In an unprecedented move, the Pope jump-started the Holy Year by opening the Holy Door in Bangui Nov. 29, 2015, – 10 days before the Holy Year officially began Dec. 8, 2015. Not only did it mark the first time a Pope had opened a Holy Door outside of Rome, but the act was also seen as a strong sign of solidarity with the war-torn country.
After closing the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica – the last one open in the world – the Pope processed to the square outside, where he celebrated Mass with the 70,000 pilgrims present, according to Vatican security.
In his homily, the Pope pointed to the day’s Gospel from Luke, in which Christ, “the Chosen One, the King” appears “without power or glory: he is on the cross, where he seems more to be conquered than conqueror.”
Jesus’ kingship, he said, “is paradoxical:” his crown is made of thorns, he has no scepter, no “luxurious clothing” or “shiny rings” on his fingers, but is instead pierced with nails and sold for 30 pieces of silver.
Francis noted that glory of God's kingdom “is not power as defined by this world, but the love of God, a love capable of encountering and healing all things.”
Christ “lowered himself to us out of this love, he lived our human misery, he suffered the lowest point of our human condition” of betrayal and abandonment. However, “he did not condemn us, nor did he conquer us, and he never disregarded our freedom,” but instead “paved the way with a humble love that forgives all things.”
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.”
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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.