This solemnity was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quas Primas. The day was originally called the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the king. In 1969, Blessed Pope Paul VI in the motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis revised the title as "Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe."
Priests in the Catholic Church wear white or golden color vestments to show the glory and joy behind the celebration. Other Christian bodies such as the Protestant and Orthodox adopted the day and have their own ways of celebrating it. All those Baptized share in this Kingship of Christ (CCC 1241). This day which always falls on a Sunday is the last Sunday of the Liturgical calendar. The Sunday that follows is the First Sunday of Advent which starts a new Liturgical Year. This is a reminder that Christ is the Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end (Revelation 21:6). Jesus ends the Liturgical calendar and begins it. He was at the beginning of time and will judge all at the end of it as we will read in the Gospel at Mass.
In the first reading, we read of David being anointed the king of Israel. This reading is significant because it shows the royal lineage of Christ who is a descendant of David. Christ is king, not just any king, but THE KING. He rules the entire universe. As with any king, Jesus had royal blood in His veins being a descendant of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Matthew 1:1–17). This is why the book of Matthew was written for the Jews, per se. The Gospel begins showing the genealogy of Jesus linking Him to David. He is the "king of the Jews." Unfortunately, many of the Jews in His time did not accept Him as their king and even mocked Him (Psalm 22:7-9, Matthew 27:29, Luke 23:37, Mark 15:18, John 19:3). When we sin, we do the same. We forget that the Lord is our king and disrespect Him with our bad thoughts and actions. This is why we must seek His mercyso that we can go rejoicing to the house of the Lord as the responsorial Psalm today tells us. Today ends the Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy. Our Holy Father Pope Francis ushered this year hoping the Church will recall mercy; mercy from God and showing mercy to one another.
Too many times, we get caught up in our faith and may forget to be charitable to others. We may receive the Sacraments and then live life thinking everyone else is a heathen. We look at lukewarm Catholics as horrible, Protestants as heretics, gays and women who support abortion as evil; the list goes on and on. This is wrong. We must remember the log in our eyes before we pinpoint the speck in the eyes of others (Matthew 7:5). We all sin (Romans 3:23). Only Jesus and Mary were free of sin. While we are free to admonish the sinner, this does not mean we are free to judge others (Colossians 3:16, Matthew 7:1-3). The "job" of judging belongs to Christ alone (1 Peter 4:5, 2 Timothy 4:1). Hopefully this Year of Mercy has reminded us of asking God for mercy and being merciful towards others. We must remind ourselves that we were "made fit" to share in the inheritance of God's kingdom, as the second reading tells us. Christ delivered us from the power of darkness through the sacrifice on the Cross. He transffered us to His kingdom, we are now sons and daughters of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5-15, Galatians 5:1). We must act like and son and daughter of God and not live double lives with one foot in the things of this world and one in the things of God (Matthew 6:24). All of the universe is Christ's footstool, we need not attach ourselves to the things of this world. We must learn to love another and forgive one another.
God will be watching us and how we treat one another. We must be humble like the "good thief" who asked Christ to remember Him. God remembers those who are humble, contrite and loving ( Psalm 106:4-5). Today's Gospel not only reminds us that Christ is king, but that He is merciful. As Jesus was on the Cross, the people mocked Him. They called Him the King of the Jews and even placed a superscription with the latin INRI (Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews) acronym. The people there were clearly wicked, yet Christ suffered and died for them as well (John 3:16). With Him were two men who were criminals. One did not care about life nor God and mocked Christ while the other made mistakes in life and was contrite. This one rebuked the criminal mocking Christ and asked Christ to remember Him when He enters paradise. Jesus did not say to him, "Ok, I will remember you;" rather, he said that the criminals would JOIN HIM in paradise. This is an awesome witness to Christ's Divine Mercy and an appropriate Gospel to end the Holy Year of Mercy with. God is merciful. A lasped Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Atheist etc may have lived life without caring for the truth or holiness, but at the deathbed, they can resort to God's mercy and be saved. This is because God is merciful and love (Psalm 145:8, Psalm 106:4-5). Here is what some of our saints had to say on Christ's majesty and mercy:
St. Jerome - That flaming, flashing sword was keeping Paradise safe. No one could open the gates that Christ closed. The thief was the first to enter with Christ. His great faith received the greatest of rewards. His faith in the kingdom did not depend on seeing Christ. He did not see him in his radiant glory or behold him looking down from heaven. He did not see the angels serving him. To put it plainly, he certainly did not see Christ walking about in freedom, but on a gibbet, drinking vinegar and crowned with thorns. He saw him fastened to the cross and heard him begging for help, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" …
The cross of Christ is the key to paradise. The cross of Christ opened it. Has he not said to you, "The kingdom of heaven has been enduring violent assault, and the violent have been seizing it by force"? Does not the One on the cross cause the violence? There is nothing between the cross and paradise. The greatest of pains produces the greatest of rewards. ("On Lazarus and Dives," quoted in Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 366-367.)
St. Ephrem the Syrian - One robber said, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us with you!" The Lord however did not take him down from the cross as he asked, in order to exalt the other robber on the right of the cross and who was believing in the crucified Savior. It would have been easy for him to use a miracle to conquer anyone as a disciple. He produced a more powerful miracle when he forced the scoffer of truth to adore him. That is why the apostle said, "That which is the weakness of God is stronger than human beings." He submitted all peoples to the weakness of the cross.
Stretch out your arms toward the cross, so that the crucified Lord may stretch out his arms toward you. The one who does not stretch out his hand toward the cross cannot approach his table either. He will deprive of his table the guests who should have come to him hungry but instead came full. Do not fill yourself before going to the table of the Son. He might then make you leave the table while you are still hungry. ("Commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron, 20.23," quoted in Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 363.)
St. Ambrose - The superscription is written and placed above, not below the cross, because the government is upon his shoulders. What is this government if not his eternal power and Godhead? When asked, "Who are you?" he replied, "The beginning, who also speaks to you." Let us read this superscription. "Jesus of Nazareth," it says, "The King of the Jews."
The superscription is fittingly above the cross because Christ's kingdom does not belong to his human body but to his divine authority. The superscription is fittingly above the cross, because although the Lord Jesus was on the cross, he shines above the cross with the majesty of a king. ("Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 10.112-13," quoted in Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 363.)
St. Pope John Paul II - The Good Thief crucified with Jesus came in some way to the heart of this truth. Indeed, in a certain sense he became a prophet of this eternal Kingdom when, hanging on the cross, he said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). Christ said in reply: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43)... In the second reading the Apostle Paul explains the nature of the kingdom of which Jesus speaks. He writes to the Colossians: we must give thanks to God who “has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (1:13-14). It is precisely this forgiveness of sins which the good thief inherited on Calvary. He was the first to experience the fact that Christ is King, because he is the Redeemer. (SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR OCEANIA OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS. EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION. HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II. Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. 22 November 1998. https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/1998/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_22111998.html)
Let us always be loving and merciful. The Year of Mercy is every year, not just 2015-16. We must be merciful to others and ask God to remember us and have mercy like the good thief did. May Christ the King reign in the hearts of all men, women and children!