Solemnity of Christ the King (C)
November 20, 2022
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Sunday Commentary from
the Church Fathers
Christ the King (Year C)
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Worthily, David was called for by all the people. All the tribes of Israel came to him, saying, “Behold, we are your bone and your flesh. Also yesterday and the day before when Saul lived, and reigned, you were he that led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, you shall feed my people!” And why should I say more about him of whom the word of the Lord has gone forth to say: “I have found David according to my heart” Who else always walked in holiness of heart and in justice as he did, so as to fulfill the will of God; for whose sake pardon was granted to his children when they sinned, and their rights were preserved to his heirs? DUTIES OF THE CLERGY 2.7.35.
Christ the King (Year C)
The Superscription Shows the Majesty of a King
The superscription is written and placed above, not below the cross, because the government is upon his shoulders. What is this government if not his eternal power and Godhead? When asked, “Who are you?” he replied, “The beginning, who also speaks to you.” Let us read this superscription. “Jesus of Nazareth,” it says, “The King of the Jews.” The superscription is fittingly above the cross because Christ’s kingdom does not belong to his human body but to his divine authority. The superscription is fittingly above the cross, because although the Lord Jesus was on the cross, he shines above the cross with the majesty of a king. EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 10.112–13.
To be with Christ in Paradise
“Recognize to whom you are commending yourself. You believe I am going to come, but even before I come, I am everywhere. That is why, although I am about to descend into hell, I have you with me in paradise today. You are with me and not entrusted to someone else. You see, my humility has come down to mortal human beings and to the dead, but my divinity has never departed from paradise.” SERMON 285.2.
SOURCE: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (29 Volumes), Edited by Thomas C. Oden, InterVarsity Press ©2014, Used with permission. [NOTE: Though it is by a Protestant publisher, it is the best commentary of its kind out there at present. Both Fr. Pacwa, S.J. and Jimmy Akin recommend it.
CHRYSOSTOM. Because the Lord had said, Pray for them that persecute you, (Matt. 5:44.) this likewise He did, when He ascended the cross, as it follows, Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, not that He was not able Himself to pardon them, but that He might teach us to pray for our persecutors, not only in word, but in deed also. But He says, Forgive them, if they should repent. For He is gracious to the penitent, if they are willing after so great wickedness to wash away their guilt by faith.
BEDE. Nor must we imagine here that He prayed in vain, but that in those who believed after His passion He obtained the fruit of His prayers? It must be remarked, however, that He prayed not for those who chose rather to crucify, rather than to confess Him whom they knew to be the Son of God, but for such as were ignorant what they did, having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, as He adds, For they know not what they do.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. But for those who after the crucifixion remain in unbelief, no one can suppose that they are excused by ignorance, because of the notable miracles that with a loud voice proclaimed Him to be the Son of God.
AMBROSE. It is important then to consider, in what condition He ascends the cross; for I see Him naked. Let him then who prepares to overcome the world, so ascend that he seek not the appliances of the world. Now Adam was overcome who sought for a covering. He overcame who laid aside His covering. He ascends such as nature formed us, God being our Creator. Such as the first man had dwelt in paradise, such did the second man enter paradise. But about to ascend the cross rightly, did He lay aside His royal garments, that you may know that He suffered not as God, but as man, though Christ is both.
ATHANASIUS. (Hom. in Pass. Dom.) He also who for our sakes took upon Him all our conditions, put on our garments, the signs of Adam’s death, that He might put them off, and in their stead clothe us with life and incorruption.
It follows, And they parted his raiment among them, and cast lots.
THEOPHYLACT. For perhaps many of them were in want. Or perhaps rather they did this as a reproach, and from a kind of wantonness. For what treasure did they find in His garments?
BEDE. But in the lot the grace of God seems to be commended; for when the lot is cast, we yield not to the merits of any person, but to the secret judgment of God.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. lib. iii. c. 12.) This matter indeed was briefly related by the three first Evangelists, but John more distinctly explains how it was done.
THEOPHYLACT. They did it then mockingly. For when the rulers scoffed, what can we say of the crowd? for it follows, And the people stood, who in truth had entreated that He should be crucified, waiting, namely, for the end. And the rulers also with them derided.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Having mentioned the rulers, and said nothing of the priests, St. Luke comprehended under a general name all the chief men, so that hereby may be understood both the scribes and the elders.
BEDE. And these also unwillingly confess that He saved others, for it follows, Saying, He saved others, let him save himself, &c.
ATHANASIUS. (ubi sup.) Now our Lord being truly the Saviour, wished not by saving Himself, but by saving His creatures, to be acknowledged the Saviour. For neither is a physician by healing himself known to be a physician, unless he also gives proof of his skill towards the sick. So the Lord being the Saviour had no need of salvation, nor by descending from the cross did He wish to be acknowledged the Saviour, but by dying. For truly a much greater salvation does the death of the Saviour bring to men, than the descent from the cross.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. Now the Devil, seeing that there was no protection for him, was at a loss, and as having no other resource, tried at last to offer Him vinegar to drink. But he knew not that he was doing this against himself; for the bitterness of wrath caused by the transgression of the law, in which he kept all men bound, he now surrendered to the Saviour, who took it and consumed it, in order that in the place of vinegar, He might give us wine to drink, which wisdom had mingled. (Prov. 9:5.)
THEOPHYLACT. But the soldiers offered Christ vinegar, as it were ministering unto a king, for it follows, saying, If thou art the king of the Jews, save thyself.
BEDE. And it is worthy of remark, that the Jews blaspheme and mock the name of Christ, which was delivered to them by the authority of Scripture; whereas the soldiers, as being ignorant of the Scriptures, insult not Christ the chosen of God, but the King of the Jews.
THEOPHYLACT. Observe a second time the device of the devil turned against himself. For in letters of three different characters he published the accusation of Jesus, that in truth it might not escape one of the passers by, that He was crucified because He made Himself King. For it is said, In Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, by which it was signified, that the most powerful of the nations, (as the Romans,) the wisest, (as the Greeks,) those who most worshipped God, (as the Jewish nation,) must be made subject to the dominion of Christ.
AMBROSE. And rightly is the title placed above the cross, because Christ’s kingdom is not of the human body, but of the power of God. I read the title of the King of the Jews, when I read, My kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36.) I read the cause of Christ written above His head, when I read, And the Word was God. (John 1:1.) For the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor. 11:3.)
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now one of the thieves uttered the same revilings as the Jews, but the other tried to check his words, while he confessed his own guilt, adding, We indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds.
CHRYSOSTOM. Here the condemned performs the office of judge, and he begins to decide concerning truth who before Pilate confessed his crime only after many tortures. For the judgment of man from whom secret things are hid is of one kind; the judgment of God who searches the heart of another. And in the former case punishment follows after confession, but here confession is made unto salvation. But he also pronounces Christ innocent, adding, But this man hath done nothing wrong: as if to say, Behold a new injury, that innocence should be condemned with crime. We kill the living, He raised the dead. We have stolen from others, He bids us give up even what is our own. The blessed thief thus taught those that stood by, uttering the words by which he rebuked the other. But when he saw that the ears of those who stood by were stopped up, he turns to Him who knoweth the hearts; for it follows, And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. Thou beholdest the Crucified, and thou acknowledgest Him to be thy Lord. Thou seest the form of a condemned criminal, and thou proclaimest the dignity of a king. Stained with a thousand crimes, thou askest the Fountain of righteousness to remember thy wickedness, saying, But I discover thy hidden kingdom; and thou turnest away my public iniquities, and acceptest the faith of a secret intention. Wickedness usurped the disciple of truth, truth did not change the disciple of wickedness.
GREGORY. (Mor. 18. c. 40.) On the cross nails had fastened his hands and feet, and nothing remained free from torture, but his heart and tongue. By the inspiration of God, the thief offered to Him the whole which he found free, that as it is written, With the heart he might believe unto righteousness, with the mouth he might confess unto salvation. (Rom. 10:10.) But the three virtues which the Apostle speaks of, (1 Cor. 13:13.) the thief suddenly filled with grace both received and preserved on the cross. He had faith, for example, who believed that God would reign whom he saw dying equally with himself. He had hope who asked for an entrance into His kingdom. He preserved charity also zealously in his death, who for his iniquity reproved his brother and fellow-thief, dying for a like crime to his own.
AMBROSE. A most remarkable example is here given of seeking after conversion, seeing that pardon is so speedily granted to the thief. The Lord quickly pardons, because the thief is quickly converted. And grace is more abundant than prayer; for the Lord ever gives more than He is asked for. The thief asked that He should remember him, but our Lord answers, Verily I say unto thee, This day shall thou be with me in Paradise. To be with Christ is life, and where Christ is, there is His kingdom.
THEOPHYLACT. And as every king who returns victorious carries in triumph the best of his spoils, so the Lord having despoiled the devil of a portion of his plunder, carries it with Him into Paradise.
CHRYSOSTOM. Here then might one see the Saviour between the thieves weighing in the scales of justice faith, and unbelief. The devil cast Adam out of Paradise. Christ brought the thief into Paradise before the whole world, before the Apostles. By a mere word and by faith alone he entered into Paradise, that no one after his sins might despair of entrance. Mark the rapid change, from the cross to heaven, from condemnation to Paradise, that you may know that the Lord did it all, not with regard to the thief’s good intention, but His own mercy.
But if the reward of the good has already taken place, surely a resurrection will be superfluous. For if He introduced the thief into Paradise while his body remained in corruption without, it is clear there is no resurrection of the body. Such are the words of some, But shall the flesh which has partaken of the toil be deprived of the reward? Hear Paul speaking, Then must this corruptible put on incorruption. (1 Cor. 15:53.) But if the Lord promised the kingdom of heaven, but introduced the thief into Paradise, He does not yet recompense him the reward. But they say, Under the name of Paradise He signified the kingdom of heaven, using a well-known name in addressing a thief who knew nothing of difficult teaching. Now some do not read it, This day shall thou be with me in Paradise, but thus, I say unto thee on this day, and then follows, thou shalt be with me in Paradise. But we will add a still more obvious solution. For physicians when they see a man in a desperate state, say, He is already dead. So also the thief, since he no longer fears his falling back to perdition, is said to have entered Paradise.
THEOPHYLACT. This however is more true than all, that although they have not obtained all the promises, I mean, the thief and the other saints in order that without us they might not be made perfect, (Heb. 11:40.) they are notwithstanding in the kingdom of heaven and Paradise.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. Here again, we must examine how the thief should be thought worthy of Paradise, seeing that a flaming sword prevents the entrance of the saints. But observe that the word of God describes it as turning about, so as it should obstruct the unworthy, but open a free entrance to life to the worthy.
GREGORY. (Mor. 12. c. 9.) Or that flaming sword is said to be turning, because that He knew the time would come when it must be removed; when He in truth should come, who by the mystery of His incarnation was to open to us the way of Paradise.
AMBROSE. But it must also be explained how the others, that is, Matthew and Mark, introduced two thieves reviling, while Luke, one reviling, the other resisting him. Perhaps this other at first reviled, but was suddenly converted. It may also have been spoken of one, but in the plural number; as in the Hebrews, They wandered in goat-skins, and they were sawn asunder; (Heb. 11:37.) whereas Elijah alone is related to have had a goat-skin, and Isaiah to have been sawn asunder. But mystically, the two thieves represent the two sinful people who were to be crucified by baptism with Christ, (Rom. 6:3.) whose disagreement likewise represents the difference of believers.
BEDE. For as many of us as were baptized in Christ Jesus, were baptized in His death; but we are washed by baptism, seeing we were sinners. But some, in that they praise God suffering in the flesh, are crowned; others, in that they refuse to have the faith or works of baptism, are deprived of the gift which they have received.
SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.