In the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” psychologist and trauma counselor Honey Carandang said one important “therapy” for the victims is for them to know we are there for them. “Hindi sila nag-iisa” (They are not alone).
Today is the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical year and also the closing of the Year of Faith. There can be no greater drama than this scene from the Crucifixion.
In the midst of the crowd of differing emotions and persuasions, of the pain and agony, one person, the thief, recognizes Christ: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
Then Christ responds, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Praying for grace
This is Christ the King. In the ignominy and radical solitude of the Cross, his true kingship shines through. He forgives. This is his coronation. It is, at this point, mission accomplished! The Cross did kill him—a violent death, in fact, but it did not dent his spirit. Rather, it made his spirit soar.
Today, the Feast of Christ the King, we pray for this grace: that now, more than ever, we will be present to one another and present to the eternal presence by recognizing his kingship.
Months ago, I was discussing with one of the most influential talents of his generation his desire to be involved in public service. He is a natural and has proven himself authentic in many a crisis, quietly doing his share of rescue and relief, championing causes with many events that bring together his fellow celebrities.
When I asked him what he really wanted to do in the field of public service, he had a very succinct response: “Father, ang pangarap ko… alam ng tao na kapag may nangyari, nandoon tayo” (My hope is that when calamities strike, they know we are there).
This led me to tell him the story of two soldiers, Joe and Carl, who were close friends. It was wartime and they were together in one company that was engaged in an encounter. Their company was outnumbered; and as they started to suffer heavy casualties, the commander ordered a retreat.
When the company got to safe grounds, Joe noticed that Carl was not with them. Joe immediately went to the commander and asked permission to go back to look for Carl. The commander disapproved, saying that with the heavy fire of the enemy, Carl would surely have been killed. He told Joe that they would recover the bodies when it was safer.
Joe apologized before he disobeyed the order and ran back to the battlefield.
Several minutes later he came back carrying Carl’s dead body. As he put down Carl’s body, the company saw that Joe himself was badly wounded. The commander furiously told Joe, “I told you he would have been killed in the fire fight. You foolishly endangered yourself and now I risk losing another man. What a waste, Joe!”
Joe, now fighting for his own life, calmly told the commander, “Sir, it was not a waste. When I got to Carl he was still alive. I held him up and propped him on my lap, telling him to hold on. He gasped for breath, smiled and his last and only words were, “Joe, I knew you would come.”
“I knew you would come.” Presence. It need not be in dramatic moments all the time. It could be as simple as one volunteering to repack relief goods—as many did, after a whole day’s work and spending hours to be part of the “production line.”
Or it could be parting with hard-earned P250 for a group of kasambahay who each ordered shirts, the proceeds of which will go to the relief and rebuilding of the devastated areas in the Visayas.
Christ the King promised this eternal presence, and this enables us to be present to one another in small yet meaningful ways.
This is another way of looking at the grace of Christ on the Cross, Christ the King. It is the eternal promise, the eternal assurance of his presence, come what may, as we say. In all that we go through, in good times and in bad, in extreme need and devastation, we hold on to the certainty, “I knew you would come.”
In the same reflection on the two soldiers two years ago, I also shared this: “We were discussing what could possibly come next. The relief work is necessary, but it had to go beyond this. It had to be a day-to-day thing. It was a renewal; a renewal of faith in each other that in all things, in any situation, always in our hearts we could say, ‘I knew you would come.’”