The Feast of Christ the King is the last Sunday of Ordinary time. This year, it also marks the closing of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy – as such, it has been anything except an ‘ordinary’ time. On the contrary, this has been a Year of enormous grace and mercy for individual souls, as well as for the Church generally and indeed, for the entire world.
This has not been an ‘ordinary’ year at all. It has been perfectly extraordinary, in the real sense of that word.
One of the most extraordinary graces of this Year has been the surge in the numbers of souls seeking the Sacrament of Reconciliation – something even the secular media has commented on over the last few days. This particular grace has been very much in accord with the expressed desires of our Holy Father, Pope Francis; from the very first mention of the Jubilee, he laid great emphasis on this particular Sacrament. He saw it as the place of mercy where the Lord waits – like the father of the prodigal son – with arms outstretched, longingly but patiently waiting for us to come home to Him. In that place of mercy, we come face to face with the Lord, represented by His Priest. And in that place of mercy, the Lord reveals to us the Face of the Father’s mercy, and so that divine mercy is made real – it touches us, renews us, transforms us; Christ is indeed ‘merciful like the Father’. And so mercy is not merely a concept or an idea; it is a Person – Jesus Christ.
This Year, so many souls have done precisely as the Holy Father had asked and hoped – they have come home to the Merciful Lord and experienced the reality of His divine mercy.
To emphasise his view, Pope Francis designated particular ‘Missionaries of Mercy’ – these Priests were chosen for their ability to preach on mercy, and they were given authority to forgive those sins normally reserved to the Pope himself. The doors of the Confessional were to be fully opened to all, without exception, even (or rather, especially) to those who had committed the most serious sins.
The parishes and dioceses of the world took up this plan and across the world, on-going emphasis was placed on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Extra Priests were made available to hear confessions, extra time was given over to it, and the results spoke for themselves; the people came. Sometimes, people came after having been away for as much as fifty years. Others returned, having long stayed away because of particular sins in their lives. The people came. Many, many people came. The response of the people of God was loud and clear and perfectly echoed the voice of the Holy Father in Rome.
This is a great grace given to the Church in our day.
To be granted the mercy of God, we must first acknowledge our sins before the divine justice. But we live in a time when ‘sin’ has become something old-fashioned and when Confession does not equate with the idea of ‘me’. And yet, the people came – many, many of them – and in humility and contrition they fell to their knees, confessed their sins and begged the mercy of God. And the Lord, ever merciful, granted them great grace and great mercy, because He is Divine Mercy, He is Mercy Incarnate.
This is a great grace given abundantly to souls in our day.
After this, these same souls leave the Confessional vivified and renewed, immersed in the depths of the limitless ocean which is the mercy of Christ, so much so that they can now mirror and radiate that mercy in their daily lives, to which they return; and these souls, each in their own way, whether it be large or small, whether known by the world or kept hidden in the shadows, they touch and change all those other souls around them.
And that, is a great grace given to the world at large.
Very recently, I spoke with an elderly lady after Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and she commented on how extraordinary this year really has been – it was different to other Holy Years, she thought, and there was just ‘something’ about this Year of Mercy which had touched her very deeply and which she said would remain with her long after the Year was over. I had to agree, as this has been my own experience, too, throughout every second of this Year. I have never experienced a Year like this, so filled with graces and mercy of every sort. And so I wonder, then, how many other souls would similarly describe their own experience of this Holy Year of Mercy. I am sure this is the common experience.
Perhaps the Feast of Christ the King is a reminder to us, a pause for reflection. It reminds us that although the Holy Year is now closed, it’s effects will live on much, much longer; souls have been transformed by the grace of God – that God who is our King. And His reign is eternal. This feast points toward the future – a future which will continue to be filled with graces and mercy, all built on our trust for the Merciful Lord, whose reign is firmly established within us, supported by the very powerful intercession of the Mother of Mercy.
The Gospel reading from the Mass of Christ the King is taken from the Gospel of Saint Luke, known as the ‘Gospel of Mercy’. It tells the story of the two brigands hanging on crosses next to the Cross of Christ on Calvary; one brigand berates the Lord, while the other asks His mercy. It reads –
“‘Jesus, he said, remember me when You come into Your kingdom’. ‘Indeed, I promise you’ He replied, ‘today, you will be with Me in Paradise’“.
To hear those words spoken to us, we need to be mindful that our King is not of this world, but of the next. His Crown is not of gems, but of thorns. And His Throne is not of gold, but of the wood of the Cross.
Today’s feast reminds us that if Christ is truly our King, if we trust in His mercy and follow Him, then one day we, too, will hear those same words spoken to us. In believing this, we experience the gift of Hope, that joyful expectation that the words of the Lord will indeed be fulfilled.
As this Year of Mercy closes, may our hope continue, fuelled by our trust in the ever Merciful Lord, our King.