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Fr. Jo's Reflection for Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe Yr C, November 20, 2022

For a Hebrew person, the name David represented brilliance, strength, wisdom, conquest, leadership. Despite his recorded moral misadventures, the Jews remember him as their most illustrious leader. When they suffered terrible persecution under foreign rulers who oppressed them, they remembered David and hoped for a king with the talents and capabilities of David. The prophets had assured them that another king will arise from David’s stock, an anointed one (Christos), who, like David would be strong, a conqueror of nations, with power to establish the prosperous reign of God. The two disciples who met the Lord on the road to Emmaus voiced their disappointment with Jesus who, they thought, was elevated only to dash their hopes: “We were hoping that he would be the one to set Israel free” (Lk 12:21).

From every indication, Jesus, for them, failed the “king” test. For, no real king would stand before another king handcuffed and oozing with blood as he defended his kingship under interrogation. What definitely showed him a weak king was his crown—made of thorns rather than gold. The reactions of the individuals around the cross reveal a taunting deserving of a despicable impostor. Like them or hate them, the Romans have incredible sense of humor—seen in Pilate’s inscription, written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek to ensure that anyone in the world who could read, saw and read it: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” It was a mockery to both Jesus and his Jewish folks. Pilate kind of says: “What a king you have in this one ...try another.”

Yet, amidst the deviltry and gloom, someone saw a true king; and he was a thief. Tradition holds that this thief, Demas, who was meeting Jesus for the second time was a Judean Robin Hood. Their first meeting was during the flight to Egypt by the Holy Family. Demas and his cohort—the other thief—accosted the Holy Family to rob them. Demas saw how lovely the Baby was and could not bear to lay hands on His mom and dad or rob them. He was quoted as saying: “O most blessed of children, if ever there come a time for having mercy on me, then remember me and forget not this hour,” as he escorted the family out of harm’s way. That second meeting happened at Calvary, as he hung beside the One he had, thirty-three years before, protected. This was the juncture when the mercy of God would be extended to him; for, as long as a person’s heart beats, the door to God’s merciful heart remains open.

Mercy is the balm of God’s love. Mercy is the door to God’s heart. Mercy is the highway to heaven. God doesn’t wish to pull us kicking and screaming along this road. He asks us to make an introspection so we may hear the sound of his voice in our consciences, where he rules supreme. It is in our conscience that he has established his government house, his Supreme Court, and his Congress. We may try, but we cannot escape that court of God, which is our conscience. We may protest the voice of conscience, but it never ceases to point to us the good and the evil in our lives. God would not send me to your homes to monitor how you live, whether you cheat your employer or employee, whether you reported your taxes honestly last year, whether you pray and teach same to your children, whether you use artificial birth control, whether you visit pornographic websites in your computer and other devices, etc., etc. It so happens, however, that because these are based on truth, whenever we speak of them, your conscience is disturbed. That’s the true meaning of kingship.

At the conclusion of this liturgical year, King Jesus invites you as a companion of His Mercy Garden. Paradise is a Persian word for “a walled garden.” Like a Persian king, who, wishing to do a favor to his subject would invite him as a companion of the garden, Jesus invites the good thief and us to walk with him in the honored place of the garden of heaven (Barclay). 

Reflection  Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo


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