Isaac is about one and a half years old. In creche the other day when he saw two boys fighting he went over to them, separated them and gave each of them a hug. And that was the end of it. There’s something about this boy! What is it that gave one so young the instinct and the wisdom to do something so mature He reminds me of Jesus Himself, He who in Scripture is called Peacemaker.
Christ the King of the Universe is presented to us in today’s Gospel hanging on the Cross between two criminals. He has no palace, no power, no servants, no pageantry. The Cross is His throne and there is no need for an appointment to get near him. He is as accessible to us as He is to each of the two who are crucified with Him.
Our response to Him can be like the response of either of these two men. Both seem to know who Jesus actually is, that He has the power to save all three of them. For the first that saving simply means getting them down off their crosses while the second has a deeper, eternal understanding of salvation. He understands that both criminals deserve their punishment while Jesus does not. And then he make this simple and beautiful prayer, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” The words of a repentant criminal become a prayer with the power of God’s Word in them.
We don’t know what happened to the soul of the first criminal but we do know what happened to the second, the one who is often called the ‘good thief’. “Indeed I promise you” replied Jesus “today you will be with me in paradise!” That’s all that is needed – a humble prayer and a response that fills us all with hope, hope in eternal life. A prayer and a response that take us directly into paradise. Perhaps the other man was touched by the words of his two companions and may his soul eventually made its way to paradise, even if by the scenic route. We do not know and we cannot presume.
So our eyes are turned to Christ the King on the throne of His Cross. Recently I’ve been looking up quite a bit at our large crucifix that hangs over the altar, especially since a conversation with two children whose father had died. A desperately sad time. They came to the church with their Mum for solace and consolation and again they came to prepare themselves for his funeral.
The sun was streaming through the south facing windows as it often does around noon and the two children commented on the cobwebs surrounding the crucifix, wondering how the webs might be removed. Perhaps their Dad might do it from on high? And then they concluded that the cobwebs looked kind of cool.
When they had gone home I continued to contemplate the sight and it struck me that the cobweds were symbolic, reminder to us that Jesus crucified places Himself withing the cobwebs of our lives, those areas where we feel ourselves trapped or enmeshed – whether it be grief or anything else. He is among our cobwebs and He enters as Peacemaker like little Isaac into our fights, our conflicts – the conflicts in our relationships, in our world, the inner conflicts that divide our own personal lives, the addictions that we do and do not want to be free of. And He wordlessly hugs what is conflicted to bring healing and redemption, unity and peace.
Looking at Christ on the Cross we might take at face value what is presented – the innocent, vulnerable one rejected and defeated. But hidden within this defeat, this death is the unconquerable flame of life that, a few days later, breaks forth in the resurrection and even as He “breathed His last” there is the hint of the Holy Spirit being breathed forth, the Holy Spirit being the “breath of God”, the unquenchable fire of Divine Love.
This brings us to the Divine nature of Christ who existed before all creation, by whom and in whom all creation came into existence and is sustained. He is everything and He is in everything (Colossians 3:11). So, He is in and fills the whole universe, the whole of creation and the environment that we are so concerned about. And this means that respect for the environment is not simply about creation in itself, nor is it just about protecting future generations of humanity. It must include reverence and respect for the One who created it and who is present in it. Reverence for God must be the beginning and end of our environmental efforts; reverence for the Creator must inspire our love for the creation.
As I was preaching about the Cross and the cobwebs at the first two Masses, I presumed that the cobwebs were still there, thinking them to be a good “prop” for the message but two very kind ladies had come along over the weekend and managed to clear the webs away, even from such a great height. And I thought then that while Christ makes Himself present in our webs, He doesn’t leave us in them forever. The time comes when they are cleared away and we are set free.
After third Mass someone informed me that webs are ecosystems in themselves and they are also symbols of God’s covenant with His creation. I had never heard that before.
Returning to the funeral of the young husband and father which we had on Friday, one of the most inspiring moments was when his two children bravely stood together at the microphone and prayed this prayer:
A Prayer for Peace of Mind and Heart
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”. Psalm 34:18
Lord, I come to you,
feeling confused and bewildered.
My world has been shaken,
my hope has been dimmed.
Fragments of grief lie all around me,
waves of fear break over my life.
Help me know your presence of calm,
bring light to my darkness,
and peace to my heart.
Heal my heart and my mind,
from crushing thoughts, fear and anxiety.
Give me hope for my future,
restore my troubled soul.
Loneliness and grief can threaten to overwhelm me.
Protect me Lord,
give me comfort and relief.
Hold me close and lead me to security,Written by the Abbey Pastoral Care Team,
where your love breaks in and guides me to peace.
Order my steps, bring courage and stillness.
Help me to trust.
Help me dare to believe,
that in the pain and in all of the heartache,
You are still God
and You will bring peace.
A prayer that can bless and console any one of us in our grief.
In true Irish fashion, this turned out to be “a great funeral” as my parents used to say. There was a gathering down at the Albion in Georges Street where there was music, eating and drinking and endless conversation. I wasn’t able to make it for the music but dropped in there later in the afternoon when I went out for my walk. My “drop in” involved four or five Cokes and lasted about three hours as I got caught up in the beautiful company of some of the young couples of the parish and their children who played with their bereaved friends. Sorrow and joy mingled with each other there in such a natural way.