Reflections on the Readings
The Solemnity of Christ the King
November 21, 2010 - Year C
By Dennis S. Hankins
And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
The rulers scoffed him. Soldiers mocked him. And one of the criminals railed at him. Yet since Calvary, the cross is a sign of victory; an invitation to return to Paradise.
Because of disobedience, Adam and Eve had to leave Paradise; a place of divine fellowship with the King of Creation. Something other than the joy of the Lord had captured the hearts of our first parents. Adam and Eve were escorted beyond the entrance to the Garden of Paradise, until he who is the way, the truth and the life, could lead us back to Paradise.
Perhaps Adam paused for just a moment. Looking in front of him into a world he did not know, maybe he looked back into the fading scenes of Paradise. With tears running down his cheeks, I can hear him praying, "Remember me." Did he hear any response to his prayer? Maybe he is the first to hear the promise, "I will never leave you; I will never forsake you."
Throughout the history of Israel is their prayer that God would not forget his people. Hearing their prayer, God visited his people held in bondage in Egypt. While they wandered throughout the desert, sometimes marching as to Zion, sometimes just clogging around in a circle, they pled for God to arouse his memory and come to their aid. The prophets would prick the conscience of the chosen people, and they would pray again, "Look not on our sin, but remember, remember your vine you brought up out of Egypt and planted in the land of promise."
Many expected the Messiah to come with pomp and circumstance. Instead, he came through the humble and holy womb of the Virgin Mary. At about age twelve, he announced that he must do the Father's will. How was that? "I must be about my Father's business," he said. For three years or so, he healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead, and ate with sinners. At about age 33, he rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey; Jesus, the lamb of God, was coming to take away the sins of the world.
Many may think the cross is a sign of defeat and ignominy. Just the opposite is the case. In the cross God say's to you and to me, "I remember." The cross reminds us that never once did the Almighty forget the crowning work of his creation. In the cross, the thief finds, as do all the sons and daughters of Adam, the way to Paradise.
Recently I wrote about the horrific nightmare of death unleashed against the Syrian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Deliverance, in Baghdad. This unmitigated tragedy occurred on Sunday, October 31, 2010. When the parishioners of Our Lady of Deliverance in Baghdad returned to their parish, they did so with heavy but forgiving hearts. One parishioner said, "We forgive them. They gave us blood, and we give them forgiveness." Only those who are no longer under the power of darkness have this kind of heart. This parish is walking as we must all walk, as citizens of the kingdom of the Father's beloved Son. It is in Christ alone we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins; the power to be forgiving.
The returning worshippers did something extraordinary. With their lighted candles they made a cross through the nave of the Church and along the axis at the altar. In this very place, those who had died had met the Lord in the Holy Eucharist; that holy meal which we eat in remembrance of Jesus. It is at this table we learn that the power of reconciliation is in Christ alone. By the blood of his cross, Christ has restored peace between us and God. In the blood of the martyrs, we are reminded there is yet to be peace on earth.
Sixty of our brothers and sisters perished within this house of prayer; martyred because they were Christians. The church was filled with pock holes from the gunfire and the walls were stained with the bloody palm prints of those who were slain. Many of those who died no doubt prayed with their last breath, "Remember me." And the King of Martyrs, who himself was slain for their redemption surely said, "Today you will be with me in Paradise."