Holy Spirit Province Saint-Esprit
Franciscans of Canada - Franciscains du Canada
Ordo Fratrum Minorum
Most, if not all, have some capacity to love and commit; but, as mere children of God our ability to do anything, including that, is limited. Creative and uncontainable, only the Trinitarian love and commitment inflaming Christ our King has not limits.
With that, of course, hopeless romantics may freely disagree.
When asked about his capacity for commitment, Hollywood heartthrob Matthew McConaughey responded, “I have no problem with commitment. I love having somebody in my life.”
At a very basic level, we all love to have love in our lives, but true commitment is less about the love we have and more about the love we share.
Human beings depend on the love of others made real in support, affirmation, and affection. Ideally, this on which we depend is true and beautiful; but I dare suggest that as good as it can get, the love we give and receive from one another is, like anything else we do, but a shadow of divine perfection.
In the gospel we witness God’s love and commitment to us and our salvation. Surrendering himself in faith, Christ gives to the world, and takes from the Father, in ways he, and only he, can. Inspired by what he receives, Jesus’ love and commitment is acted out in explosive relations between he and the Father. So great, in fact, is the affection between Christ and the Father that it cannot remain between them alone. First giving birth to the spirit, Christ and the Father produce a love that perpetually longs to increase and include.
Putting the 3 person God in perspective, C.S. Lewis wrote that “True Love is not two people standing face to face, true love is two people standing side by side and loving another. True (and Trinitarian) love is, in other words, so uncontainable that it must create. For God, true love (which is also nature) is a force determined to make Christ’s unrelenting gift of salvation known throughout the cosmos.
But true love, of course, is far from easy. As our Lord experiences, it takes a martyr to love wholly and entirely. The mockery of Religious leaders, Roman Soldiers, his own people, and even criminals, Jesus, for loves sake, becomes the world’s sacrificial lamb. By way of one irrational act, death and resurrection, Christ is crowned King of creation, the symbol of divine faithfulness.
Today, as we celebrate the King’s feast, the gospel recalls our Lord’s crowning moments. With Jesus perched between two convicts, we hear the extremes of attitudes that either bound us to this world, or release us into the freedom of God’s mercy.
On one side we have pride- a criminal who simply cannot find faith enough within himself to repent, and receive the Good News of his own salvation. The prisoner is captive to more than he realises. Consumed by his own ego, criminal “A” is paralyzed by indictments of this world. He is yet to embrace the unceasing pardon and freedom that belongs to God’s children.
On the other side we have another, perhaps a more desperate offender. Done with the chains of this world, and, more importantly, done with the pride that has thus far directed his life, our second convict is ready to move on. Finally aware that God’s mercy is his best hope, the only hope he has left, the second, the repentant, criminal is ready to embrace life with God in eternity.
These two stories speak to the various ways we respond to God’s mercy and love, but also just how generous God is. Despite the unrepentant criminals attempt to deny our Lord’s salvific power, we should have little doubt that both of these men will be with Christ in paradise. To them and us a heavenly communion is promised and delivered by the crucified King.
Like Christ, we too have an abundant capacity to commune, to give of ourselves, and to receive from others. But even though we love and commit, we have our thresholds. I am reminded of the words of St. Thomas More in a man for all seasons. Pointing to himself: “this is not the stuff of which martyrs are made.” But that’s quite alright.
Fortunately, this world needs but one martyr, one sacrificial lamb to account for all that we lack; he is none other than Christ the King. Only through Christ’s death and resurrection, the fruit of boundless love between Father and Son are we redeemed. Because of what God has already accomplished, there is little for us to do except love, and allow ourselves to be loved, all the way to paradise.