After admitting that he had been justly condemned to death for the
crimes he had committed, Dismas, the "Good Thief" turned and said: "Jesus,
remember me when you come into your kingdom." And Jesus replied to him: "
Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
        Jesus, hanging on the cross, dying, is STILL preaching the Good
News! And it's the words that all of us long to hear: "Today you will be
with me in Paradise." It's those words, coupled with the knowledge of his
resurrection, that gives us hope, the hope that should direct our entire
lives as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Hope takes that faith and
directs it toward the future. As Christians, Hope means hope for heaven.
The heavenly kingdom where this crucified Christ sits on a throne of
triumph and welcomes us to a life of eternal joy.
        Unfortunately, in todays' world, the words "believe" and "hope"
have become somewhat trivialized. "I believe" usually means "I think" or "I
am of the opinion." "I believe that Roberto Clemente was the greatest
right-fielder ever to play the game." Or "I believe we're in for a rough
winter this year."
        Is that the same thing as saying "I believe in God, the Father
Almighty, I believe in his only son, our Lord, who will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead. And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the
Lord and giver of life."? Is that the same thing? Is it just an opinion or
do we know it to be true?
        It's the same thing with the word "Hope." "I hope" usually means "I
wish" or "I would like it if..." "I hope the Steelers win the Super Bowl."
"I hope we've seen the last of this terrorism for a while."
        Christian hope isn't like that. There's no "I wish" or "I would
like it if I would go to heaven." For Christians, hope is something that is
CERTAIN. We say here at Mass "In the sure and certain hope of the
resurrection." It's not a guess. It's not just our opinion. It's the truth!
Hope is an affirmative response on our part to the many promises of God.
Sacred Scripture contains over 300 promises of God. And God's promise will
come true! There's no "ifs" "ands" or "buts" about it because God IS truth.
God said it; I believe it; and that should settle it. Because a God who is
Truth wouldn't tell us lies and wouldn't make promises he can't keep. Our
faith in Jesus Christ should always give us that same certain hope that was
the good thief's when Jesus said to him: "Today you will be with me in
        After his resurrection, everytime Jesus appears to his disciples,
he greets them with the words: "Peace be with you," or in other words, "I
am with you." Because Jesus is our peace, our hope. It is his peace that we
offer to each other when we exchange the sign of peace during Mass. Jesus
is here and present to us; present in us as the Body of Christ; present in
his word that we have heard and now made a part of ourselves and present in
the Eucharist. He continues to offer us his true peace, which is the joy
that the world can't give us. It's that certain hope of God's love dwelling
in us and and that hope of eternal life in paradise.
        Jesus promised: Your grief will turn to joy...but I will see you
again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from
        But to experience this peace of Christ in its fullness, we have to
change. Living our lives in spiritual mediocrity, living out half-heartedly
the commandment of Jesus to love God with our whole hearts, minds and souls
and to love our neighbor as ourselves will not bring us that perfect peace,
that perfect joy, that we all hope for. It requires a real effort on our
part to put into action what we say we believe when we say our "Amen" at
the end of the creed or when we receive communion.
        We often say "Amen" at the END of a statement of belief, a
statement of hope. But to say "Amen" is really a beginning. If we really
mean what we say, if we truly accept what we've heard and received from
God, then we are compelled to act. We can't remain silent. We can't be
complacent. Everytime we say "Amen!" we are pledging to continue our
efforts to bring about the kingdom of God here and now.
        There is a little poem by a woman named Barbara Schmich Searle that
explains this very well:
                                "Amen" makes demands
                                Like a signature on a dotted line
                                "Amen"; We support. We approve.
                                We are of one mind. We promise.
                                May this come to pass. So be it.

        The peace that is Christ's peace comes to pass through love. And we
believe that he will return in glory to judge us on how well we have loved.
But we have to be ready to meet him. In fact, he's already given us the
answer to the final test! Most likely, if Jesus was a school teacher in
this district, he'd probably be fired for giving away the content of the
final exam. More than that, he describes how it will happen.
        "But when the son of man comes in his glory...all the nations will
be gathered before him, and he will separate them from one another, the way
a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." And then he gives us the
answer to the test. The theme of the judgement will be love: "Amen, I say
to you, insofar as you did it for one of these least of my brothers, you
did it for me."
        And Jesus is not only guilty of revealing the content of the exam,
he also simplified it for us, substituting the ten demands of the Decalogue
with a summary: "Love God and your neighbor."
        Let's celebrate this great Feast of Christ the King in the sure and
certain hope that what Jesus promised us is true, and begin our entry into
the season of Advent with the resolution to really change our lives with
that full expectation of eternal joy that Christ promises to us.

Can I have an Amen?