5. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).


On Calvary Jesus had a rather unusual companion in his passion, a thief. For this unhappy man the way of the cross became, infallibly, the way to paradise (cf. Luke 23:43), the way to truth and life, the way to the kingdom. Today we remember him as the “good thief”. On this solemn occasion when we gather round the altar of Christ to open a Synod concerned with an entire continent and its problems and hopes, we can make the “good thief's” prayer our own:


“Jesus, remember me, remember us, remember the peoples to whom the Pastors gathered here daily give the living and true bread of your Gospel, across immense spaces, by sea and by land. As we pray that your kingdom come, we see that your promise is becoming a reality: after following you, we come to you in your kingdom, drawn by you when you were lifted up on the Cross (cf. John 12:32); to you, lifted up over history and its centre, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (cf. Revelations 22:13), the Lord of time and the ages!


We address you in the words of an ancient hymn:


It is through your sorrowful death, King of eternal glory,
that you obtained eternal life for the nations;
therefore the whole world calls you King of humanity.
Reign over us, Christ the Lord!”.







Sunday, 25 November 2001


1. "There was an inscription over his head, "This is the King of the Jews" (Luke 23,38).


That inscription, which Pilate had placed on the cross (cf. John 19,19), contains the motive of the condemnation and the truth about the person of Christ. Jesus is king ... he affirmed it ... but his kingdom is not of this world (cf. John 18,36-37). Before him humanity is divided into two parts:  those who reject him on account of his apparent failure, and those who recognize him as the Christ, "the image of the invisible God, begotten before all creation" (Colossians 1,15), according to the expression of the Apostle Paul in the Letter to the Colossians, that we have heard.

Before the Cross of Christ, the great scene of the world is opened up and the drama of our personal and collective history takes place. Under the gaze of God, who in his Only begotten Son immolated for us, has become the measure of every person, institution, and civilization, each one is called to decide for or against Christ.


2. Those who were just proclaimed saints: Joseph Marello, Paula Montal Fornés de San José de Calasanz, Leonie Frances de Sales Aviat and Maria Crescenzia Höss come before the crucified divine king. Each of them entrusted himself/herself to his mysterious kingship, proclaiming with their entire life:  "Jesus, remember me when you enter into your kingdom" (Luke 23,42). And in an absolutely personal way, each received the reply from the immortal King:  "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23,43).

Today! That "today" belongs to the time of God, to the plan of salvation, of which St Paul speaks in the Letter to the Romans:  "Those whom he foreknew he also predestined ... he also called ... justified ... glorified" (Romans 8,29-20). That "today" contains the historical moment of today's canonization, in which these four exemplary witnesses of evangelical life are raised to the glory of the altars.

"It pleased God to make every fullness dwell in him Christ" (Colossians 1,19). St Joseph Marello participated in that fullness, as priest of the clergy of Asti and as Bishop of the Diocese of Acqui. Fullness of grace, fostered in him by an intense devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary; fullness of the priesthood, which God conferred on him as gift and mission; fullness of holiness which he ahieved, by being conformed to Christ, the Good Shepherd. Bishop Marello was formed in the golden period of holiness in the Piedmont area, when, in the midst of numerous forms of hostility against the Church and the Catholic faith, the champions of the spirit and of charity flourished, Sts Cottolengo, Cafasso, Don Bosco, Murialdo and Allamano. Joseph was a good and intelligent young man, enthusiastic about cultural and social movements, but our saint only found in Christ the synthesis of every ideal and was consecrated to him in the priesthood. "To take care of the interests of Jesus" was his motto inlife, and for this reason he wanted to imitate St Joseph, the spouse of Mary, the custodian of the Redeemer. What strongly attracted him to St Joseph was the life of hidden service, joined with deep interior life. He knew how to transmit this style to the Oblates of St Joseph, the Congregation he founded. He liked to repeat to them, "Be extraordinary in ordinary things" and he added, "Be Carthusians inside your house and apostles outside". The Lord wanted to use his robust personality for his Church, calling him to govern the Diocese of Acqui, where, in the span of a few years, he spent himself for his flock, leaving a memory that has only grown with time.

"I say to you:  today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23,43). St Paula Montal Fornés de San José de Calasanz, foundress of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary, Sisters of the Pious Schools, was received in paradise, into the fullness of the kingdom of God, after a life of holiness. First in her native city, Arenys del Mar, she was involved in many apostolic activities and in prayer and interior devotion she was led into the mystery of God; then as foundress of a religious family, inspired by the slogan of St Joseph Calasanz "Piety and Letters", she gave herself to advancing women and the family with her ideal:  "Save the family, educating the young girls in a holy fear of God"; in the end, she was to give proof of the authenticity, the firmness and the beauty of her spirit, a spirit shaped by God during the 30 years of hidden life in Olesa de Montserrat.

The new saint belongs to the group of founders of religious orders who in the 19th century came forward to meet the many needs that were present and that the Church, inspired by the Gospel and by the Spirit, wanted to respond to for the good of society. The message of St Paula is still valid today and her educational charism is a source of inspiration in the formation of the generations of the third Christian millennium.


5. The loving plan of the Father "who has made us enter the kingdom of his beloved Son" found a splendid realization in St Frances de Sales Aviat:  who lived her self offering to the end. At the heart of her dedication and of her apostolate, Sister Frances de Sales put prayer and union with God, where she found the light and the energy to overcome trials and difficulties, and to persevere to the end of her life in the life of faith, desiring to be led by the Lord:  "O my God, let my happiness be found in sacrificing my will and my desires for you!". The resolution which distinguished Mother Aviat so well, "Forget oneself completely", is also for us an appeal to go against the current of egotism and easy pleasures, and open ourselves to the social and spiritual needs of our time. Dear Oblate Sisters of St Francis-de-Sales, at the school of your foundress, in profound communion with the Church and wherever God has placed you, be determined to receive the present graces and to benefit from them, for it is in God that we find the light and the help necessary in every circumstance! Trusting in the powerful intercession of the new saint, accept with joy the invitation to live, with renewed fidelity, the intuitions which she so perfectly lived.

Give glory to Christ the King:  this wish inspired St Maria Crescenzia Höss from her childhood. It was for his service that she used her talents. God gave her a beautiful voice. Already as a young lady she could sing a solo part, not to display herself but to sing and to play for Christ the King.


Her knowledge of her fellow men she placed at the service of the Lord. This Franciscan was an esteemed advisor. To her convent came many visitors:  both simple men and women, princes and empresses, priests and religious, abbots and bishops. In a certain way she became a kind of "midwife" and helped those seeking counsel to bring forth the truth in their hearts.

Sorrow did not spare the saint. "Mobbing" took place in her time. She endured the intrigues of her own community, without ever doubting her own vocation. The long period of suffering allowed her to grow in the virtue of patience. That was helpful for her when she became superior:  for her to direct meant spiritually to serve. She was generous with the poor, motherly with her sisters, and kind to all who needed a kind word. St Crescenzia lived what the Kingdom of Christ means:  "Whatever you do to the least of your brothers, that you do to me" (Matthew 25,40).

7."Let us give thanks with joy to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1,12). Never as at the present time do the words of St Paul find an echo in our hearts! Truly the communion of saints gives us the foretaste of the Kingdom of heaven, and, at the same time, inspires us, following their example, to build it in the world and in history.

"He must reign" (I Corinthians 15, 25), the Apostle wrote referring to Christ.


"He must reign", you repeat to us with the example of your lives, St Joseph Marello, St Paula Montal Fornés de San José de Calasanz, St Leonie de Sales Aviat and St Maria Crescenzia Höss. May your example inspire us to living contemplation of Christ the King, crucified and risen. May your support help us to walk faithfully in the footsteps of the Redeemer, to share one day with you together with Mary and all the saints, his eternal glory in heaven. Amen.


 Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Blessed Pope John Paul II, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.  




St Peter's Basilica
Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe
Sunday, 25 November 2007


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,


The Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, the crown of the liturgical year, is enriched by the acceptance into the College of Cardinals of 23 new members whom, according to tradition, I have invited to concelebrate the Eucharist with me today. I address to each one of them my cordial greeting, which I extend with fraternal affection to all the Cardinals present. I am also pleased to greet the delegations from various countries and the Diplomatic Corps of the Holy See; the numerous Bishops and priests, the men and women Religious and all the faithful, especially those from Dioceses entrusted to the pastoral guidance of some of the new Cardinals.


The liturgical Feast of Christ the King gives our celebration an especially significant background, outlined and illuminated by the Biblical Readings. We find ourselves as it were facing an imposing fresco with three great scenes: at the centre, the Crucifixion according to the Evangelist Luke's account; on one side, the royal anointing of David by the elders of Israel; on the other, the Christological hymn with which St Paul introduces the Letter to the Colossians. The whole scene is dominated by the figure of Christ, the one Lord before whom we are all brothers and sisters. The Church's entire hierarchy, every charism and ministry, everything and everyone are at the service of his Lordship.


We must begin from the central event: the Cross. Here Christ manifests his unique Kingship. On Calvary two opposite attitudes confront each other. Some figures at the foot of the Cross as well as one of the two thieves address the Crucified One contemptuously: If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, they say, save yourself by coming down from the cross. Jesus reveals instead his own glory by remaining there on the Cross as the immolated Lamb. The other thief unexpectedly sides with him, and he implicitly confesses the royalty of the innocent, just One and implores: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingly power" (Luke 23: 42). St Cyril of Alexandria comments: "You see him crucified and you call him King. You believe that he who bears scoffing and suffering will reach divine glory" (Comment on Luke, Homily 153). According to the Evangelist John, the divine glory is already present, although hidden by the disfiguration of the Cross. But also in the language of Luke, the future is anticipated in the present when Jesus promises the good thief: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23: 43). St Ambrose observes: "He prayed that the Lord would remember him when he reached his Kingdom, but the Lord responded: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. Life is being with Christ, because where Christ is, there is his Kingdom" (Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke, 10, 121). The accusation: "This is the King of the Jews", written on a tablet nailed above Jesus' head thus becomes the proclamation of the truth. St Ambrose further notes: "The writing is correctly placed above the Cross, because even though the Lord Jesus was on the Cross, yet his royal majesty shone from the height of the Cross" (ibid., 10, 113).


The Crucifixion scene in the four Gospels constitutes the moment of truth when the "veil of the Temple" is torn and the Holy of Holies appears. The maximum revelation of God possible in this world occurs in Jesus Crucified, because God is love and the death of Jesus on the Cross is the greatest act of love in all of history. Well then, on the Cardinal's ring that I will consign in a few moments to the new members of the Sacred College is portrayed precisely the Crucifixion. This, dear new Cardinal-Brothers, will always be an invitation for you to remember of what King you are servants, on what throne he has been raised and how he has been faithful to the end in overcoming sin and death with the power of divine mercy. Mother Church, Spouse of Christ, gives you this symbol in memory of her Spouse, who loved her and gave himself up for her (cf. Ephesians 5: 25). Thus, wearing the Cardinal's ring, you are constantly called to give your life for the Church.


If we now cast a glance at the scene of the royal anointing of David presented in the First Reading, an important aspect on royalty strikes us, namely, its "corporative" dimension. The elders of Israel go to Hebron, they seal a covenantal pact with David, declaring to consider themselves united to him and wanting to be one only with him. If we relate Christ to this image, it seems to me that this same covenantal profession applies very well precisely to you, dear Cardinal-Brothers. You too who form the "senate" of the Church can say to Jesus: "Behold, we are your bone and flesh" (II Samuel 5: 1). We belong to you, and we want to be one only with you. You are the Shepherd of the People of God, you are the Head of the Church (cf. II Samuel 5: 2). In this solemn Eucharistic celebration we want to renew our pact with you, our friendship, because only in this intimate and profound relationship with you, Jesus, our King and Lord, does the dignity that has been conferred upon us and the responsibility it bears have sense and value.


There now remains for us to admire the third part of our "triptych" that the Word of God places before us: the Christological hymn of the Letter to the Colossians. First of all, we make the sentiments of joy and gratitude that pour forth from it our own, for the fact that the Kingdom of Christ, the "inheritance of the saints in light", is not only something seen from a distance but a reality in which we are called to partake, into which we have been "transferred", thanks to the redemptive action of the Son of God (cf. Colossians 1: 12-14). This graced action opens St Paul's soul to the contemplation of Christ and his ministry in its two principal dimensions: the creation of all things and their reconciliation. The first aspect of Christ's Lordship consists in the fact that "all things were created through him and for him... in him all things hold together" (Col 1: 16-17). The second dimension centres on the Paschal Mystery: through the Son's death on the Cross, God has reconciled every creature to himself, has made peace between Heaven and earth; raising him from the dead he has made him the firstborn of the new creation, the "fullness" of every reality and "head of the [mystical] body", the Church (cf. Col 1: 18-20). We find ourselves again before the Cross, the central event of the mystery of Christ. In the Pauline vision the Cross is placed within the entire economy of salvation, where Jesus' royalty is displayed in all its cosmic fullness.




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