Following is the text of the meditation by Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa marking the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe, November 20, 2022:
Today’s Gospel passage (Luke 23:35-43) leads us to Golgotha, where we see Jesus condemned to death and nailed to the Cross.
Jesus is not alone: at the foot of the cross people are watching; additionally, there are the leaders of the people, soldiers (Luke 23:35-36) and two criminals crucified together with Him.
Two kinds of questions are put to Lord Jesus.
The first, turning to Him is a scornful tone, asks Him to come down from the cross, to save His life. The question is repeated three times, first by the leaders, then by the soldiers and, finally, by one of the criminals.
It’s a provocative question and, in its composition, resembles the three temptations of Jesus in the desert. Jesus knew that the devil was awaiting Him in Jerusalem, that he would tempt Him again. In the account of the temptation recorded in the Gospel of Luke, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13) Now the time has come and here also, as in the desert, Jesus must choose whether to be a man like every other man or prefer, at least this time, the way of power, of the sensational and the miraculous. Whether to trust in His power or to trust the Father.
Faced with this question, Jesus does not answer.
There is a second question, that instead, Jesus listens to with interest, to which he responds. The second criminal speaks first with his companion, reproving him for a fundamental thing, for not having understood that God permitted Him to be condemned for our punishment, and He did this so that He can be with us, in the place where are lost.
Then he turns directly to Jesus. He calls Him by name, as one does with a friend. He does not ask Him to come down from the Cross, nor to take him down.
He asks more because he understood that one can ask everything to the man that can die like this, forgiving. He understands that Jesus has a Kingdom that goes beyond death and asks him to remember him there.
He does this humbly, not claiming any merit, on the contrary, recognizing all his wrongdoing, like the tax collector in the Temple. And like him, he returns home justified. (Luke 18:13-14)
Unlike the first question, Jesus responds to this one. He does so in a solemn way, beginning with “Amen”, a yes without any possibility of rethinking and follows with a promise.
In the Bible, every time that God promises something, He always promises with the sign of abundance, of surplus. So also, today: Jesus could not promise more.
And since the criminal understood that God, in order to be with us, took on our sin, our failure, and our pain, then he can welcome the love of Christ, the grace to be with Him, in His Kingdom: “Today, you will be with me in paradise”. (Luke 23:43)
Then it happens that a new world opens to this man who had no hope. What was to be the last day of his life becomes the first of true, eternal life, which consists in being with the Lord.
Jesus does this: He dies opening the Kingdom to whoever recognizes the need for forgiveness, to whoever prays: He grants those without any merit to be with Him.
We have reached the end of the Liturgical Year, that has brought us to relive, through the celebrations of different time and various feasts of our faith, the entire mystery of the Lord Jesus’ life.
We’ve seen, in the Nativity, that Jesus is God with us.
Then we celebrated Easter, which revealed to us a God for us. Finally, there was Pentecost, and with Pentecost, we celebrated God in us.
Today, the liturgical year concludes with this solemnity, with this Gospel. What do we celebrate? What can we celebration more than Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost?
Today, we celebrated the fact we are with Him, in His Kingdom.