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Podcast Reflections

Reflection on Luke 23.33-43 (Christ the King, Year C)

Listen to a reflection for the festival of Christ the King, the Sunday next before Advent, 20 November 2022 (Year C), on Luke 23.33-43

Luke 23.33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ 

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘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.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ 

Reflection

Since our celebration of All Saints’ Day we have been journeying through the Kingdom Season, the final few weeks that lead to the beginning of the new liturgical year on Advent Sunday. Since All Saints’ Day we have seen, reflected upon and walked with Jesus on the final stages of his earthly pilgrimage. Today we are confronted with the reality of the end of our King’s journey … his humiliating execution on a cross.

Today’s reading contain two of Jesus’ ‘Seven Last Words from the Cross’: Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing, and: Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise. Interleaved between these two powerful statements we see so much that is negative about human nature: the greed and ruthlessness of the soldiers casting lots; the scoffing of the leaders; the mocking of the executioners; the derision of a fellow condemned criminal. This scene presents us with a powerful image of all that is wrong in our human nature. But, despite all this evil, there is a ray of hope … the second criminal recognizes the Kingship of Jesus, and says: Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. The second criminal demonstrates the power of faith and hope.

Our reflection today should focus on the faith and hope of that anonymous second criminal. But … we also need to ponder on Jesus’ words, the words of a dying, innocent man who was also the Son of God. Despite the greed, the ruthlessness, the scoffing, the mocking and the cruelty, Jesus hung on the cross and asked that those around him, and all of humanity, might know God’s forgiveness. Then Jesus promises so much more … Jesus promises the joy of eternal life in God’s nearer presence: paradise.

Of course, in the context of today’s reading, the power of the resurrection is yet to be revealed but, for the faithful, the promise of Jesus’ powerful words are, and always will be, a reality. Throughout recent days we have read of those who failed to have faith, of those who sought to create their own ‘divine reality’. Today the eternal truth of the divine and loving Kingship of Christ is made plain for all to see. Let us pray that no matter how fiercely the storm of human evil might rage around us, we might hold true to the faith that will lead us into the paradise promised by Christ alone.