Jesus, Remember Me: A Thief Takes Paradise, the Reign of Christ the King
User’s Guide to Sunday, Nov. 24
Sunday, Nov. 24, is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Mass readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122:1-2; 3-4; 4-5; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43.
While the world has had its holiday decorations up for weeks, the Church rightly sets her calendar by the liturgy, which is just now closing out Ordinary Time with a triumphant Solemnity of the King of the Universe, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
We should be awed from the implications of this day: Over all of creation, Jesus Christ reigns, enthroned on high, for all of eternity. The war has been won. Death is defeated, and we have been delivered “from the power of darkness.” All is subject to Christ the King.
Not all may recognize yet “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11); but that is where we come in — to proclaim this truth and to seek to reconcile all things to him is how we will work out our own salvation.
This week’s Liturgy of the Word opens with the great warrior king of Israel, David. It’s been many tumultuous years since Samuel anointed the boy David, and now, finally, the elders come to make a covenant with David and anoint him as king over all Israel.
In the second reading, Paul paints a glorious picture of our reigning King, firstborn of all creation and the firstborn of the dead, who has won redemption and the forgiveness of our sins. This reconciliation came at a great price: “the blood of the cross.”
Which is where the Gospel takes us, to the terrible scene of Calvary, as Jesus is intentionally hung between two thieves as if to mock him further — and, unknowingly, his tormentors have created a dress rehearsal for the Final Judgment. Soonto-be beatified Fulton Sheen, in Life of Christ, paints the scene: “The Judge was in the center, and the two divisions of humanity on either side: the saved and the lost, the sheep and the goats. When He would come in glory to judge all men, the Cross would be with Him then, too, but as a badge of honor, not shame.”
One thief rejects the salvation that even now is his for the taking, which is tragic; because it is never too late, while we live, to take the mercy offered from the cross.
The penitent thief, in contrast, places his hope in that mercy and throws himself upon it like Saul on his sword: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” As Archbishop Sheen points out, a thief is the first to “steal” paradise. “It was the thief’s last prayer, perhaps even his first. He knocked once, sought once, asked once, dared everything and found everything. When even the disciples were doubting and only one was present at the Cross, the thief owned and acknowledged him as Savior.”
How stunning is this, that our Sovereign Lord Jesus, “the image of the invisible God,” ruler of the universe, would welcome a crucified thief to be the first to walk with him in paradise, as Adam had in the “cool of the day,” and that this same invitation is delivered to us in each Mass as his body is broken for us.
Remember us, Lord, when you come into your Kingdom.
coordinates adult faith formation at her parish in Phoenix,
where she lives with her husband and their six children.