“Jesus replied to him: ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'” Luke 23:35-43.
The feast of Christ the King completes the liturgical year, and with ceremonies both in Rome and here in Monterey, we conclude the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This was an extraordinary moment of grace, healing, and forgiveness for so many.
November is dedicated to all those saints and souls that have brought us to the life of faith. Today as we listen to Luke’s gospel, Jesus, on the cross, invites the repentant thief to his “invisible kingdom of the heart,” that place of comfort and reward for having received his forgiveness.
Christ the King is a relatively new feast day for the Church, placed on the liturgical calendar in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. This festive day had as its purpose the healing of Europe after World War I. Jesus Christ, the King, is the sovereign of our souls.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus tells Dismas: “You will be with me in Paradise.” Of course, the story of Jesus does not stop at the cross; instead, resurrection and new life give to all those seeking mercy, and eternal life.
As you may know, we have the three-year reading cycles for most Sundays in the liturgical year. So today, we read from Luke about the repentant thief, whereas, in Matthew’s gospel, we hear the passage: “Come, blest of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”
Or last year, when we heard John’s gospel and listened to the most dramatic encounter with Jesus and Pontius Pilate, who asks: “So your kingdom is not of this world?”
The gospels for Christ the King Sunday, deal with the transfer of power from a political realm or physical places, such as the Roman Empire or the Jewish temple, to the personal, spiritual power of Jesus. He is the new temple, and His Kingdom is not here, rather an “invisible kingdom of the heart.”
This is where we are called to exercise the powers of faith, hope, love, mercy, forgiveness, and tenderness – these qualities genuinely change the fabric of life and prepare us for this coming Kingdom.
Jesus as teacher, healer, and preacher reminds us that this Kingdom is among us, within us, and within our grasp. In Jesus, God uses his good people to help establish this “kingdom of the heart.”
Well, this may sound all too peaceful. Doesn’t it? Yet we know that conflicts resound in our country and around the world.
Here are two recent examples.
For me, the image of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh of Aleppo, and that press photo of him is a painful reminder of the cruelty of a world at war. Here the lad patiently waited in the ambulance for his parents and brother to be dug out of the rubble of their apartment house. Sadly, the brother, like so many others, did not survive the bombing.
Let me provide a second example. After our recent presidential election, Kent and Mina, friends of mine whose marriage I had performed, told me that they had to calm their eight-year-old son. His friends in school were fearful of their parents’ security because of their fragile immigration status.
In both instances, we cannot wrap our children in Saran Wrap, and it is difficult to shelter children from our own genuine concerns. As you know, youngsters are like sponges and can pick up our very adult anxieties. Reason enough to be more temperate, and perhaps be a role model for our own civic participation in elections and social causes.
But as Christians, we are called to honor the dignity of people, and see Christ as our King, and the real sovereign of souls.
A dignity that, above all, looks at these conflicts and challenges with the healing powers of Christ — respecting people their children and honor their contribution to our country, even in trying times.
We pray for national healing, as we come to the celebration of Thanksgiving this week.
In April of 2015 in his announcement of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis in “The Face of Mercy,” explains how the Holy Year was a time for Catholics to contemplate just how merciful God has been to us and to understand how we are called to be compassionate to others.
At the time, Pope Francis wrote:
“How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy so that we can go out to every man and woman — bringing the goodness and tenderness of God. May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in the world.”
Let all of us resolve this Thanksgiving 2016, as we gather with our loved ones, our closest family and friends that the work of the Kingdom that is accomplished in our own lives may extend to the “yet to come” and the “invisible kingdom of the heart” may reside in the lives of people everywhere.
Our Lady of Refuge, Castroville, CA.