Today being the last day of this Liturgical Year, we see Jesus on the cross. This is where the journey of the last year has brought us – to the foot of the cross.
In today’s Gospel, Luke 23: 35–43, we read how Jesus was raised up on the cross, spat on, mocked and during his final moments was flanked on either side by two criminals, one who was full of his own misery, the other a bit more reflective. The crowd of people who gathered did not do anything; they simply looked on; some may have even shouted abuse. I am sure, if we are honest, we can see part of ourselves in each one of those who were there at that time. On some occasions, we can find it easier to ‘sit on the fence’ rather than take a proactive part. At other times, we have reflected a little like the repentant thief and realised that the message of Jesus is one of love and forgiveness.
In the conversation between Jesus and the two thieves, we catch a glimpse of what was going on in their minds. The central message of Jesus is that he wants to free each one of us from our sins and grant us the gift of everlasting life. This shows us the meaning of the feast of Christ the King which we celebrate today. His is not an earthly kingdom, but a Kingdom where love and justice abide.
We find it hard to watch Jesus in such pain. He is innocent – he ‘has done nothing wrong.’ Yet, as we say in the Good Friday Liturgy, “by his Cross he has redeemed the world.”
Can I believe that God somehow brings good out of the suffering of the innocent today? This is hard to believe at times. The second thief recognises Jesus as a just man and humbly asks his help. He hears the hope that Jesus offers to him and to all those who are suffering. Jesus reaches out with words that can touch the hearts of all who are suffering.
Jesus is not a King as we understand royalty today. He is not powerful, does not seek glory. Rather, he is the humble servant who recognised the sincerity and humility of the ‘good thief’. Jesus rewarded him for his honesty. It was in his act of honesty and humility that Jesus could reach out and respond.
Maybe we could spend time this week reflecting on those in our world who are also spending time at the foot of the cross – those without a home, those who can’t overcome addictions; who struggle with family problems; people with a terminal illness; and – as November draws to a close – those who have been bereaved recently. Perhaps each day we could bring into the presence of God in our prayer one person who is standing by the foot of the cross and waiting to receive God’s love in their lives.
Sr. Miriam Weir OP