In celebrating the Feast of Christ the King, we proclaim his victory over death "with the sole power of love," Pope Francis said, but cautioned that it would mean "very little" if we believed Jesus was King of the universe, but didn't "make him Lord of our lives."
He pointed to three different figures in the Gospel representing the different attitudes we can have: naming them as the people who are looking on, those near the cross, and the criminal crucified next to Jesus.
Those who stood by and merely watched as Jesus was crucified without saying a word were the same ones who pressed "in on Jesus when they needed something, and who now keep their distance."
Francis said that we too can keep our distance, preferring "to remain at the window, to stand apart, rather than draw near and be with him." However, a people who are holy and "have Jesus as their King, are called to follow his way of tangible love."
Pointing to the second group, which included leaders, soldiers and a criminal, the Pope noted how they "all mock Jesus. They provoke him in the same way: 'Save yourself!'"
This temptation, he said, "is worse than that of the people. They tempt Jesus, just as the devil did at the beginning of the Gospel to give up reigning as God wills, and instead to reign according to the world's ways," preferring to save himself over others.
"It is the most terrible temptation, the first and the last of the Gospel," he said, but noted that when faced with this attack, "Jesus does not speak, he does not react. He does not defend himself."
Rather, the Lord "continues rather to love; he forgives, he lives this moment of trial according to the Father's will, certain that love will bear fruit."
The Pope stressed that we are called to "struggle against this temptation" and fix our eyes on the Crucified Jesus, becoming "ever more faithful to him."
"The lure of power and success seem an easy, quick way to spread the Gospel; we soon forget how the Kingdom of God works," he said, but said the Jubilee of Mercy directs our focus to what's essential.
Turning to the third figure, the thief who begs Jesus to remember him, Pope Francis said this person in "simply looking at Jesus, believed in his kingdom."
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Instead of being "closed in on himself," the man, despite his sins and errors, "turned to Jesus. He asked to be remembered, and he experienced God's mercy."
"As soon as we give God the chance, he remembers us. He is ready to completely and forever cancel our sin," Francis said, explaining that unlike our own, God's memory "does not record evil that has been done or keep score of injustices experienced."
"God has no memory of sin, but only of us, of each of us, we who are his beloved children. And he believes that it is always possible to start anew, to raise ourselves up."
Pope Francis encouraged pilgrims to pray for the grace to never close the doors "of reconciliation and pardon," explaining that just God believes in us beyond any of our own merits, "so too we are called to instill hope and provide opportunities to others."
"Even if the Holy Door closes, the true door of mercy which is the heart of Christ always remains open wide for us," he said noting that it is from "the lacerated side of the Risen One" that mercy, consolation and hope flow until the end of time.
He offered thanks for the many pilgrims who during the Jubilee crossed the Holy Door away from "the clamor" of daily news and tasted the "great goodness" of the Lord, and asked Mary to intercede for us as the Holy Year comes to an end.