This is the final week of the series entitled “be with him.” This is the wish of Jesus for all of us and he specifically tells one of the men crucified alongside him that he will be with Jesus in paradise, that very day, as we read in today’s gospel message. What does it take to be with Jesus, particularly before the journey to paradise and leading to being with Jesus after the journey to paradise? We’ll used the weekly readings to pull out a theme that supports the overall idea that we can be with him.
It is the goal of Jesus disciples to be with Jesus. The apostles were with Jesus for three years and no doubt loved it all. Jesus is a very irresistible person, we read how crowds were always around him, following him wherever he was going. But even more than the irresistible factor Jesus is life giving. When Jesus asked the question do the disciples want to leave, “Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) When there is a chance you can be with the Holy one of God, the one who has the words of eternal life, you should make every opportunity to be with Him. This series is about ways to be with him, Jesus.
Over the past weeks we have been challenged to pray always, be a person of humility, recognize that Jesus came to seek and save and we are blessed with a God of the living. We know God will bring us back to life, particularly if we endure like Christ fully alive God is not the God of the dead but the living and if we want to be alive fully living then we should be with him. Being with him is life. We strive to be with him by being an imitator of him. Jesus’ life gave witness to how to live, to live like Jesus and be with him.
In the readings this week each gives an insight into kingship, we see a king who cares for his subjects and while in his kingdom we all have peace. In the first reading we see the kingship of David, who was anointed by God and consecrated by the people. In the second reading, Paul speaks of Christ the Son of God who is the first born of creation, the incarnate Son and the firstborn of the dead, a Son who enters into his kingdom welcoming all. In the gospel we read of Jesus welcoming the thief into Paradise, that very day. It is a guarantee he will be in Christ kingdom and that he will be with Christ forever. We see all these kingdom examples of Christ and we know he is a King the cares for and loves his people. In his care we receive his peace and we are welcome to be with him.
The readings this week for most ritual churches are from the Lectionary for the Solemnity of Christ the King; 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43. The readings guide us to focus on Christ as King, a King who cares for and loves his subjects and brings them to peace.
The reading from the book of Samuel is a simple yet profound account emphasizing the consecration of David as King of Israel. It is an image of all the tribes’ coming together, the split kingdom, north and south. It gives an image of David as shepherd when they claim him to be their flesh and bone, he is a king that governs not for his own advantage but for the welfare of the people who are his subjects. David’s covenant with the people is in line with the covenant and anointing of God. David is a figure of Jesus Christ who is proclaimed King of Israel. David was a king who brought peace and stability to the nation, Jesus is a king who brings peace and stability as well. Christ did not become King in order to demand tributes or to raise armies and make war against enemies for Israel. Jesus became the King to reign over souls, to give counsel that leads to eternal life, to bring those who were filled with faith, hope and love to the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus is a King that brings people true peace.Jesus became the King to reign over souls, to give counsel that leads to eternal life, to bring those who were filled with faith, hope and love to the Kingdom of heaven. Click To Tweet
The second reading, the letter to the Colossians, Paul speaks about the Son of God in several modes of existence. He speaks of his preeminence in the Kingdom of God. First we read that God has made us fit to share in the inheritance, the new Kingdom, that we have been delivered by his beloved Son, who has redeemed us. Like an item in a pawn shop, Christ comes with the ticket and says I want what was mine, I don’t care what it cost, this is redemption. Paul then gives us three views of the mode of Jesus Christ as Son. He is the firstborn of all creation, a Son who by birth right inherits everything and is responsible for everything. The Son is before all, he is the creator and the goal. He is the one who is caring for all, like David the King. Secondly we see he is the incarnate Son who came to bring life to himself in the image of God, holding all things together. Paul goes on to say he was firstborn from the dead, he lived then died and is the resurrection. This is the third instance of the Son, he is resurrecting redeemer of all things. He is the beginning and the end, he is holding all things together and reconciling all things. He is the goal of all creation, thus we pass into Christ and live and dwell in him. These are the three modes of the Son’s existence, he is first born of all creation, he is human incarnate and he is the first from the dead. These are experience we will enjoy as believers. What we see is that he brings us to a kingdom that is totally his, he is the King of the kingdom and we are welcome to find peace in his kingdom. When the Colossians lived before meeting Christ they would have lived a worldview in which various spiritual powers would threaten their existence and needed appeasement. Their conversion to Christ gave them the opportunity to live free and know their king. They would find peace in the king and they would know the king was firstborn of all creation, the incarnate Son and the first born of all dead. All will know they too can travel the same path. This king brought peace.These are the three modes of the Son’s existence, he is first born of all creation, he is human incarnate and he is the first from the dead. These are experience we will enjoy as believers. Click To Tweet
In the gospel from Luke we have the image of Jesus on the cross and he is being ridiculed and jeered at. They call out to him if you are the King of the Jews save yourself, this is what is written over his head, “this is the King of the Jews.” He is hanging between two criminals, one challenging Jesus to save himself and the other standing up for Jesus. He asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. Jesus responds, “today you will be with me in Paradise.” Again we have the image of a kingdom which Jesus is King. We see Jesus as the type of King who grants wishes and welcomes sinners into the kingdom. Jesus shows he is the type of king that cares for others, it is not a kingdom where he takes advantage of his power serving his own desires, but it is a kingdom where he takes care of others and serves their needs.Jesus shows he is the type of king that cares for others, it is not a kingdom where he takes advantage of his power serving his own desires, but it is a kingdom where he takes care of others and serves their needs. Click To Tweet
It is also a kingdom that Jesus refers to as Paradise, an idyllic place. It is the place where everything begins for the first humans, the Garden of Eden, also known as paradise. It is certainly a place where all will find peace. A kingdom where we are under the watchful eye of the king, Jesus, and we can be assured that nothing will go wrong or have a negative impact on who we are and our life in the kingdom. It is the place of ultimate peace. This peace is spoken of by Paul in the second reading, it is used rarely. It is not the absence of conflict but is a fullness of well-being and the harmony of relationships. God is celebrated as the source of all peacemaking. It is the cross that is the peacemaking instrument, it fixes the broken relationship between humanity and God and it brings all into full harmony with God. The cross as an instrument of death is the way to full peace.
This is the idea of having a king, someone who cares for and looks after all those in their care. This is the celebration of Christ as King, as our Christ leads us to peace, a peace beyond human understanding, a peace that makes us in right relationship with God and makes us enter into the kingdom of God in full harmony. We are people of peace because of our King.
Be with him – peace
Looking at the Kingship of Christ we wonder what does it mean for us? Why do we need a King? A king is uncommon today and so we don’t see the care, love and protection that can come from being under the protection of a king. Subjects to the king are secure, the king will defend his subjects, they are protected by the king’s army. Subjects of the King have guaranteed means, they can have land, a job, ways to support themselves that are underwritten by the king, so they will feel they can survive in a satisfactory means. Subjects of the king have stability, they are able to live freely under the laws of the king and are able to trust in a future that the king ensures. Though we may not like the idea of being under a king in the modern world, the king brought security, guarantees and stability to a people who needed help to survive.Though we may not like the idea of being under a king in the modern world, the king brought security, guarantees and stability to a people who needed help to survive. Click To Tweet
This is the role of Christ the King. Christ brings us to his kingdom and we are secure, guaranteed and stable; plus Christ brings us peace because he is a King redeemer. To have this peace we receive harmony with God and a right relationship with God that is strong and growing.
To be in harmony with God is how humanity began. We read how God and the first humans would walk around the Garden of Eden speaking to one another, seeing one another. In many ways God allowed this humanity to feel they were equal to God, they had the same abilities and capabilities. They were made in God’s image and so they looked like God and they thought they were like God in every way.
Harmony allows us to understand God and to live in such a way we are completely pleasing to God. We can say Jesus’ life was one that was in harmony with God. He did all for God and made God the priority of his life. We are free to think and be as we wish but being in harmony with God means we wish to do God’s will and be ready to serve God in any manner we are able. To be in harmony with God is like being with a friend who you would do anything for, or perhaps it is like a deep loving spousal relationship where your spouse is more important to you than yourself. This harmony with God is attained and lived when we are in the Kingdom of God. This is one element of true peace.
Peace also means we are in right relationship with God. To be in right relationship means we are people who do what is right, we don’t seek our own good but the good of all. We don’t seek an advantage for ourselves but we look for all to have an advantage, we don’t keep more for ourselves we share equability with all. To be in right relationship with God means we love as God loves us. Our love is not for people we know or people who love us, but for everyone. We are in communion with all, we are compassionate for all, we have empathy for all. We don’t see ourselves as more important than others, we don’t see others unattached from us, we see everyone in communion.To be in right relationship with God means we love as God loves us. Our love is not for people we know or people who love us, but for everyone. Click To Tweet
This is what is meant when Paul says Jesus is the goal of everything. We are all to become in such right relationship that we are in communion with Jesus who is in communion with everyone. We are not individuals we are a body, the body of Christ, all good and all caring, all loving and all supportive of all. This right relationship means there is no other, there is only us, and we are all together. God at the center, connected through Christ and loving each other as we want to be loved. It is in this right relationship that we have peace.
This peace is beyond human understanding because we still live with a sinful nature. We tend to put ourselves first, to not care about everyone but only care for those we know and those who love us (often we don’t even care for some of these.) To receive the peace Christ is willing to give we need to be willing to be more life Christ. As we said last week we must be imitators of Christ to be with him. As we develop this desire to be Christ-like we also begin to receive peace and find that we will be with him more.
Like the man on the cross next to Jesus our goal is to be with him, in paradise; in the car, at work, at home, in heaven, anywhere we can be with him we want to be with him. We have seen over the last weeks that there is much we can do to be with Christ. We must imitate Christ, we are looking for connection and we need to connect by being like Christ.We must imitate Christ, we are looking for connection and we need to connect by being like Christ. Click To Tweet
As we started the series we said the first step toward being with him is to pray. Prayer is communication and to be with him we must speak to him, we must speak about ourselves and our hopes and we must ask to be in support of his needs and hopes. So to be with him we must be people of prayer.
To be with him we must be people of humility. We are not called to be weak but to be meek. We must be gracious, not brag about who we are or what we have accomplished. We are people who know all glory goes to God, in the good we do, it is God who should be thanked and credited. During the discussion of humility we shared a list from Mother Theresa that helps cultivate an attitude of humility, it began with, “speaking as little as possible.”
To be with him we must recognize he is a God who seeks and saves the lost. In some way we were lost and hopefully now are found. Jesus will do anything to bring the lost home and we should be partners in this seeking and saving. To help the lost find their way home we must invest in people and listen to them where they are. We must become an important voice in their life as Christ is important in ours. As we help Christ find the lost we are with him, seeking together.
To be with him we must recognize God is the God of the living. All things die but in Christ all come to life, all are resurrected. We cannot end the struggle and think we will be with him. We must be like Christ, must endure and we must be awake as we endure. We can’t go through life unconsciously, we must be completely aware of our journey and be fully alive to share Christ in us with others. To be alive is to be with him.
Be with him
This series opened us up to the idea that we can be with Christ always. It is up to us. We must work toward being with him and live our life realistically. We can’t dream and be asleep, we can’t think we are more important than Christ, we can’t believe that finding Christ for ourselves only is enough. We must be imitators of Christ, we must pray and we must attain peace. To be with him requires our effort to be with him and his grace to welcome us.To be with him requires our effort to be with him and his grace to welcome us. Click To Tweet