of so many people from every place, culture and century. Entrance into the Kingdom also involves an invitation from the Lord, as well as a journey and choice by us: one of faith, hope and love. It also brings about both a sense of belonging and an act of commitment. This entrance or citizenship is freely given: it is God’s gift to us, and one that we can accept and live, or reject and let wither. Like any country or kingdom, Jesus’ Kingdom or reign has its own customs, laws, characteristics, history and culture. What are these? Well, God’s Kingdom is one of: “truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace” (cf. the Preface in the Mass for Christ the King). Finally, and with God’s help, let us make sure that others will recognize these “citizenship” traits and qualities as they look at us, and so also become citizens of heaven.