Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-3122, Response: Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.; Colossians 1:12-20.
Gospel: Luke 23: 35-43
The Gospel for this year’s Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, is a beautiful and heartwarming story. It is our story.
According to legend, the penitent thief, often referred to as Dismas, was in a group of robbers who attacked the Holy Family as they were fleeing to Egypt after the birth of Christ to avoid the wrath of Herod.
In another version, Dismas belonged to a group of soldiers pursuing the Holy Family.
The story has it that Dismas instead protected the Baby Jesus and his family. He found the Baby Jesus so cute and adorable that he set the family free, supposedly saying, “O most blessed of children, if ever there comes a time for having mercy on me, then remember me and forget not this hour.”
Dismas saved the child and gave him his life. Fast-forward 33 years, Dismas’ act of kindness and goodness earn him God’s mercy and salvation through Christ on the Cross. Jesus now saves Dismas and gives him eternal life.
Dismas and Christ come full circle. Both complete their mission on Calvary.
First saint of the Church
As Pope Francis put it in a homily, the very first saint of the Church is the penitent thief Dismas, to whom Christ declares, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
This is the essence of sainthood and blessedness; there is proof that the person is in heaven.
This is the Kingship of Christ on Calvary. The power of kindness and goodness helps earn God’s mercy and forgiveness for the whole of humanity and creation.
According to legend, the young Dismas’ kindness and good deed saved the Child. Yes, it was his mission, but the deeper mission was in his prayer to the Child.
“O most blessed of children, if ever there comes a time for having mercy on me, then remember me and forget not this hour.”
Dismas becomes the first beneficiary of God’s mercy, forgiveness and love. Poetic justice at its most dramatic. While he is punished for his thievery, his virtue 33 years earlier becomes his vehicle for redemption. His sins bring him side by side with his Savior.
Such is God’s justice. Such is the Kingship of Christ. Such is the Kingdom of God. It extracts justice, but in an even greater way it dispenses mercy.
This is what we celebrate today, the Feast of Christ the King. We celebrate God’s justice, which in its most perfect form, is mercy and forgiveness.
The feast reminds us that our life has its hidden integrity, an identity and wholeness that define our core. In a word, mission, and at a certain point we look back and ask if we have been faithful to this mission.
The Gospel assures us that with the mystery of mission, it is never too late. The penitent thief shows this powerfully.
His good deed of kindness leads him to his life mission—“if ever there comes a time for having mercy on me, then remember me and forget not this hour.”
He lived for this moment on Calvary to tell Christ on the Cross: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He comes full circle.
We will all come full circle and go back to the essential dream, meaning and mission of our life. Remember the moment when it was clear to us what our life is all about.
In the words of T. S. Eliot: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.”