Celebrating his first public Mass in Japan on the Feast of Christ the King on Sunday, Pope Francis draws attention to the good thief in Luke’s Gospel. His attitude and profession of faith, the Pope says, makes the horror and injustice of Calvary, become a message of hope for all humanity.
Pope Francis chose the plea of the good thief as the base of his homily: “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power”. “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” is what Jesus assures the thief. “And that moment does nothing more than confirm the entire meaning of Jesus’ life: always and everywhere to offer salvation,” the Pope said at the afternoon Mass at Nagasaki’s Baseball Stadium.
Love overcomes hatred, selfishness
“‘Save yourself!’ The shouts of scornful derision addressed to the innocent victim of suffering will not be the last word,” the Pope said. “Rather, they will awaken a response from those who let their hearts be touched, who choose compassion as the authentic way to shape history.”
Saint Paul Miki and his companions and hundreds of martyrs who gave their lives in courageous witness, the Pope said, invite us in their footsteps to profess courageously that the love poured out in sacrifice for us by Christ crucified is capable of overcoming all manner of hatred, selfishness, and mockery. “It is capable of defeating all those forms of facile pessimism or comfortable indolence that paralyze good actions and decisions.”
As missionary disciples and witnesses and heralds of things to come, the Pope said, we cannot become resigned in the face of evil in any of its forms. Rather, we are called to be a leaven of Christ’s Kingdom wherever we find ourselves: in the family, at work or in society at large. We are to be a little opening through which the Spirit continues to breathe hope among peoples.
The kingdom of heaven, our common goal, the Pope explained, is not only about tomorrow but also of today, amid the indifference that so often surrounds and silences the sick and disabled, the elderly and the abandoned, refugees and immigrant workers. All of them, the Pope said, are a living sacrament of Christ our King, because Jesus Himself wanted to be identified in their faces.
Courage to raise our voice
The Pope noted that on Calvary, while many voices remained silent and others jeered, the voice of the good thief rose to the defence of the innocent victim of suffering. “His was a brave profession of faith,” said the Pope, adding, “each of us has the same possibility: we can choose to remain silent, to jeer or to prophesy.”
Drawing attention to Nagasaki, the Pope said the city “bears in its soul a wound difficult to heal, a scar born of the incomprehensible suffering endured by so many innocent victims of wars past and those of the present, when a third World War is being waged piecemeal.”
Like the good thief, he said, “Let us lift our voices here and pray together for all those who even now are suffering in their flesh from this sin that cries out to heaven.”