November 24th, 2019 34th Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
The tie in between today’s readings: Because He First loves Us
Psalm 122:1-5, 2 Samuel 5:1-3, Colossians 1:12-20, Luke 23:35-43
It had gone on long enough. The nation was divided by civil war. David ruled over Judah in Hebron. The rest of Israel was under the declining house of Saul. After seven years, the tribes unite under David and make him king over all of God’s people, as told in today’s reading in 2 Samuel 5:1-3. David’s first action was to capture Jerusalem, a Jebusite stronghold, and make it his capital. He moved the tabernacle there and later; Solomon would build the temple. The importance of these civil and spiritual events in Jewish life is reflected our reading in Psalm 122:1-5. As he is establishing himself in his new city, you wonder if king David recounted the circumstances that brought him there. He went from sheep herder, to musician, to giant slayer, to general, into exile, and now ruler over the nation. If the Grateful Dead had been around at that time, you might hear the Shepherd-King humming: “What a long strange trip it’s been.” Behind the scenes, we know it was a God thing. He was initiating the forever dynasty of His Messiah through David and setting the stage for the greatest battle in history, where His Christ defeats death by His cross and resurrection, just outside the gates…because He love us.
Our reading in Colossians 1:12-20 clues us into valuable behind the scenes insights about the Passion of our Lord from God’s perspective. You could write reams about the doctrinal truths contained in these few verses, but for our purposes, I’ll just summarize. Verses 15 to 17 declare Christ’s divinity. Jesus had to be the sinless Son of God for Him to be successful in His mission; anyone less would have failed. Verses 19 to 20 reveal God’s purpose for the cross: to reconcile all things to Himself. Verse 18 points to the triumph of His resurrection in establishing His church. Verses 12-14 describe our change in circumstances through salvation and becoming citizens of heaven. It was a God thing that He did all out of love for us. Our last reading, Luke 23:35-43 is about the salvation account of the thief on the cross. We are privy to the faith this man shows in his conversation with Jesus, but, just like the crucifixion itself, there is more to this account than meets the eye.
On the surface, in two short verses (40-42), we see the elements of a confession of faith: owning your sin and its punishment, recognizing Christ’s innocence in His sufferings, and faith in Jesus as the solution to your fate, but let’s examine the scene more closely. It’s just another day with another round of Roman executions with another self-proclaimed Messiah, bleeding and heaving for air, while BOTH criminals mock Him along with the crowd to come off the cross (Matt 27:44). The King of the Jews is a beaten pulp. No glory! No power! No kingdom! It’s over! Inexplicably, one of the criminals rebukes his partner in crime and carries on the familiar conversation with Jesus, which ends with Christ’s promise that he’ll be with Him in Paradise. What happened? Again, it was a God thing. The Lord had mercy on this sinner, opened his understanding, and he responded in faith. There is no other explanation. God loved him and he was changed.
God plays an integral part in anyone coming to saving faith in His Messiah (John 6:44). Since Advent starts next Sunday, it may be a good time to reflect and as the Apostle Paul says to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). The problem is presumption. The gospel has many references to people in the church being surprised and turned away on Judgement Day. Saving faith is not an intellectual agreement with creeds or participation in sacraments as good and as necessary as they are. Faith is a relationship with you that is initiated by the Almighty. You need to respond to God by your SECOND CONVERSION. The best explanation that I have ever found for this is from Catholic Bridge’s article “Are Catholics Born Again?” I highly recommend it. Don’t be indifferent to God after all the Lord has done for you. Pursue Him like a lover. Trust in His sacrifice on the cross for your sins. Make Him the king over your soul and let Him change you. Let your life be a God thing!