Crucifixion, Pedro de Campaña, c.1550
Musée du Louvre, Paris [Web Gallery of Art]
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
Gospel Luke 23:35-43 (New Revised StandardVersion, Anglicised Catholic Edition)
The people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at Jesus, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom (Luke 23:42) Taizé chant
About six years ago Dominican friar in Dublin told me about one of his confreres who was to celebrate Mass one morning in a nearby Sisters' convent. Since it was only a short walk he decided to wear his habit. (It was the Dominican habit that first caught my imagination about the priesthood when I was six or seven, though later on I never considered joining the Dominicans.) Along the way the friar met a Sister from another convent who chided him for being so 'old-fashioned' or 'pre-Vatican 2' or words to that effect. A little further on a young man stopped him. This was the conversation that followed:
You're a priest, right?
Well I'm getting married tomorrow and I need to go to confession.
So Father heard the young man's confession on the street and went on his 'pre-Vatican 2' way to celebrate Mass.
Today's Gospel shows us Jesus hanging on the Cross under a sign that said in Greek, Hebrew and Latin 'King of the Jews'. And the Kingdom he came to establish broke through in the conversation between him and one of the two thieves crucified with him.
The brief conversation that St Luke records shows us what the Sacrament of Confession is all about. This young man acknowledged his sinful ways and accepted the punishment he received. He recognised the innocence of Jesus and saw in him something that spoke profoundly to him of God's love and mercy. It is very unlikely that he could see that Jesus was indeed God who became Man. But he saw in him a man of God and saw in some way the true nature of the Kingdom that Jesus had established.
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
(3 March 1873 - 16 August 1917)
Having fulfilled his priestly duties in an outstanding fashion for almost two years, he was killed in the Battle of Ypres, Belgium, on August 16, 1917, having run 'all day hither and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy'. This good shepherd truly gave his life for his sheep.
Wounded British soldiers, 16 July 1916, Battle of the Somme [Wikipedia]
The soldier carrying a staff is a German prisoner-or-war, now helping his erstwhile enemy.
Through God's grace the priest, Fr Willie Doyle SJ, who was to die in Belgium on 16 August 1916 as a chaplain in the British army during the Great War, was located, travelled across from Ireland and spent the last few hours with Fanny. She wanted to be baptised and was also able to receive her First and Last Holy Communion as Fr Doyle celebrated Mass with her in her cell. The Bread of Life was the last food she ate.
A couple of years before this Father Willie had been giving a mission in a parish in the east of England. He had been hearing confessions well into the night and happened to pass Fanny on the street as he went to his lodging and she was plying her 'trade'.
Father Doyle was totally in the dark when he arrived at the prison but Fanny reminded him of their previous encounter.
You said to me, ‘Child, aren’t you out very late? Won’t you go home? Don’t hurt Jesus. He loves you.’ You said this so gently, so appealingly, and then you gave me a look that seemed to go right through me.
The memory of those words were what led her to the moment when she knew that Jesus was speaking the same words to her as she went to her execution that he spoke to the thief on the cross on his right: Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy that began last year on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, ends this Sunday. In the video above Pope Francis, in his homily during a Lenten penitential service on 13 March 2015 announces the Jubilee Year and explains, why he called it.
In his homily Pope Francis said: Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought of how the Church may render more clear her mission to be a witness to mercy; and we have to make this journey. It is a journey which begins with spiritual conversion. Therefore, I have decided to announce an Extraordinary Jubilee which has at its centre the mercy of God. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live in the light of the word of the Lord: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (cf. Lk 6:36). And this especially applies to confessors! So much mercy!
As a priest who is, as every priest should be, familiar with both sides of the confessional box, I am truly grateful to Pope Francis for reminding us so often of God's love, of the reality of sin and of the Devil, of the reality of God's mercy, expressed most especially through the beautiful Sacrament of Confession, Penance, Reconciliation, Forgiveness.
About 15 minutes before he died on the battlefield while trying to rescue a wounded soldier Fr Willie Doyle, who had an extraordinary gift of bringing hardened sinners back to God, himself went to confession for the last time.
Christ in Agony on the Cross, El Greco, 1600s
Art Museum, Cincinnati [Web Gallery of Art]
Christ the King is a King of Mercy
Antiphona ad Communionem
Communion Antiphon Psalm 28:10-11
Sedebit Dominus Rex in aeternum;
The Lord sits as King for ever.
Dominus benedicet populo suo in pace.
The Lrod will bless his people with peace.