Reflection on Today’s Daily Readings by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Lectionary 163: II Samuel 5:1-3. Psalm 122:1-126.96.36.199-5.
Colossians 1:12-20. Luke 23:35-43.
The Bible Today is the name of a small periodical that presents themes,
studies, and the spirituality of the Bible. It issues from the Benedictines
at Collegeville, Minnesota on the grounds of St. John's College. The
periodical aims at helping both students and ordinary folks to learn more
about the New Testament and the Old Testament. In its most recent issue the
theme was the Messiah. This current issue is most helpful in helping a
reader to appreciate the meaning of Jesus as King and Messiah and is a good
source for understanding the meaning of today's feast, the last Sunday of
the liturgical year 2010.
Jesus did not proclaim himself as Messiah very often. He wanted his people
and his disciples to learn about who he is through his actions and words.
He did not emphasize his messiahship but his disciples and evangelists
after the resurrection did. We have St. Luke as our guide in seeing Jesus
as the "King of the Jews"--the title given to him by Pilate and placed on
top of the wood of the cross for all to see and identify his kingship as
the reason for his being crucified.
We learned from the II Book of Samuel that David was the great King of both
Israel and Judah and that he was the one who was anointed by Samuel and
thus started the authentic lineage for a messiaic type of leadership in
those who followed him as King. His sons were among them and could not live
up to his reign of forty years which helped him to unite the twelve tribes
of Israel with Jerusalem as the capital city for all Israelites. As a
royal messiah he was the hope of the Israelites for overcoming oppression.
That did not happen and the Romans destroyed the Temple and devastated the
city of Jerusalem into a pile of smashed stones and dust. But some thirty
years before that Jesus still was considered by the leaders as a threat and
hence the title "King of the Jews."
The reading therefore forces us to ask what type of King-Messiah was Jesus
in his very short reign of possibly only one year of active ministry? And
for us, how do we identify who Jesus is for us when we think of him as the
Anointed One, the Messiah? We continue reading the passage of Luke and
discover that only the criminal who realized that Jesus was innocent was
the one who grasped something about the real Jesus dying on the Cross. He
prays, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus, the
merciful one, responds with "this day you shall be with me in paradise."
Luke has offered an image of a prophetic messiah. His role is similar to
that of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. Jesus, the anointed one, was a
merciful and kind person in his rule which was not of this world. He dies
in order that we may be saved by his blood. This king messiah, who has
done nothing wrong, is the Messiah. Only the thief affirms in Luke 23:41
that Jesus is innocent. Again, Fr. Karris helps us to appreciate Jesus the
merciful messiah: "The jewel in this rich setting of theological themes
follows. It is Jesus' third word, sometimes called the Gospel within the
Gospel: "Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise
(23:43). Jesus had come to put his arms of mercy around sinners and hug
them. To the last he is very true to that kingly vocation." Sister Diane
Bergant ends her reflection on this Sunday in this manner: In the last
words of the Gospel, words with which the entire Liturgical Year is brought
to completion, he opens the gates of his kingdom to a repentent sinner:
"Today you will be with me in Paradise." These are the words we all long
to hear, words that are empty when coming from one who has no authority but
charged with power when spoken by the one who is King over us all."
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