Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday word, 24 Nov 2013

Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe C (24 November 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus exceeds expectations of a monarch. Most startling is this: his cross is his throne. In Luke’s gospel the death of Jesus echoes earlier portrayals of Jesus in it, especially Jesus as Prophet and Jesus as Savior. His death unfolded as Jesus had told his Twelve Apostles as they journeyed to Jerusalem. Less than 20 miles from it he said, “We are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles and; he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon.”1 In those days Prophet Jesus remained in control though to human sight he controlled nothing.

Savior Jesus dazzled despite accusations, mocking and at a plea of faith. Accusations: The rulers ...sneered at him...,“He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” Of course, we faithful hearers and readers of the gospel know faith saved Jesus no less than it saved those Jesus healed from demons, infirmities and exclusion from the people of Abraham. Mocking: Even the soldiers jeered at him. They parroted the accusation hung atop his cross, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” No prisoner of self-concern, Jesus forgave them.

The criminals saw Jesus in two ways. One was desperate, the other captured by faith. We see Jesus as they did. We hope to see him more as one did. The desperate one wanted Jesus to save himself so Jesus would save him. The other criminal gasped to the desperate one that both were under the same condemnation. Condemnation is a bleak translation of the Greek word that can mean sentence or judgment.2 The three were under the sentence of death by crucifixion. Their ultimate judge was God. God is ultimate judge of all humans.

Even under contemporary state-sponsored executions, legal though immoral, the ultimate judge of all receives at least a whisper of recognition: chaplains are allowed to be with those who accept them. No one knows how many guilty criminals faith has saved! We do know faith saved Jesus: “Father, if you are willing, take this cupfrom me. Yet not my will but yours be done.”3 God raised him from death to save more than the “good thief,” as tradition honors him. Remain with the gasping “good thief” to notice two graced efforts: evangelizing is one; praying is the other.

To honor God with reverent wonder is ever fitting. The second criminal scolded but did not revile the first criminal; he evangelized him: In the time we have left honor God the creator, judge and lord of all. The good thief evangelized as did so many in the gospel and many more after Jesus’ resurrection.4

Also the second criminal was, as I put it, captured by faith. Faith wraps all who are open to it in its saving robe. Faith voices intimate exchanges. We name faith’s voice prayer. Praying unites us with Jesus. Flanking Jesus in excruciating agony, the second criminal spoke intimately with Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He did not address  Jesus as Teacher, Lord or Master. Did he know to whom he spoke? His awareness exceeded human knowing for he was captured by faith. Angels and demons used Jesus’ personal name; they knew his identity. In the Third Gospel any who sought Jesus to heal them used his personal name.5 Their awareness exceeded human knowing. Jesus means, as you know, the Lord saves.6 He is our Prophet and our Savior. Jesus is our Lord, God’s Messiah. Jesus is no worldly monarch.

Can the evangelizing “good thief” crucified with Jesus help us live day to day? He can. He moves us to consider: Do we allow ourselves to be captured by faith? Do we converse intimately with Jesus? Do we regularly pause to ponder how un-likely people and unlikely moments may evangelize us to live our Messiah Jesuskingdom? As Prophet our Messiah Jesus invites us to live by the code of his kingdom. As Savior our Messiah Jesus protects us with his risen life and leads us by his faith. He leads as our companion. Messiah Jesus accompanies us now until he wel-comes each of us into his kingdom. The Year of Faith has ended yet living our faith begins each day. Messiah Jesus accompanies us as we campaign for all to enjoy his justice and faith. To campaign for both lives Jesus’ evangelizing way.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to feel the Trinity embrace you.
  • Ask the criminal, who spoke intimately with Jesus, to present you to him.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise your Messiah, Lord and Savior. Thank him for accompanying you even when you are not aware of him with you.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to be captured by his faith, the faith of his body, the church, so you may live anew.
  • Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, thy kingdom come, on our lips echo the intimate conversation of Jesus and the evangelizing “good thief” crucified with him. To make a habit in personal prayer to say slowly the Lord’s Prayer increases our intimacy with Jesus and with others as day to day we live his ever-dawning kingdom.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Luke 18.31-32.
  2. See Thayer’s Lexicon.
  3. Luke 22.42.
  4. These others populate the rest of Luke’s gospel and his second volume, his Acts of the Apostles.
  5. For angel Gabriel, see Luke 1.31; for demons, see 4.34 and 8.28; for people begging for Jesus to heal them, see 17.13; 18.38.
  6. Yeshua (= Joshua) is how Jesus was known. Jesus is from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Yeshua.


Wiki-image of what Jesus saw from his cross public domain in the U.S. Image of CCHD © United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The 2013 national collection is this weekend.

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