Date: Sunday, November 24, 2019
On Thursday I read a 4-star movie review in Gusto: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Likely you guessed that it is about Fred Rogers – host of the classic Children’s TV Show. “The neighborhood” is a “make believe” place – filmed in a studio and broadcast into homes. Children watching assume Mr. Rogers sees them and they are important. The movie shows Mr. Rogers’ “philosophy in action” -- kindness, patience, presence and gratitude count. We can hear Mr. Rogers say: “I like you just the way you are.”
Three Sundays back in the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus says the same to Zacchaeus, the tax collector who climbs a tree to see Jesus. He is despised and ridiculed, but Jesus invites himself into Zacchaeus’ home. “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay in your house.” The empathy of Jesus changes Zacchaeus.
Surprisingly, on this feast day when we honor Jesus Christ as King of the Universe, we find Jesus on the cross humiliated and dying. Rulers sneer. Soldiers jeer. Crucified criminal ridicules. However, the other criminal (knowing that in some strange way Jesus is king) appeals: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” From the throne of the cross, Jesus replies: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
As king, Jesus claims our hearts. The kingdom, while coming into and to some degree already present in our world, is less a place and more a way of life. It is “philosophy in action.” On Saturday morning at 11:30 AM we celebrated First Reconciliation with girls and boys in our faith community. In the Sacrament of Penance, we receive and share the precious gift God’s mercy, the forgiveness of Jesus. It is an experience of the promise of Paradise.