All through his life Jesus showed that he was no man's man. No one controlled him. No one manipulated him or used him. He moves through the landscapes of Galilee and Samaria with a sovereign freedom and a more-than-royal vigour. He acts with power. He speaks with authority. He is a source of awe and amazement in encounter after encounter. He commands obedience. He demands discipleship -- no one can serve two masters, he said. With an absolute self-assurance, he cuts across all parties and programmes and treats the rulers of the world with disdain:
'Tell that fox Herod .' he says of the Tetrarch of Galilee (Lk 13:52).
'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God ' 'the earth and all its fullness, the world and all its peoples' (Lk 20:25 and Pss 23, 92, 96, 98).
He forgives sins by divine right, even on the cross -- especially on the cross: 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,' says the thief on the cross in today's gospel.
And the king replies, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'
It is with Pontius Pilate, agent of the Emperor, that Jesus has that strange debate about kingship and truth.
It is you who say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. (Jn 18:37)
The rich, the powerful, do not snatch his life from him. He lays down his life.
I lay down my life for my friends You are my friends if you do what I command you. Love one another as I have loved you. (Jn 10, 15)
It is this kingdom of truth and love which triumphs on Calvary. We do not live under the shadow of the cross but in its light as the power and the glory of the kingdom. The kingdom now coming on earth as it is in heaven is no mere restoration of a fallen world, no mere repair job on damaged humanity. It is a new creation. Jesus has seized power on earth. It is a coup d'état. A bloody, violent revolution, though His is the cup of the blood of the new commonwealth.
And the manifesto and agenda of this new fellowship is not that we should endure the evils of the world like Stoics, or that we should be indifferent to politics, society, trade, education, injustice and poverty. There is a transformative agenda in this kingdom. All things -- family, society, culture and community -- are to be stamped with his image like coins bearing the images of Caesars
In the Preface of today's mass it is described as
A kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.
Jesus is the 'Yes' of God to the promises of heaven and the cries of the earth. And we who share in his kingship are to be like those early Christians we read about in the Acts of the Apostles who terrified the powers-that-be in northern Greece.
Those people who have been turning the world upside down have arrived here and they are acting contrary to Caesar's decrees, saying there is another king named Jesus. (Acts 17:6-7)
And what of us who call Lord, Lord? Will we enter the kingdom? We often accuse ourselves of the sin of pride but perhaps we are not being proud enough. Proud and courageous in the royal dignity he has given us, in sharing his kingship, his power and his glory. Instead of sovereignty in doing good we are tyrannised by caution, meekness and mildness. Sluggishness and slothfulness, apathy and indifference undermine the dynamism of grace at work within us, the drive of his providence and the joy of using our God-given gifts and talents in his service. We have lost dominion over ourselves because we have lost the freedom and the joy of our King.
But at the Mass, at this one sacrifice of Calvary, there is healing medicine for feeble souls, nourishing food and drink for the daily journey of taking up the cross. Here is the wine of the kingdom and the bread of heaven to put fire in our bellies, the Pentecostal fire of the kingdom.
Do not be afraid, little flock. It has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom. (Lk 12:32)
In the world you will have trouble. But take courage, I have conquered the world. (Jn 16:33)