Sunday, November 24, 2019

+ Christ the King C +

Our naked King dying on the throne of the Cross is always before our eyes at every Eucharist—Body given, blood poured out for us—because of us and in our favor.

God forgives us every time we betray him, seeking to engage our freedom and to raise it to willing cooperation. God forgives us to make us capable of receiving his love and paying it forward, as others before us have done.

God will not give up on us and shows us what it means to be human. Victor Frankl, noted therapist and holocaust survivor:

Dostoevski said once, “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.”  The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity—even under the most difficult circumstances—to add a deeper meaning to life.

It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish.  Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal…this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.[1]

The thieves on either side remind us. I can jeer at God as a Trumpian loser, who cannot save himself, let alone me. Or I can take him, sinner that I am, for my King.

I begin by believing that in ways I cannot explain, my sufferings are a sharing in his and with him will bear fruit. Martin Luther King:

As my suffering mounted I soon realized that there were two ways that I could respond to my situation: either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force…If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeal as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains.  I have lived these last few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive.

In the last moments of his life, the Good Thief meets the One who is innocent and who murmurs in his last agony, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”

In this last moment, something new stirs—dignity, courage, compassion: “Have you no fear of God . . .We are only paying the price for what we have done, but this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you enter upon your reign.”

Whatever his past, this thief has become worthy of his suffering. From his throne, the Judge of the living and the dead begins to grant mercy and pardon: “This day you will be with me in paradise.”

This day with me: All through Luke’s gospel, Jesus has welcomed sinners and eaten with them. He always wanted those the world considered unclean to be included at the table of life.

With me in paradise: Paradise is a Persian word meaning “a walled garden”. Our thief has been chosen to walk with the King in his private garden in the cool of the evening, after following him on the narrow path.

Paradise is within us, in the walled garden of the redeemed human heart. May you and I be worthy of our sufferings.

[1]Man’s Search for Meaning.NY:Simon & Schuster, 1984. p. 75-6.



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