Live in God’s kingdom today
Gospel for Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016
Feast of Christ the King
By Glen Argan
Too often our minds are buzzing with thoughts about everything except the present moment. We are a distracted people, perhaps even more now than at any time in history. We ponder the past and hope for the future, but when do we live in the present moment?
Jesus, in Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 23.35-43), says salvation is found “today.” That may not be how we commonly understand the closing words of this Gospel: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus is talking to the so-called good thief, and we might want to ponder the awesomeness of God’s mercy in that even this convicted criminal will go with Jesus into heaven. However, the theme of “today” pops up often enough in Luke’s Gospel that we ought not pass by that little word.
After reading from Isaiah in the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus proclaims, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (4.21). When Jesus goes to the home of Zacchaeus, he says, “Today salvation has come to this house” (19.9). When the pharisees ask him when God’s kingdom will come, he responds, “In fact, the kingdom of God is among you” (17.21).
While Luke’s Gospel does talk about the kingdom having a future culmination, its emphasis is on present fulfillment.
That is most striking in this episode with the good thief as Jesus pours out his life on the cross. For the cross is the place of our salvation. Eternal life is a future hope, and it permeates life today. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (9.23).
Jesus, as Luke tells the story, calls people to be his disciples in most unexpected ways and times. The encounter with the good thief is perhaps the most unexpected of them all.
The story goes on today. Christ continues to look for disciples in unexpected, desperate places to be witnesses to his mercy, to speak for the immigrant, the abused woman, the jobless. We don’t know where and when Jesus will come calling. It will not only be in the eternal future, but also the eternal now. It may mean carrying a heavy cross. However, we will be called, and it will be “today.”
Jesus’ advice: “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit” (10.35). Prepare with prayer and meditation. Prepare by listening to the news and knowing your neighbours.
[Other readings: 2 Samuel 5.1-3; Psalm 122; Colossians 1.12-20]