Do we deserve a dying thief’s fate?

If you get to be king of the universe, you’d think that would come with some pretty good amenities. What does such a king deserve?

The one we celebrate at every Mass got nailed to a cross.

The Mass readings for this Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, involve people who got what they didn’t deserve.

Take King David, for example. As a little shepherd boy he didn’t get respect from anybody—except God. Sunday’s first reading from the second book of Samuel (2 Sm 5:1-3) tells of David receiving a kingly anointing:

When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD, and they anointed him king of Israel.

But David wasn’t always their favorite. He was the last in a long line of big brothers, all of whom drew respect fit for a king. The first book of Samuel (1 SM 16:10-12) tells how David got what God said he deserved:

In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any one of these.” Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, but he is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he arrives here.” Jesse had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth with beautiful eyes, and good looking. The LORD said: There—anoint him, for this is the one!

And what do WE deserve? Like David, nothing but God’s will. That’s what we pray for every time we say the Our Father—“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What we should really be praying for is faith—even faith the size of a mustard seed. By planting that seed in the dirt of our minds we may be able to grow it to the size and scope necessary to accept the grand fate we don’t deserve but that our Father wills for us. According to what Paul tells the Colossians in Sunday’s second reading (Col 1:12-20), that fate gives us much to be thankful for.

Brothers and sisters: Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

That’s how we’re all like David—the little kid nobody but God judged worthy of His grace. But the fullness of that grace involves God’s will being done—just as His Son’s suffering and death became the delivery method of God’s will for us. Even the good thief in Sunday’s gospel reading (Lk 23:35-43), who died next to Jesus, didn’t think Jesus deserved the fate he and his partner in crime were being forced to accept. That fate didn’t stop the good thief from growing his mustard-seed-size faith into something huge—big enough to give eternal life to his dying prayer:

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus’ loving answer became the hope of our faith in a fate humanity’s fallen nature couldn’t merit on its own:

“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

–Tom Andel

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