The message of Jesus Christ turns the message of our world upside-down. Jesus teaches that it is better to give our extra coat to the one who has none. Jesus’ message of the lowest place is a counter-witness in a world which glorifies power and control. Jesus calls for us to turn the other cheek which challenges violence and warfare of which we see so much of today. Jesus encourages us to see the beauty of the person on the inside when our world would prefer to highlight outward beauty and strength. Was it Archbishop Fulton Sheen who once said “Virtue preserves youthfulness better than all the pomades on Elizabeth Arden?”
The disciples found it hard to understand why Jesus kept preaching that the Christ would have to suffer grievously and die. The established Church and its leaders at the time were horrified that Jesus would call God, the One whose name couldn’t be mentioned, Abba – Father, therefore equating himself to God. The Romans, who didn’t believe in God, were the only ones to actually call him ‘King’ – albeit in mockery.
And now we see Jesus dying in agony on the cross and while they shouted at him to come down as a price for their belief, he stayed up there because he loves the Father, and loves us all. And one of the most consoling scenes in the Gospel takes place between one of the criminals and Jesus. We can only imagine what he must have done to merit Roman Crucifixion. As children in school I remember we called him ‘The good thief. ’Thief he was not, Romans didn’t crucify people for stealing bread. Romans used crucifixion as a horrifying, agonising act of public disgrace. The criminal who was crucified was to be seen as a non-person. He defends Jesus who is being mocked by all and now by one of his ‘fellow criminals.’ “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” While Jesus is dying to save the whole world, he is paying attention to this poor man’s confession. He doesn’t act like judge and jury as some of us remember confessions in the past. He asks no questions. He promises “This day, you will be with me in paradise.” He doesn’t just forgive him, he canonises him.
At the closing of the Year of Faith, we give thanks to God for the faith, passed on to us by our parents, our grandparents, teachers, priests and religious, those who support and at times challenge us along the way. We pray for the Holy Father, Pope Francis and the bishops as we go forward and we reaffirm as best we can, with the help of Mary our Mother, our belief in her Son, Jesus Christ, the Universal King.