34th Sunday Ordinary Time November 21st 2010 Solemnity of Christ The King Reflections

All the Scripture readings for this Sunday's Mass are here.
Advent is about the two comings of Christ, in Bethlehem and at the end of time. 
The readings last week and this Sunday,The Feast of Christ the King,  prepare for Advent by speaking about the Second Coming and the end of the world.

The Psalm 122 

Artwork left Psalm 122 from here
Artwork below New Jerusalem by Kandinsky from here.

 Responsorial Psalm

Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,

"We will go up to the house of the LORD."

And now we have set foot

within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.

To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.

According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.

In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

The Gospel :  Luke 23 : 35- 43

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
"He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God."
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
"If you are King of the Jews, save yourself."
Above him there was an inscription that read,
"This is the King of the Jews."
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
"Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us." 

The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
"Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,

for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal."
Then he said,
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He replied to him,
"Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise."

Reflections on the Gospel 

In the words from Lear :
"The weight of these sad times we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say."
The idea of Christ being a king  in this world can only have meaning for me if the whole concept of "kingship" takes on a new meaning.

I  have always found  the word "worship" and "king" alien to my idea of God.
Jesus said to his disciples that he would not call them servants. 

Instead He washed their feet and taught them about reconciliation, peace and love. That is the only way.
Jesus always made it clear that His kingdom, is 'not of this world'. 

Why ‘the good thief’ believed that Jesus was innocent  when the bad thief clearly didn't is something I have often wondered about.Somehow the "good "thief was moved to remorse and had courage to ask for forgiveness. In the intimacy of death the good thief was able to change. 
There is a saying that a person who has spent so long in the dark can't bear the light maybe applies to the "bad thief".

If we are honest  most of us probably can relate more to the words of the bad thief as I have often thought or said the words "If you are God then for Christ's sake do something here ....!!

In skeptical mode just like the "bad thief ",  sometimes all I can see on the cross is the endless suffering shame and guilt.  The cross and its message seem so utterly repulsive and  the love of God displayed on the cross does not reach out to hold or embrace my doubts.

Somehow the death bed confession of a hardened criminal who after a life of crime suddenly sees the light and is promised heaven doesn't seem right.
It doesn't seem right that in the blink of an eye a person can change from a dying sinner into a dying saint but that is what it is  !!

Once again I have to take it on board tells me that getting into heaven is not about earning my place, and it is only then that I realise that the cross is about forgiveness and God's overwhelming love for this world and for each of us.The writer to the Hebrews confirms what it is all about : 

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

At The MockingBird blog JDK wisely explains well what it means to have the faith of the "good thief":

"These simple words of Jesus to the “good thief,” (St. Dismas ) are a perfect example of how the relative silence of the Gospels forces people to “fill in the blanks.” In this instance, we have Jesus, evidently, pronouncing salvation to this man who we know nothing about, save that he is being crucified. 

People have tried to blunt this picture of pure, unadulterated Grace by speculating that this man, were he to have lived, may have warranted eternal life, or perhaps he was being crucified as a political criminal. 
The tradition has attempted to answer this question in a variety of ways, 
but they all end up as mere pious speculation, at best, because his request is all we have.  
“And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 

In the past year as the horrific tales of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church have unravelled I and many others have questioned why we remain Catholic.

I put this powerful passage by one of my favourite writers Ronald Rolheiser on some of my posts at this time, and it was picked up and started to appear on many blogs.

"To be a member of the church," he wrote, "is to carry the mantle of both the worst sin and the finest heroism of soul .... because the church always looks exactly as it looked at the original crucifixion, God hung among thieves."

To be a part of the body of Christ is to be with him on the cross.

Paul Snatchko wrote about the situation of child abuse in the Catholic Church......

" Men called to holiness can be guilty of appalling sins. Sins of abuse. Sins of neglect. Sins of dishonesty. Sins of betrayal.

And all we can do sometimes is echo the words of the one thief,  "Jesus, remember me." 

That moment is the only one in any of the gospels where someone calls Jesus by his given name. 

Painting above by Fra Angelico
Maybe it is because it is at this moment - the hour of his death -- that we can recognise Jesus and his broken humanity , that he is most like us.

He hangs there, stripped, beaten, betrayed. He hangs among thieves. 

This is what we have done to our God. And this is what we continue to do, even today.

And in our own brokenness, and sinfulness, we ask that he remember us. 

We pray that we may be better than we are, and receive better than we deserve. We pray that we, who often deserve to be forgotten, may be remembered. ...


The two criminals pose two scenarios for each of us to consider in our own life. The good thief took  responsibility for a wrong-doing and was willing to suffer the consequences of it. 

In his admission and remorse, he did not even ask for forgiveness he just asked to be remembered by Jesus and for that he was promised paradise.
In the other thief, there is no sense of wrongdoing, just a demand for an easy way out. 

The only thing that distinguished the two thieves was that the good thief had the courage to acknowledge his sin.

The good thief was made a saint called Dismas,
the man in whose honour many  prison chapels are named.

Jesus is seen in his reaching out to this lost and utterly destitute man.

The kingdom of God that Dismas was told he would go to with Christ after they died was one of  peace and compassion ,not an earthly one which could be fought over in war and violence. 

Dismas is the inspiration and the hope of every one of us;  a reminder that God may give us the grace of a good confession and the grace of a happy death. 
No prayer goes unanswered. 

The longing of the good thief is the longing to be remembered not for the bad things he had been condemned to death for but for the good things he had done in his life.

When I become hardened and feel I am immune to the words of Christ please remind me that when I can admit my faults and ask forgiveness then Christ may one day say to me, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise."
  Left St. Dismas -The Good Thief  

Remember me Jesus.
Just as I am, how I am and where I am

Give me a resurrection hope
a hope beyond all hope

so that I may share it with others when we are  despondent and filled with doubt.

Painting above James Tissot  
Soul of Good Thief Carried to Paradise

 Further reflections worth a read from here.

To finish, here is the wonderfully simple Taize Chant, Jesus Remember Me  in a video reflection that underscores a meditation on the face of Christ, his suffering, death and resurrection. Music by St. Thomas Music Group, Woodford Green, under the direction of Margaret Rizza. 


claire said...

What an absolutely fantastic post, Phil! So rich, with so much to ponder! What a treat! What a feast! thank you.

Philomena Ewing said...

Welcome Claire,

Thank you thank you !!

The kingship and worship stuff is a real stumbling block for me. They are words that I just can't relate to.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Phil - beautiful post. It's stories like these from Scripture that are filled with hope for all of us. They also remind us that 'My ways are not your ways'. Who can figure this out? Surely not I, but I do know that I am most grateful for the mercy extended and the loved freely offered.