Lectio Divina: 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
By Monsignor Francesco Follo
PARIS, November 22, 2013 (Zenit.org) – 1) The most important thing is not to be like Jesus but, like the good thief, to be with Jesus.
In his life on Earth Jesus ruled and supported his disciples by saying words of truth, doing charitable deeds, serving them up to the point of washing their feet and showing his infinite love sitting on the throne of the cross after having received the crown of thorns by Pontius Pilate. In doing so Jesus answers the call to guide God’s people and to be a leader (see 1st reading of today’s Roman liturgy). His royalty has a divine origin and the supremacy over all, because in him the Father has put the fullness of all things (2nd reading). However, the Gospel of Luke presents Jesus’ royalty telling us about the humanly shocking investiture on the cross as king of the Jews. Two pieces of wood are the paradoxical throne of the Lord of peace and unity, who –let’s not forget it- had as a crib a manger in a poor stable where he was honored as man, as God and as King by the shepherds and the Magi. (Myrrh for humanity, incense for divinity and gold for royalty).
Let’s not forget that if Christ the King goes on the cross, it is not to perform a show of humility, but to reveal God’s passionate love for us. His passion is not so much the scourging followed by spit and nails, as his heart that is the all and only “passionate” love for each one of us. The Cross is the rigorous and necessary conclusion of the Speech on the Mountain.
The one who carries Love is at the mercy of hate. You do not win hate unless you accept to be sentenced and eventually forgive. The one who is Love forgives and says:“Father forgive them ’cause they do not know what they do”.
I think that when the thief on a cross beside the Cross/ Throne of Christ heard this declaration of love, he was so distraught that he converted and asked Christ to remember him. We could consider him the last person converted by Christ in his life on Earth.
The prayer of forgiveness was so new to the thief that he felt called to feelings very foreign to his nature and his life. The intercession of forgiveness took the “good’ thief back to the most forgotten time of his infancy when he too was innocent and knew that there is a God to whom he could ask for peace in the same way the poor asks for a piece of bread at the door of the master. He could not remember a place where he had heard a similar request of forgiveness that is extraordinary and absurd in the words of someone on the point of dying. However, those incredible words found in the arid heart of the thief a connection with something believable, above all when he was going to appear in front of a Judge much more severe to the ones of the court.
He remembered what he had heard about Jesus, only few things and above all quite obscure. He knew however that He had spoken of a Kingdom of peace where He would have gone as a king. Then in an impulse of faith as if he was calling upon the commonality between the blood on his criminal hands and the one of the hands of an innocent, he cried out ”Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus, who had not answered the ones that were calling him at the foot of the Cross, in his mercy turned his head towards the thief and said “Amen, I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise”. The humble request of the thief was enough to obtain absolution.
This man saved himself because he transformed the conviction on the cross into an act of mercy. He was with Christ and Christ immediately (today, He said) welcomed him in his mercy.
2) The continuation of the loving life of the Cross
If the Church and the disciple want to celebrate the royalty of the Master, they must retrace the path of the Cross.
Jesus is a king innocently condemned. To men’s eyes this seems a joke of a royalty. They are accustomed to different kings and to different manifestations of royalty. This concept had been already explained by Jesus “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’; but among you it shall not be so. I am among you as the one who serves.”(Lk 22: 25-27). There a drastic difference between the royalty of the world and the one of God, between the manifestations of the first one and those of the second one. The scene of the crucifixion in today’s Gospel collects the causes and takes them to completion. First of all the royalty of Christ is asserted. Saint Luke uses an emphatic construction “This is the king of the Jews” (verse 38). It is the motivation of the conviction that, in the chiefs’ mind, should mean the end of the absurd pretense of Jesus. On the contrary it becomes the unconscious confirmation that precisely there, on the Cross, the royalty of Christ is manifested in its entire splendor.
Jesus dies between two convicts (in his entire life he has been accused to be among sinners). One of them doesn’t understand because he – like all of us – knows only the mundane value of royalty (“Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us”), but the other thief sees behind the weakness of the Cross the power of love “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”.
The main reason is clear: Christ’s royalty shines in the stubbornness of love and in the refusal of the power to save itself and to shrink from contradiction.
This is what is inconceivable: Jesus doesn’t use his divine power to save himself and to avoid the complete donation of himself to push the ones who reject him to recognize their faults. Jesus abandons himself totally to the apparent weakness of non-violence and love.
In conclusion, Jesus’ royalty is linked to the Cross. However, also those aspects that we call splendor, glory, victory and power are present. In fact the Crucifix is resurrected and the Son of God will come back in the majesty of his glory. It is the glory of love and the triumph of the way of the Cross. The resurrection and the coming back of Christ are the revelation of the splendor and of the victorious strength that are hidden in the way of the Cross. It is under this perspective that we should understand the statement of Saint Luke that the Christ, crucified and resurrected, reigns already today.
3) Spouses of Christ, the crucified King.
It is worthy indeed to follow such a king and to answer to the spousal vocation that makes the person a redeemer by carrying together with Him the weight of the world. To God’s affirmation “Do not be afraid because I’m with you and I love you” (Is 43, 45) the most natural answer is: ”yes.”
We find example and testimony of this in the Consecrated Virgins, who celebrate a mystic marriage with Christ Jesus the Son of God and are dedicated to the service of the Church (Canon #604 of the Canonic Law). In the Rite of the consecration of the Virgins the candidate is asked “Are you resolved to accept solemn consecration as a bride of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God?” And in the prayer of consecration the Bishop says “Keep her vigilant and on her guard; may nothing tarnish the glory of perfect virginity, or the vocation of purity which is shared by those who are married.” Than he prays “Be her comfort in sorrow, her wisdom in perplexity, her protection on the midst of injustice, her patience in adversity, her riches in poverty, her food in fasting, her remedy in time of sickness. She has chosen you above all things: may she find all things in possessing you.” Then he gives her the ring and the book of the Hours and says “Receive the ring that marks you as a bride of Christ. Keep unstained your fidelity to your Bridegroom, that you may one day be admitted to the wedding feast of everlasting joy. Receive the book of the liturgy of the hours, the prayer of the Church; may the praise of our heavenly Father be always on your lips; pray without ceasing for the salvation of the whole world.”
Let’s not forget that we all are chosen before the foundation of the world (see Eph 1:4) so that we rule with Him “for the praise of his glory” (Eph 1; 12). To every one of us he says “and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine” (Jh 17:10), and we pray “Thy kingdom come” in our heart, in our mind and in our will to hold, with Christ, the world that desires to rise.
As sons and daughters of the King let’s then pray: ”Thy kingdom come”, that is” May your power of love, Lord, save the world”.
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