Fragments from The Word: Luke 23: 35-43

This is my homily from Sacred Heart his morning, Sunday November 24, 2013. Luke 23:33-43. The Solemnity of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe. 

Fragments from The Word

Fragments from The Word

Sunday November 24, 2013.

The Solemnity of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe

There is an intimacy in the gospel today that I want for myself.

I realize it is between two men who have been beaten and who have been crucified.

Time is short before they both leave this earth.


But I really want it today, for myself and for everyone here in this room and ever person still on this earth.


Is my own heart broken open wide enough, Christ my dear King?


Is my pride too strong and my will too hardened to invite you to be my God?


And what about your hearts, your pride and your will?


These are the questions that flow through me as I listen to this profound and holy exchange between a thief and Jesus.


I want more than anything today, to wrestle with my own sin and shame between these two men who receive each other in extreme torment and agony but who also whisper words of salvation to each other.


This is the criminal’s last chance to find forgiveness. In a last minute confession, he raises his head, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”


Even minutes before Jesus’ last breath, he invites the starving criminal to the feast of heaven, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


We see and hear Jesus still being the person of generous love and forgiveness. Only the gospel of Luke portrays this scene.


On this last Sunday of our liturgical year, we might have expected a gospel that is triumphant and otherworldly to celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe. Instead, we ponder the last-chance confession of a dying man to get right with Jesus.


However, it is here in extreme powerlessness that we shall find our own place in God’s Kingdom.


This feast invites us to rearrange our notions of what God’s kingdom really is, even here on earth.


The kingdom is not a cartoon fairytale where all will be perfect and everyone always has what they need.


The kingdom is not a room at the Ritz or life smothered in extravagance and greed.


The kingdom is not made of gold promises and silver wishes.


The kingdom is not a pot of money promised us for being good or an all you can eat buffet.


The kingdom is not hidden in mansions, safety-deposit boxes or storage units.


The kingdom is not vast vistas of land or earthly supremacy. It is not greed, lust or having the last word. It is not even education or military power.


The Kingdom that I seek today and that we all seek is for us to stand on this holy earth and feel that we belong, that our lives have meaning and that we are not alone in our heartaches and turmoil.


Jesus reached out to this common criminal to restore his dignity and worth.

Jesus receives his brokenness at the very last minute of the criminal’s life.


I am not sure I can wait that long.


I guess we all do not have to wait until we are near death to receive the promise of Christ’s presence here on earth. Not if we are really paying attention.


We gather at Eucharist on the last weekend of our liturgical year and we do not know if this will be the last moment of our lives.


We all stream up the aisle to receive the Body of Christ today.

We stand with the criminal even in our silent approach and ask for mercy, love and compassion in our waywardness. We are here to make sense out of our suffering.


The Eucharist is here to feed our empty hearts, to make sense out of our relationships, to help us walk in ways that are just and loving.


The Body of Christ still whispers salvation to us when we walk down the aisle of this holy place.


The Blood of Christ still calms our hearts and satisfies our need to belong, right here among people we love.


The thief was invited to the Feast of Heaven and so are we.


 The real presence of Christ is our freedom from our selfishness and hope when we feel most alone.


We have here today, the intimacy that the gospel suggests. The thief shows us that we must come to God because we cannot fix ourselves.


 And Jesus reminds us that we can feast with him forever in his presence.


The intimacy that we seek is here not just on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, but everyday of our earthly lives. This we learn from the open and broken heart of the criminal.


So the Kingdom of God compels us to listen to the lost.

The Kingdom of God opens us the needs of the sinner.

The Kingdom of God strips away pretense and self-assurance.

The Kingdom of God wipes tears away and restores lost souls.

The Kingdom of God is for all who feel they do not have a place on earth.

The Kingdom of God is for the prostitute, the homemaker, the bully and the scholar.


The intimacy that I desire is here before me. I do not need to look toward heaven, but here on the solid earth, among us all who long for love.



Our eavesdropping on this holy exchange between two dying men changes everything.


“Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”


“Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”






3 thoughts on “Fragments from The Word: Luke 23: 35-43

  1. What strikes me is how we complicate things, striving for that perfect fairytale heaven. The healing of our brokenness, our acceptance, our communion, provides all we need. Don’t our hearts burn when we hear “today you will be with me in Paradise?” How our sins blind us to what is before us every day. And how wonderfully grace breaks in now and again to remind us. Thank you for your words of encouragement!

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