This weekend marks the end of the Church year as we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Just why does the church year end with this feast? Pope Francis and Pope Benedict before him provide us with helpful answers. Pope Benedict writes that, more than any formulation of doctrine or moral code, our faith in God is built on an event and a person.

Pope Francis regularly echoes this truth as he invites us to enter more closely into relationship with the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus walks with us in both difficulty and success; Jesus is the anchor of all we are and all we strive to become as persons of faith and hope, persons of service and love. The truth is that all the personal and family and political realities of our world really do hold together in Christ Jesus. As St. Paul reminds us today: Whether Jew or Greek, male or female, from east or west, you and I are truly made in God’s image. All those faith-filled family members and friends, those mentors and models and total strangers down through history remind us that God’s reign is surely all-inclusive.

Luke’s gospel on this feast of Jesus, the Messiah King, turns royal ideology on its head. As he comes before us nailed to the cross, the official inscription says that Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews. Suddenly one of the criminals crucified with Jesus joins the mockery while the other thief defends Christ’s innocence and speaks to him directly.

This “good thief” simply calls out: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This is a startling act of faith. And Jesus’ response goes beyond the criminal’s wildest dreams: “I assure you: today you will be with me in paradise.”

Don’t you and I hope and pray to hear those same life-giving words whenever we approach the other side of life? Between that ultimate moment and our lives today, we continue to find ways to let the presence and action of Jesus come alive in our daily living. We also celebrate the possibility that the values of the gospel WILL make a difference for our family and neighborhood, indeed for all the nations of the world. Let us celebrate! Let us give thanks!

As this year of faith comes to an end, how can I trace God’s presence in my personal life and family history? How has God’s powerful grace made an impact in my heart? And how have I shared that impact with those I live with, work with, meet on the streets? And for the future..??

—The Jesuit Prayer Team