Lectio Divina. Sunday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time.
Lectio Divina. Christ the King.
Author: Order of Carmlites | Source: www.ocarm.org
Shaddai, God of the mountain,
You who make of our fragile life
the rock of your dwelling place,
lead our mind
to strike the rock of the desert,
so that water may gush to quench our thirst.
May the poverty of our feelings
cover us as with a mantle in the darkness of the night
and may it open our heart to hear the echo of silence
until the dawn,
wrapping us with the light of the new morning,
may bring us,
with the spent embers of the fire of the shepherds of the Absolute
who have kept vigil for us close to the divine Master,
the flavour of the holy memory.
a) The text:Luke 23, 35-43
35 The people stayed there watching. As for the leaders, they jeered at him with the words, 'He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.' 36 The soldiers mocked him too, coming up to him, offering him vinegar, 37 and saying, 'If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.' 38 Above him there was an inscription: 'This is the King of the Jews'. 39 One of the criminals hanging there abused him: 'Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.' 40 But the other spoke up and rebuked him. 'Have you no fear of God at all?' he said. 'You got the same sentence as he did, 41 but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.' 42 Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' 43 He answered him, 'In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'
b) A moment of silence:
Let us allow the voice of the Word to resonate within us.
- The people stayed there watching. Why do you never take a stand concerning the events? Everything that you have lived, listened to, seen… you cannot just throw it away only because an obstacle seems to make it difficult? Move, do something!
- “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself”. How many attempts and threats with God in prayer. If you are God why do you not intervene? There are so many innocent people who suffer… If you love me, do what I tell you and I will believe you… When will you ever stop dealing with the Lord as if you knew more than He what is good and what is not?
- Jesus, remember me. When will you see in Christ the only TODAY who gives you life?
b) Key for the reading:
Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe. We would expect a passage of the Gospel of those which are more luminous, and instead we find ourselves before one of the darkest passages… The amazement of the unexpected is the most suitable sentiment to enter into the heart of today’s feast, the amazement of the one who knows that he cannot understand the infinite mystery of the Son of God.
v. 35. The people stayed there watching, as for the leaders, they jeered at him with the words: “He saved others, let him save himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” Around the Cross are gathered together all those who have met Jesus during the three years of His public life. And, here, before a Word nailed on the wood, are revealed the secrets of the heart. The People who had listened to and followed the Rabbi of Galilee, who had seen miracles and wonders, are there watching: the perplexity on the faces, thousands of questions in the heart, the disillusionment and the perception that everything ends like this!? The leaders go through all that has happened while they say the truth concerning the Person of Jesus: the Christ of God, the Chosen One. They ignore God’s logic even if they are faithful observers of the Hebrew Law. That very despicable invitation: Let him save himself… indicates the hidden purpose of their actions: salvation is won by oneself by the observance of the commandments of God.
vv .36-37. The soldiers mocked him too, coming up to him, offering him vinegar, and saying: “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself”. The soldiers who have nothing to lose in the religious field, get fierce against him. What do they have in common with that man? What have they received from him? Nothing. The possibility to exercise, even if for a short time, the power on someone cannot be allowed to fall! The power of possession is intertwined of evil and they claim the right of derision. The other one, defenceless, becomes the object of their enjoyment.
v. 38. Above him was an inscription: This is the King of the Jews. Truly, a mockery the tablet of their own guilt: Jesus is guilty for being the King of the Jews. A guilt which in reality is no guilty. In spite that the leaders had intended, in all ways, to crush the royalty of Christ, the truth is written by itself: This is the King of the Jews! This one, not any other! A royalty which goes across the centuries and asks those going by to stop and fix their thought on the novelty of the Gospel. Man needs someone to govern him, and this someone can be only a man crucified out of love, capable to stand on the wood of condemnation so as to be found alive at the dawn of the eighth day. A King without a sceptre, a King capable of being considered by all a criminal but without rejecting his love for man.
v. 39. One of the criminals hanging there abused him: Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well!”. One can be on the cross for diverse reasons as also, for diverse reasons one can be with Christ. Being near to the cross divides or unites. One of the two who were near Christ insults, provokes, ridicules or derides. The objective is always the same: Save yourself and us as well! Salvation is invoked as a flight from the cross. A sterile salvation, deprived of life, already dead in itself. Jesus is nailed to the cross, this criminal is hung on the cross. Jesus has become one same thing with the wood, because the cross is for him the scroll of the book which unfolds to narrate the wonders of the divine life which is surrendered, given without any conditions. The other one is hung as a fruit, rotten by evil and ready to be thrown away.
v. 40. But the other spoke up and rebuked him: “Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did. The other one, being close to Jesus, acquires again the holy fear and makes a discernment. Can the one who lives next to Jesus reproach one who is there, two steps away from life and does not see it, and continues to waste it to the end?. Every thing has a limit, and in this case the limit is not fixed by Christ who is there, but by his companion. Christ does not respond, the other one responds in his place, recognizing his responsibility and helping the other one to read the present moment as an opportunity of salvation.
v. 41. “In our case, we deserve it, we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong”. Evil leads to the cross, the serpent had guided to the forbidden fruit hanging on the tree. But which cross? The cross of one’s own “reward” or the cross of the good fruit. Christ is the fruit which every man or woman can get from the tree of life which is in the middle of the garden of the world, the just one who has never done any evil except love until ad finem.
v. 42. And then he said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. It is a life which is fulfilled and is enclosed in an invocation incredibly dense in significance. A man, a sinner, conscious of his own sin and of the just condemnation, accepts the mystery of the cross. At the feet of that throne of glory he asks to be remembered in the Kingdom of Christ. He sees an innocent who is crucified and he recognizes and sees beyond what appears exteriorly, the life of the eternal Kingdom. What an acknowledgement! The eyes of the one who has known, in one instant, to get the life which was passing by and which was proclaiming a message of salvation even if in a shocking way. That culprit, criminal deserving death, insulted and ridiculed by all those who had had the possibility of knowing him closely and for a long time, receives his first subject, the first one he wins over. The Scripture says, damned is the one hanging on the wood. The damned innocent becomes blessing for the one who deserved condemnation. A political and earthly tribunal, that of Pilate, a divine tribunal, that of the cross, where the one condemned is saved in virtue of the consuming love of the innocent Lamb.
v. 43. He answered him: “In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise”. Today. The only word which bursts into the new life of the Gospel. Today. Salvation has been accomplished, it is no longer necessary to wait for any Messiah to save the people from their sins. Today. Salvation is here, on the cross. Christ does not enter into his Kingdom alone, he takes with him the first one who has been saved. The same humanity, the same judgment, the same luck, the same victory. Jesus is not jealous of his filial prerogatives, immediately he has pulled away from the distance separating him from the Father and from the death which could not escape nor had a way out. Wonderful the kingdom which was inaugurated on Golgotha.. .. Someone has said that the good thief committed the last robbery of his life, he robbed salvation… And it is. For those who move with the things of God! How much truth, instead, in contemplating the gift which Christ gives to his companion of the cross. No robbery, no theft! All is a gift: the presence of God is not bargained or traded! Much less being always with him. Faith is what opens the door of the Kingdom to the good thief. Good because he knew how to name justly that which his existence had been and saw the Saviour in Christ. Was the other one evil? Neither more nor less than the other one perhaps, but he remained beyond faith: he was looking for the strong and powerful God, the powerful God in battle, a God who places things in their place and he did not know how to recognize him in the eyes of Christ, he stopped at his powerlessness.
Christ dies on the Cross. He is not alone. He is surrounded by the people, by the strangest persons, the hostile ones who throw on him their responsibility of lack of understanding, the indifferent ones who do not get involved except for personal interest, those who do not understand as yet but who, perhaps, are better disposed to allow themselves to be questioned, since they think they have nothing to lose, like one of the two criminals. If death is to fall into nothingness, then human time becomes anguish. If, instead, it is to wait for the light, then human time becomes hope, and the space of the finite opens a passage to tomorrow, to the new dawn of the Resurrection. I am the way, the truth and the life. .. how true are these days, the words of Jesus, words which enlighten the darkness of death. The way does not stop, the truth is not turned off, life does not die. In those words “I am” is enclosed the royalty of Christ. We journey toward a goal, and to attain it cannot mean to lose it… I am the way… We live from truth, and truth is not an object, but something which exists: “Truth is the splendour of reality – says Simon Well – and to desire truth is to desire a direct contact with reality in order to love it”. “I am the truth… Nobody wants to die, we feel deprived of something which belongs to us: life, and then, if life does not form part of us, it can not hold us to itself… I am the life… Jesus has said it: “He who wants to save his life, will lose it, but the one who loses his life for me, will find it”. Is there some contradiction in the terms or rather secrets hidden to be revealed? Do we remove the veil from what we see in order to enjoy what we do not see? Christ on the cross is the object of everybody’s attention. Many think of him or are even at his side. But this is not sufficient. The closeness which saves is not that of those who are there to deride or to mock, the closeness which saves is that of the one who humbly asks to be remembered not in the fleeing time but in the eternal Kingdom.
I shall praise you to the heights, God my King,
I shall bless your name for ever and ever.
Day after day I shall bless you,
I shall praise your name for ever and ever.
Great is Yahweh and worthy of all praise,
his greatness beyond all reckoning.
Each age will praise your deeds to the next,
proclaiming your mighty works.
Your renown is the splendour of your glory,
I will ponder the story of your wonders.
They will speak of your awesome power,
and I shall recount your greatness.
They will bring out the memory of your great generosity,
and joyfully acclaim your saving justice.
Yahweh is tenderness and pity,
slow to anger, full of faithful love.
Yahweh is generous to all,
his tenderness embraces all his creatures.
All your creatures shall thank you, Yahweh,
and your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingship
and tell of your might,
making known your mighty deeds to the children of Adam,
the glory and majesty of your kingship.
Your kingship is a kingship for ever,
your reign lasts from age to age.
Yahweh is trustworthy in all his words,
and upright in all his deeds.
Yahweh supports all who stumble,
lifts up those who are bowed down.
All look to you in hope
and you feed them with the food of the season.
And, with generous hand,
you satisfy the desires of every living creature.
Upright in all that he does,
Yahweh acts only in faithful love.
He is close to all who call upon him,
all who call on him from the heart.
He fulfils the desires of all who fear him,
he hears their cry and he saves them.
Yahweh guards all who love him,
but all the wicked he destroys.
My mouth shall always praise Yahweh,
let every creature bless his holy name for ever and ever.
Lord, it sounds strange to call you King. One does not get close to a King easily… And, instead, today I find you sitting beside me, in the ditch of sin, here, where I would never have thought to find you. Kings are in palaces, far from the difficulties of the poor people. You, instead, live your Lordship wearing the worn out clothes of our poverty. What a great feast for me to see you here where I went to hide myself so as not to feel the indiscreet looks of human judgment. On the edge of my failures whom have I found if not you? The only one who could reproach me for my incoherence comes to look for me to sustain me in my anguish and in my humiliation! What great illusion when we think that we should come to you only when we have attained perfection… I would want to think, that you do not like what I am, but perhaps, it is not exactly like that: I do not like what I am, but for you, I am alright, because your love is something special which respects everything in me and makes of every instant of my life a space of encounter and of gift. Lord, teach me not to get down from the cross with the absurd pretension of saving myself! Grant that I may know how to wait, at your side, the TODAY of your Kingdom in my life.