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Gospel for Sunday, November 20: Luke 23: 35-43

Feast of Christ the King

35The people stood by and watched; instead, the leaders mocked him, saying: “He saved others! Save yourself, if he is the Christ of God, the chosen one.” 36Even the soldiers mocked him, approached him to hand him vinegar 37And they said: “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38Above him was also an inscription: “This is the King of the Jews.” 39One of the evildoers hanging on the cross insulted him: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40The other instead rebuked him saying: “Have you no fear of God, you who are condemned to the same punishment? 41We, rightly so, because we receive what we deserved for our actions; but he did nothing wrong.” 42And he said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He answered him: “Truly I say to you: today you will be with me in paradise”.

Luke 23: 35-43

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

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We have already reflected on other times what the kingship of Christ consists of. Today we want to reflect above all on the second part of the Gospel, the one that tells us about the so-called “good thief”. In the New Testament the term “Paradise” occurs three times (Lk 23.43; 2 Cor 12.2-4; Rev 2.7). Here it is found for the first time. Jesus on the cross, to the thief crucified with him who prays to him: “Jesus, remember me when you enter your Kingdom”, solemnly declares: “Truly I say to you: today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23,42-43 ).

Doglio writes: “The bandit we call the “good thief” simply asked Jesus to remember him once he entered the kingdom. It is the only time in which a character addresses Jesus by name, he is the only one who says: “Jesus, remember me”: he does not call him Master, he does not call him Lord, he calls him by name. What can he think about the kingdom? He was condemned because «King of the Jews», therefore he should have a kingdom…. There is a biblical reference to the story of Joseph: when he was in prison and interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s ministers, Joseph recommended himself to the one who would be reinstated in his place: «Remember me when you return to your place of command (Gen 40,14)”. It is a request for help towards someone who is about to become important and powerful.”

Jesus replies to him: “Today you will be with me in paradise”.

Here we have two types of readings. “The ancient Greek version of the Bible, called the Septuagint, and the Christian tradition called the Garden of Eden with a rare term of Persian origin: pairi-daeza, pardes in Hebrew, paradeisos in Greek, our «paradise». The word referred to a fenced, fertile and flowery garden and, already in the ancient Mesopotamian language, the Akkadian pardesu indicated a “fenced orchard”” (G. Ravasi). But some say that in today’s Gospel “paradise” “must not be read as a local indication: in the environment that we call paradise, in the eschatological phase, not even Jesus will be in paradise today, because he descends into hell and rises again on the third day. If we translate “paradise” precisely with the article, it is the garden, it is the garden of burial” (C. Doglio).

Where is the Beatitude, the promise of Jesus? In “Today you will be with me”, “you will be united with my fate, we will always remain together”. “The nucleus is very important because it contains the verb to be and the preposition of company. The place is not decisive, it is not paradise that gives meaning to the phrase, because paradoxically that term indicates the garden where the tomb is… And Jesus does not promise him anything in particular, except: «We will be together – not tomorrow – today you will be with me.” And this is precisely the heart of Christian theological reflection on Paradise” (C. Doglio). True bliss is always being with Jesus.

A second reading is the more traditional one: Jesus really speaks of Paradise as an eschatological reality. The thief says: “Remember me when you are in your Kingdom”: but shortly before he may have heard Jesus replying to Pilate by saying: “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have fought so that I was not handed over to the Jews; but my kingdom is not from below” (Jn 18:36). Jesus’ reference to Paradise would therefore not concern the garden where both Jesus and perhaps also the thief would have been buried, but precisely the definitive Kingdom. And when Jesus speaks of “today” he does not mean “the day itself”, but the “today” of God, his eternal present of him, outside of space and time. The meaning of Jesus’ response would therefore be: “You too, at your death, will enter with me into my Kingdom which is not of this world, but which is a divine reality”.

In any case, even in this second reading the main theme is “being with Jesus”, being with him, which becomes an experience of eschatological bliss.

Paradise will above all be the immense and ineffable joy of being with God. That God that we have always sought, desired, loved, on which we have played our lives, we will finally see him and be with him. The expectation of the centuries is fulfilled: to see God. This was denied to Moses, like to any other creature: “You will not be able to see my face because no man can see me and remain alive” (Ex 33.20). It was the hope of the Psalmist: “But for righteousness I will contemplate your face, when I wake up I will be satisfied with your presence” (Ps 17,15); “My soul thirsts for the living God; When will I come and see the face of God?” (Ps 42,3).

Jesus had promised: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Mt 5.8); and Paul confirms: “Now we see dimly as in a mirror, but then we will see face to face” (1 Cor 13:12). And John: “We will be like him, because we will see him as he is” (1 John 3:1-3). Now we will finally see God.

“The garden of Eden…, in which God places man according to Gen 2.15, is not a geographical place, but a situation of relationship and communion with God: it is Christ, it is life with God, eternal life to which we are called” (E. Bianchi). Only Christ is the place of our communion with the Father, the one who gives us eternal life, who transports our finitude into the infinity of God. “We can simply say that the paradise of Genesis is Christ himself: God created Adam and placed him in paradise, that is, in Christ (Creavit Deus Adam et posuit eum in paradise, id est in Christo), in which everything is created and therefore man himself in the first place” (G. Martelet).

“In the first letter to the Thessalonians, the most ancient Christian text, what Paradise is is explained in the best possible way: «We will go to meet the Lord and so we will always be with the Lord» (1 Thess 4:17). What is Heaven? Always be with the Lord; the fullness of life in the resurrection is always being with the Lord: “Today you will be with me in paradise”: being with Jesus here and in eternity is Paradise. Eternal life has already begun, we are already in it; the fullness will be the fulfillment of what has been given to us, when we see him we will be like him, we will be together with him, we will enter into his joy. And we will see how it will be understood and unfold, it will be a wonderful surprise and therefore we cannot imagine or at least – imagine what you want – it will be better and it will be more” (C. Doglio).

As Saint Ambrose says: “Vita est enim esse cum Christo; ideo ubi Christus, ibi vita, ibi Regnum”: “Life, in fact, is being with Christ, because where Christ is, there is life, there is the Kingdom”. “Yes, Christ is paradise, it is the u-topic, placeless place of full and shadow-free communion with God. Paradise is our homeland, our vocation, the gift that awaits us” (E. Bianchi) .

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at migliettacarlo@gmail.com.

Source

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