Pope Benedict’s Homily on Christ the King

“Jesus’s death on the Cross is the greatest act of love in all history.”

An excerpt:

On Calvary, two opposite attitudes confronted each other. Some persons at the foot of the Cross, and even one of the two thieves, addressed the Crucified One with contempt: If you are Christ, the Mesiah and King – they said – save yourself and come down from the scaffold.

Jesus instead reveals his glory by staying there, on the Cross, as the sacrificed Lamb. The other thief unexpectedly takes his side, implicitly acknowledging the kingliness of the justly innocent, and implores: “Remember me when you enter into your kingdom: (Lk 23,42).

St. Cyril of Alexandria commented: “You see him crucified and call him King. You believe that he who undergoes mockery and suffering will reach divine glory” (Comment on Luke, homily 153).

According to the evangelist John, divine glory is already present although hidden by the disfigurement of the Cross. But even in the language of Luke, the future is already anticipated in the present when Jesus promises the good thief: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23,43).

St. Ambrose observed: “This man prayed that the Lord remember him when he reached his Kingdom, but the Lord answered him: ‘In truth, in truth, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’. Life is to be with Christ, because where Christ is, there is the Kingdom” (Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke, 10,121).

The attribution “This is the King of the Jews”, written on a tablet nailed above the head of Jesus, thus becomes a proclamation of the truth. St. Ambrose notes further: “The writing is properly at the top of the Cross, because although the Lord jesus Christ is on the Cross, he nevertheless shines above it with regal majesty” (ivi, 10,113).

The Crucifixion scene, in the four Gospels, constitutes the moment of truth, when the ‘veil of the Temple’ is rent to reveal the Holy of Holies. Jesus crucified is the maximum possible revelation of God in this world, because God is Love, and Jesus’s death on the Cross is the greatest act of love in all history.

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