As we come to the very last Sunday of our liturgical year we are confronted with the only thing that matters, namely, as the end of our life draws to a close we might hear the sweet words of Jesus Christ, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Isn’t that beautiful, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Why is it so hard to recognize and to allow Jesus to be the King of our life?
My sister once came over to our house to visit, and when we were about to leave, we needed to put our dog, Teddy, in the cage. My sister said, “Teddy, go lay down.” Nothing. Again she said, “Teddy, go get in bed.” He didn’t move a muscle. Finally, I said, “Teddy, go to bed.” And just like that, right into the cage he went. Good boy!
While I love my sister very much, she is not the king of the castle. I know it, she knows it, and quite clearly, Teddy knew it too. I take care of Teddy, I feed him, pet him, love him, and sometimes even discipline him. I’m the king who takes care of him–well, to be honest, my sons feed him, my wife cleans him, we all love him, and mostly I discipline him. But that’s not the point, the point is that Teddy clearly knows who the king of the castle is–and it’s not my sister.
My brothers and sisters, if we have any hope of heaven, we must begin to recognize Jesus Christ as king of the castle, and today we celebrate Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. In today’s Gospel, the rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “Let him save himself.” The soldiers jeered at him and said, “Save yourself.” Even one of the criminals hanging on the cross reviled him and said, “Save yourself and us.” Everyone had something to say to Jesus, but only one had any respect for God–sometimes referred to as fear of the Lord–and prayed the only thing that matters, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
There is only one who can open the gates of heaven to us. Only one to whom we must hear and obey. There’s only one King of the Castle and only one king of the Universe, the Lord Jesus Christ. Like my sister, there are a lot of people trying to tell us what to do. Advertisers, politicians, employers, husbands and wives–even our kids! But there is only one who commands our absolute obedience, and that’s Jesus. In everything we do, in everything we say, in every thought we think, we must be obedient to Jesus, he alone is our king.
Is that true for you? Is it true that at every moment of every day, I speak and act in a way that is pleasing to the Lord, as reflects the obedience to love God and neighbor that he commands of us? I’m sad to say that it is not always true for me. As this year draws to a close, we recommit ourselves to allowing the King of the Universe to take our heart and mind captive. We recommit to prayer. We recommit to attending reconciliation monthly and Eucharist weekly. We recommit to reading God’s Sacred Word and to going to Adoration more regularly. We look at our budget so that our spending reflects generosity toward those most in need, and we recommit some of our time to volunteering to help those who cannot at this time help themselves. That’s loving God, that’s loving neighbor, and in those ways we name Jesus Christ King of the Universe, King of our Universe, and King of our Castle. Only then, does the King hear our plea to remember us when he comes into his Kingdom. As St. Jane Frances de Chantal said, “You must refuse nothing you recognize to be His will.” That’s true obedience to the King, and that’s when we hear those words for which our hearts long, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”