THEME: The King and the Cross.

BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

Lk 23:35-43

On this last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. This is “as it were, a synthesis of the entire salvific mystery”, according to Pope St. John Paul II (Address, 20 November 1983). After reflecting on the mysteries in the life of Jesus for the entire year, we eventually come to the ultimate and definite conclusion: Jesus is Lord, the Eternal and Absolute King.

However, for many of us, the Gospel reading may sound somewhat inappropriate for this joyous celebration. Yet, the image of Jesus on the cross accurately and eloquently captures the true nature of His kingship. It is radically different from the kings of the world. Christ’s kingship is eternal, universal, and perfect. It is the kingship, not of force or fear but of the power of love. Indeed, as He told Pilate, His kingdom is not of this world.

Hence, this Sunday, let us behold our King: His throne is the cross; His crown is made of thorns; His garment is the blood flowing from the many wounds all over His body; His scepter are the nails that pierced His hands and feet; and His only command is: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

In a society soaked in the values of egoism and materialism, obsessed with the pursuit of pleasure and self-sufficiency, this image of a King is unattractive and even absurd. This is precisely the reason why Pope Pius XI promulgated the Feast of Christ the King in 1925. If we recall a bit of history, this was the period when the world was still recovering from the devastation from the First World War that ended in 1918, and also the birth of atheistic Communism with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917. Humanity has turned away from the way pointed out by the Gospel, in frantic search for worldly power and dominion apart from God. In the eyes of the Pope, the Feast of Christ the King is a fitting call to conversion and renewal of loyalty to the True King.

In his encyclical declaring this feast, Pope Pius XI wrote: “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony… That these blessings may be abundant and lasting in Christian society, it is necessary that the kingship of our Savior should be as widely as possible recognized and understood, and to that end nothing would serve better than the institution of a special feast in honor of the Kingship of Christ” (Quas Primas, 19, 21).

This feast is simply reminding us that true peace and prosperity in the world will only be possible when people come to acknowledge and obey the true King, Jesus Christ. This true King is on the cross, and He tells us that, “whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:38).

This message is being repeated over and over again every time we celebrate the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass is not just a holy meal. It is the Eternal Sacrifice of Jesus. St. Thomas Aquinas said, “The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross. The Blessed Eucharist is the perfect Sacrament of the Lord’s Passion, since It contains Christ Himself and His Passion.” That is why in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the cross on or near the altar is a requirement for the celebration: “There is also to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation.” The visible presence of the cross “calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord” (GIRM, no. 308).

So, in the Mass, the priest and the people do not look at each other; rather, they all look towards the same direction: to the crucified Lord. Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue but of common worship, of setting off toward the One who is to come.” (Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 81).

Furthermore, the Pope noted that “the cross on the altar is not obstructing the view; it is a common point of reference… It is the image that draws and unites the attention of everyone. I would even be so bold as to suggest that the cross on the altar is actually a necessary precondition for celebrating (the Mass facing) toward the people” (Feast of Faith, p. 145). “It should stand in the middle of the altar and be the common point of focus for both priest and praying community. In this way, we obey the ancient call to prayer: ‘Conversi ad Dominum’, Turn toward the Lord!” (op. cit., p. 83).


Let us turn toward the Crucified Lord! He is our true King! Following Him means carrying our own cross, forgetting our self, and faithfully obeying His commandment of self-sacrificing love. Attempting to do away with the cross in our life and in liturgical celebrations betrays a soul bereft of true love and loyalty to our King.

A young man went to his doctor for medical check up. After the examination the doctor told his patient, “The results, young man, are not good. You will have to give up alcohol and cigarette, get to bed early and stay away from women. That would be the best for you.” “But Doctor,” the young man reasoned out, “I don’t deserve the best. What’s next to best?”

This is the general inclination of most people nowadays. Sacrifice, even for one’s best interest, is avoided. In our Christian life, the cross is the best for us. Let us not turn away from it. It is the throne of our King where He offered His life for our sakes. Let us embrace it with love, like St. Padre Pio who confided, “Yes, I love the cross, the cross alone. I love it because I always see it behind Jesus’ shoulders.”

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches



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