Closing Mass of Year of Faith, St. Matthew Cathedral
Today, the Solemnity of Christ the King, marks the end of the special Year of Faith begun by our Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, on October 11th, 2012. During this year, we experienced the big surprise of Pope Benedict’s resignation and then the election of our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. These two great Popes, successors of Saint Peter, followed Jesus’ instruction to Saint Peter to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the faith. Pope Benedict proclaimed this Year of Faith to help us to appreciate anew the great joy of believing. It is important that we not take our faith for granted or allow it to become lukewarm. The gift of faith always needs to be nourished and reinforced so it can continue to guide us in our journey of life.
Today’s feast of Christ the King is the last day of this Year of Faith, very appropriate because, in the end, genuine Christian faith involves putting Christ at the center of our lives, recognizing His Kingship, His Lordship. In God’s gift of faith, we have a light for the path of our lives. It’s a powerful light that brightens and enriches our life in all its dimensions. That light is Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God. Our faith is centered on Him who supremely manifested and revealed God’s love for us. On the cross, He offered His life for us. The depth and breadth of God’s love shone forth in the crucifixion of Jesus.
When we think of Christ as King, we naturally think of the glorified and risen Christ seated at the right hand of the Father. Yet, we must first recognize the throne of Jesus that preceded the heavenly throne: the throne of the cross. It is on the cross that Christ manifested His unique Kingship. Christ’s royal majesty shines from the height of the cross: the majesty of love and mercy. Christ is the King of love on Calvary. From that throne of the cross, Christ the King draws the world to Himself. He reigns as the true King in a way not understood by Pilate nor the Sanhedrin nor by those passing by. They were all mocking and taunting Him. They did not see that the man they were crucifying was loving them to the point of dying for them and opening up the pathway to God for them. This is at the very crux of our faith. The Crucified Jesus is the maximum revelation of God possible in this world. This is because “God is love” and the death of Jesus on the cross is the greatest act of love in all of history. It is this love that redeems and saves us.
On this last day of the Year of Faith, we have an unusual example of faith to help us: a thief! We call him “the good thief” because He repented and turned to Jesus with faith. The good thief rebuked the bad thief who was reviling Jesus like the crowd that was mocking Jesus. With faith, the good thief asked Jesus to remember him when he comes into His Kingdom. He knew Jesus was innocent of any crime. The good thief intuitively recognized that Jesus was truly a king (as the inscription above the cross declared) and that His death would mean the beginning of his kingly rule. Jesus replied to the good thief’s request with those solemn words that we hope to hear at the hour of our death: Today you will be with me in paradise. Our Lord granted eternal life to the good thief. My brothers and sisters, from the throne of the Cross, Jesus welcomes every human being with infinite mercy, like he welcomed the good thief! This should give us all hope.
It is important that we remember who our king is, and on what throne he sits. He calls us to have an intimate relationship with Him as our Friend, Our Lord, and Our King. Hopefully, the Year of Faith has helped many to experience a closer relationship with Christ.
As Catholics, as followers of Christ, our faith is so much more than a philosophy or system of rules. It is about the mystery of Christ, the Incarnate Word, dead and risen, and made King of the Universe. It is a joy and a responsibility to serve Christ the King and to witness His Lordship in our life. This is greatly needed today. Though these are difficult times, the Church has always had difficult times. To get through them, we need to fix our eyes on Christ, and to seek first His Kingdom.
Though the Year of Faith is coming to an end, our journey of faith continues. The Year of Faith has been a stimulus for us to go deeper, to hear God’s word anew, and to profess our faith with new vigor. I pray that we will continue to help one another in our journey of faith.