22 Nov Thirty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 20, 2016
Father Shawn Hughes
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.
God bless you.
As we come to the final few hours of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy it is good for us to reflect on What Mercy is. Throughout this Jubilee of Mercy we have been reading from the Gospel of Luke and we have a particularly tender image of God’s mercy in today’s gospel.
In Luke’s Gospel we see that:
Mercy is when the Glory of God meets our suffering. When we choose to unite our suffering to the Cross, our suffering meets the Glory of God. We call this kind of mercy HEALING. Physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual healing
Mercy is when the Glory of God meets our struggles. When we choose to unite our struggles, our daily crosses, to the Glory of God, we call this kind of mercy, STRENGTH, PERSEVERANCE, ENDURANCE.
Mercy is when the Glory of God meets our sins. When we choose to unite our sins to the Glory of God, we call this kind of mercy, Forgiveness, Reconciliation.
God does not force us. He waits for us to choose to unite our suffering, our struggles, our sins to his Glory. We call this kind of patience, this kind of mercy: LOVE.
When the Glory of God meets our humanity, we call this…… Jesus.
We have one of the tenderest examples of God’s glory meeting sin in today’s Gospel.
Imagine, on the Solemnity of Christ the King, the gospel presents us with a king who hangs on a cross with two common thieves on either side. Jesus Christ our true King, is a king unlike any earthly rulers.
In today’s Gospel [23:35-43] the repentant sinner receives salvation through the crucified Jesus.
Jesus had repeatedly taught his disciples not to respond to violence with more violence and to be forgiving, so he forgives the very men who had condemned him and who drive the stakes into his body [23:34]. He forgives the criminal, hanging at his side, who confesses his sin and asks for mercy [23:39-43]. Here we see Luke’s prescription for authentic conversion, as we also saw exemplified in the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector [18:9-14] “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Authentic conversion, authentic following of Jesus Christ confesses sin and asks for mercy.
One of the criminals derided Jesus: “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” The other rebuked him, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And then received the reply we all hope one day to hear: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
However, the image of the dying Jesus is hardly a thing of kingship…listen to words used by Luke…words of abuse and humiliation: criminals, condemnation, crucifixion, nakedness, scoffing, mocking, taunting, deriding, reviling, sneering…hardly the stuff of kingship, and no crowns here except one of thorns. We are face to face with agony and grief, and a cacophony of insults instead of the songs and praise we would expect for a king.
Kingship, when God is involved, does not ask people to ignore the failures but embraces those experiences and redeems them.
When the Glory of God touches our faults, our failures, our struggles, our sins…we experience mercy.
Throughout Salvation History, God’s promise to the people was a king who is righteous, deals wisely, executes justice and righteousness in the land, and enables the people to live securely. In Jesus, God has fulfilled that promise.
In the story of Jesus, kingship is redefined. God shares the potential hopelessness of the human situation, but does so as king, as the source of our hope and life. That is what the criminal on the cross with Jesus in today’s Gospel scene [23:35-43] partly grasped. He asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. He was looking to a future reign, but Jesus handed out the royal pardon immediately.
Jesus’ kingdom is built on love, service, justice, reconciliation and peace.
As we contemplate Christ crucified, we understand something of why Christ has remained a king even up to modern times: he didn’t bow down. He never responded to violence with more violence. He forgave until the end.
The Church is the necessary vehicle, and privileged instrument for us to encounter Jesus Christ, to receive his life through the Sacraments, to hear his Word mediated through preaching and the interpretation of the Church, and to journey toward the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven, which lies ahead of us.
Jesus Christ is the only full Revelation of God and he is the Lord and Savior of all men and women.
On this great feast, let us remember that Jesus took his wounds to heaven, and there is a place in heaven for our wounds because our king bears his in glory. Often in the murkiness or darkness of our particular situations we need to cry out: “Where are you, God?” And today we are given the answer: God is hanging on a tree, in the broken body of Jesus- arms outstretched to embrace us, and gently asking us to climb up onto the cross with him, and look at the world from an entirely new perspective.
Or perhaps we need to cry out for mercy, asking that he not forget us in the New Jerusalem: “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
And from the depth of our own darkness and shadows, or maybe in the midst of our despair, we recognize the source of our hope and echo the words of Jesus, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
What a strange form of kingship Christ offers us today! May today’s feast force us to remember the appalling fact of our salvation. When all around us seems to be darkness, destruction, night, and even death, let us never forget that we are not alone. In our midst hangs the Crucified One, arms outstretched in loving mercy and welcome. May we have the courage to ask our benevolent king to remember us in his kingdom, and the peace to know that paradise is already in our midst even when every external sign indicates darkness and death. This is abundant life on the Royal Road of the Cross.
When we touch our faults, our failures, our struggles, our sins to the Glory of God…we experience His never ending loving mercy.