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Christ the King Homily  (Printer Friendly Copy of  the Dismas Stations of the Cross

Stations-11-remember-7Today is the last Sunday of what we call Ordinary time and the Church has designated it the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Our parish Mission statement which we have been reflecting on for the past while and will be our focus in the coming year challenges us to bring God’s love into the world through a life changing friendship with Jesus.

It raises a perplexing question: How do I as a normal person enter into a life changing relationship with a King. The challenge is even greater since Christ is not simply a king of a country but he is the King of the Universe.

How would I ever be worthy of such a deep life changing friendship with the King of the Universe?

Bishop Robert Barron offers us a clue as to how this might be possible with this thought:

“The gospel today shows us this cosmic King nailed to the cross. The paradox at the heart of the Christian proclamation is that the King of the Universe is a crucified criminal, who utterly spends himself in love.”

A paradox is a self-contradictory statement. How can the King of the Universe be a convicted criminal?

Perhaps an even greater paradox or question: Why would the King of the universe befriend one of those criminals and make him the promise to take him to paradise?

How does this criminal successfully enter into a life-changing friendship with Jesus?

In an attempt to answer some of these questions I want to share with you a story about my friendship with a man that started as part of my diaconate ministry to ex-convicts.

Just before my ordination, a little over 15 years ago, I had a conversation with the Director of Deacons, the late Deacon Bert Cambre, and I told him that I had decided that I wanted to join a ministry to the poor. I was convinced this was the right path for me at this time.

Deacon Bert asked me to meet with his friend, a Mennonite minister who was the Community Chaplain for Corrections Canada in Toronto who was looking for someone to work alongside him in his ministry to individuals returning from prison.

Deacon Bert asked me to keep an open mind and have coffee with Rev. Harry. As I reflect back on this I now think “keep an open mind” may have been code for being open to the wisdom of the Holy Sprit. I met with Harry and all I can say is we are still working together in ministry to this day sixteen years later.

Harry immediately asked me to meet and perhaps walk with this guy who had just arrived at the half-way house named Don.

To make a very long story short Don and I stayed in touch for about 10 years and became friends. Over this period of time he struggled with his anger and found himself back in prison. While in jail he had an encounter with a person who gave him a bible and he started to read it and had a hunger to know more.

We were talking one day about today’s gospel which is often referred to as the Story of the Good Thief. The Good Thief has been given the name Dismas by the Catholic Church.

While in the Kingston Pen, Don accepted the challenge to work together on telling the story of the Stations of the Cross from the view point of St. Dismas, the Good Thief.

Time will not permit me to go through each station but here are some of the things Dismas learned from Jesus and they are lessons for all of us:(Click on links to read this reflection)

Judged by others: Jesus stands falsely accused of many crimes and he is judged harshly and unfairly by those around him. Dismas sees that Jesus does not concern himself with what others are saying about him but remains true to himself and his heavenly Father who sent him.

Betrayal/Abandonment: While in prison we imagined that Jesus could hear into the courtyard. There he heard his closest friend, a man named Peter, deny knowing him, not once but three times. Dismas comes to understand that another one of Jesus’ pals, Judas, “rats” him out to the authorities. Dismas sees Jesus forgive Peter and that Christ abandons any animosity or hatred towards those who have betrayed & abandoned him.

Suffering: One can not walk through the Stations of the Cross without appreciating that the King of the Universe suffered.

There was the humiliation he suffered when he was spat upon and called names;

There was the unbelievable physical suffering of the scourging and crucifixion;

There was the psychological suffering of having to see his Mother as she witnessed what was happening to her son.

Dismas witnesses these sufferings first hand and realizes that Jesus is sharing in the same suffering he himself is experiencing.

Accepting and offering help: There is this moment when Jesus needs and accepts help from a stranger who is passing by a fallen and weakened Christ. Simon picks up the Cross of Jesus and together they walk forward.

Dismas learns from Jesus and Simon the importance of not being too pride-filled to accept help when it is needed and offering it when one is able.

There is an example of this teaching going on in our parish community today at this and every Mass this weekend.

The Christmas gift card program has touched so many over the years. In the early days when we only helped a few families I remember one volunteer’s story of delivering Christmas baskets filled with food and presents to a Toronto Housing apartment building in the core of downtown.

A young boy of about seven years of age met the volunteers in the lobby to help bring up the baskets. As they were ascending in the elevator the boy looked up at the strangers bearing these gifts and asked, “Are these all for us”. When the answer came back yes this youngster, who had very little in comparison to many, said with wide eyed enthusiasm, “Wow we are the luckiest people in the world.”

To those of you who have dropped off gift cards today thank you for offering help when you are able. If you missed the initial call to participate and would like to support this work of the St. Vincent De Paul Society and the Friends of Dismas there is still time. Please take a moment and go into the small hall after Mass to find out how you might be able to help another carry their cross this Christmas.

Hope: Right at the end of the Gospel story today we see a beautiful example of what it means to enter into a life changing friendship with Jesus.

Just before he dies Dismas comes to see Christ as a person of hope. While his partner in crime derides Jesus, Dismas tells him to be quiet. Then in an act of great faith he looks at Jesus and bravely says:

“Jesus Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

How does Jesus respond to this last minute cry for friendship from this man he barely knows and who others have judged to be unworthy?

Without hesitation he looks at Dismas and says: “Friend, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Dismas, the convicted criminal, shows us that it is possible to enter into a life-changing friendship with Christ the King, this King who had utterly spent himself in love.

This story illustrates so clearly that it is only a trusting friendship with Jesus that will enable us to leave this Mass today in peace and it is this type of friendship that will motivate us to glorify the king of the universe by the way we choose to live our lives.

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