On the Solemnity of Christ the King
"Jesus, From the Throne of the Cross Receives Every Man With Infinite Mercy"
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
There has just concluded in the Vatican basilica the liturgy of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe, which was also concelebrated by the 24 new cardinals created yesterday in the consistory. The Solemnity of Christ the King was instituted by Pius IX in 1925 and, later, after the Second Vatican Council, it was linked to the end of the liturgical year. The Gospel of St. Luke presents, as in a great painting, the royalty of Jesus in the moment of his crucifixion. The leaders of the people and the soldiers deride "the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15) and they test him to see if he has the power to save himself from death (cf. Luke 23:35-37). And precisely "on the cross Jesus is exalted to the very 'height' of God, who is love. It is there that he can be 'known.' [...] Jesus gives us 'life' because he gives us God. He can give him to us because he himself is one with God" (Benedict XVI, "Jesus of Nazareth," San Francisco, 2008, pp. 349 ff.). In fact, while the Lord finds himself between two criminals, one of them, aware of his own sins, opens himself to truth, arrives at faith and prays to "the king of the Jews": "Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). From him who "is before all things and in whom all things exist" (Colossians 1:17) the so-called "good thief" immediately receives forgiveness and the joy of entering into the Kingdom of Heaven. "In truth I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). With these words, Jesus, from the throne of the cross receives every man with infinite mercy. St. Ambrose comments that this "is a beautiful example of conversion to which one should aspire: forgiveness is quickly offered the thief and the grace is more abundant than the request; the Lord in fact," St. Ambrose says, "always give more than what is asked for [...] Life is being with Christ because where Christ is there is the Kingdom" (Expositio Ev. sec. Lucam X, 121: CCL 14, 379).
Dear Friends, in Christian art we can contemplate the way of love that the Lord reveals to us and that he invites us to follow. In fact, in the earliest times "in the arrangement of Christian sacred buildings [...] it became customary to depict the Lord returning as a king -- the symbol of hope -- at the east end; while the west wall normally portrayed the Last Judgment as a symbol of our responsibility for our lives" ("Spe salvi," 41): hope in the infinite love of God and commitment to order our life according to God's love. When we contemplate the depiction of Jesus inspired by the New Testament -- as an ancient council teaches -- we are led to "understand [...] the sublimity and the humiliation of the Word of God and [...] to recall his life in the flesh, his passion and salvific death, and the redemption that thus came to the world" (Council of Trullo [ca. 691 or 692], canon 82). "Yes, we need it, precisely to [...] become capable of recognizing in the pierced heart of the Crucified the mystery of God" (J. Ratzinger, "Teologia della liturgia: La fondazione sacramentale dell'esistenza cristiana," LEV 2010, p. 69).
To the Virgin Mary, in today's observance of her Presentation in the Temple, we entrust the new members of the College of Cardinals and our earthly pilgrimage toward eternity.
[After the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]
Following the invitation of the bishops, in Italy the ecclesial communities are praying for the Christians who are suffering persecutions and discrimination, especially in Iraq. I join this invocation of the God of life and peace, that in every part of the world religious freedom might be secured. I am near to these brothers and sisters through great witness of faith that they bear to God. In today's memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple the Church remembers cloistered men and women with particular affection: it is "Pro Orantibus Day" in which the invitation to concretely support these communities is renewed. To them I impart the apostolic blessing from my heart.
Today is also the "Day of the Victims of the Street." While I assure them a remembrance in prayer, I encourage work in prevention, which is having good results, recalling that prudence and respect for norms are always the first way to protect oneself and others.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[In English he said:]
I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors here today. I greet especially those who have traveled to Rome in order to be present for this weekend's Consistory, and to pray for the twenty-four new Cardinals. And I greet the groups of pilgrims from Saint Anne's parish, Orange, California, from Immaculate Conception Church, Los Angeles, California, and Saint Patrick's Parish in London. On this feast of Christ the King, we ask the Lord to guide our efforts to proclaim the good news of his Kingdom to people everywhere. Upon all of you, and upon your families and love ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings.
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