November 24, 2013 - Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

posted Nov 22, 2013, 10:28 AM by Domain Admin   [ updated May 7, 2016, 10:22 PM ]

Gospel of Luke 23: 35-43

Ali’s Reflection
I work in the mental health field as a social worker, and amongst the individuals I’ve served, I had the opportunity to meet and work with a young man in his early twenties, whose story really challenged me as a clinician. He was a former foster youth who became homeless soon after his parents were unable to care for him. In the time I worked with him, he would tell me about the agonizing hours he spent struggling with being homeless, combined with the challenges of severe mental illness and substance abuse problems. What struck me most, though, was how he was treated in the community. He was often ignored and was sometimes targeted as someone to fear looking at or even acknowledging because of his bizarre appearance. With his long hair and lanky stature and being dressed in a dark oversized trench coat, which he wore everyday, he seemed to remind people of the young men who were involved in the shootings at Columbine. He was dismissed, bullied, ridiculed, and mocked by people he encountered in the community, hearing messages such as: "you need to get your act together", "just find a job", “you’re psycho”, "take your medication”, messages similar to ones he grew up hearing most of his young life from adult figures and even his peers. The way this young man was treated is what seemed to come to mind when I was reflecting on this week’s gospel.

I was drawn towards the behavior of the second criminal in the gospel, who backs Jesus up after the rulers, soldiers and the first criminal who was crucified with him, were mocking Jesus as the “King of the Jews”. Instead of joining in on the mockery or becoming angry and upset like the first criminal, he showed some empathy and compassion. He, of all people—a criminal, a sinner, highly scrutinized in the public eye, hated by members of his community and judged for his misdoings—seemed to own who he was and his past mistakes and ultimately, showed faith in Jesus. In return, Jesus instantly validated the criminal by welcoming him into his kingdom of Paradise.

As sinners, ourselves, and people of faith, I believe we seek for similar redemption to be welcomed by our King. I'm challenged to think about how I can be like the criminal who spoke up for Jesus because he seemed to believe that the label or name of ‘King’ was more than what was inscribed on Jesus’ cross. In the same light, I am reminded of our young people and how labels, name-calling, and stigma have a pervasive impact on the way they treat each other and even themselves. It seems all too easy to dismiss a person and not be mindful of how we choose to be towards one another, especially in the milieu of competition, needs for acceptance, and popularity that young people often live through. How often do you back up your friends when they’re being judged or mistreated? Instead of joining in on what can seem like fun jokes or playing around, how can you acknowledge or even try standing up and voicing your support of him or her? What would it take for you to do the same for a complete stranger? With this in mind, I urge that we each try to recognize God in our daily lives, especially when you happen to meet someone who reminds you of the face of our King.

Harland's Reflection
The gospel reminds me of the hazing, taunting, and bullying that is rampant in society today. This type of ridicule comes from many different sources and is often times hurtful and degrading. I’m sure we can all come up with times in our lives where we have been questioned, made fun of, booed, or challenged in such a manner. I remember playing for my Varsity basketball team at Moreau Catholic High School years ago, and more than once received racially and religiously charged jeering from opposing teams. I’m not going to lie – it hurt being a target of such pointed and specific hatred and ignorance. In fact this issue has even become a hot topic in the world of professional football. Though hazing has traditionally been an unwritten right of passage for players throughout the years, it has gotten out of hand as players are taking it too far with their forms of hazing. A 2nd year player from the Miami Dolphins actually stood up for himself and identified the person responsible for hazing him and that player was suspended by the NFL. Even after defending himself, he is still being judged by his peers as well as sports fans for calling out his teammate and getting him in trouble. Sports pundits defend the hazer and identify the “hazee” as being the bad teammate.
How do you react when you see behavior like this? Ask yourself, “Would I step in and help the person being made fun of? Would I be able to stand up for myself if this happened to me?” The second criminal in the Gospel stood up for Jesus and was subsequently welcomed into His kingdom of Paradise. Luckily we are given some gifts of the Holy Spirit to help handle these types of situations. The gift of understanding helps us when this vitriol is aimed directly towards us. With a little understanding, we can avoid over reacting and remain calm and collected. The gift of courage encourages us stand up for ourselves, as well as others when they may not be able to stand up for themselves. Sometimes it can be hard to do what you know is right, but a little courage should help along the way. It’s up to us to accept the gifts that God has so graciously bestowed upon us and use them for good.