Tuesday, November 23, 2010

King of Kings...and criminals

I love the conversation in the Passion between Jesus and the criminals. I love Luke's version. I have to admit I am always a little disappointed when the church year uses one of the Gospel's that doesn't distinguish between the good and the bad thief. In the Roman Church Tradition, the good thief's name is Dysmus. Though not a recognized saint, he is often referred to as St. Dysmus.

I have thought often about the good thief. When I was little, I used to thank him for his compassion to Christ in His suffering. I know it sounds strange, but I often imagined myself in the scenes of the Passion having conversations with its players. I remember once telling Jesus during the Scourging to say His Rosary. I think it was probably blasphemous, but I knew no other way to bring him comfort. It was what worked for me, what I was told to do when I was sad or scared. I think He probably gave me a pass.

I often think of John as well, the only apostle to stay with Jesus through His Passion. Tradition says he was the youngest apostle, a boy really, and the only virgin. It was his innocence which allowed him the courage and faith to stay with Jesus. And of course I think of Mary the Mother of God. I have wept tears for her during the Lenten Stations of the Cross. I can not imagine. As a mother, I hope not to ever be able to.

So why am I focused on the Passion the week before Advent begins? Good Question. Well, I just heard the Gospel from Luke with the conversation between Jesus and the criminals at Mass last Sunday, and it shed new light on my old favorite. For the Lenten story, the story I remember from so many past springs when the world is being reborn, is also told on the last Sunday of the church year, on the Feast of Christ the King.

My old friend Dysmus is a greater hero than I had even known. His greatness did not come from his defense of Jesus, as I had always found so noble. No, it was in his vision. This part of the movie The Passion of the Christ is based on the Luke version. It symbolically shows the spiritual insight of the good and the blindness of the bad by having a raven pluck out the eye of the bad thief. So Gibson got it, maybe you did to. And not only can we compare Dysmus to his fellow criminal, but also to most of the other apostles.

They had walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, lived with Jesus for three years. They had left family and friends, professions and homes to follow their king. One can understand their utter devastation at the events before the Resurrection. This had been their king, their hope, their life. He was being lashed and beaten, dragged through the streets and hung on a tree. They could not see. The bad thief could not see. The Pharisees and Sadducee's could not see. The Romans could not see.

But Dysmus could see. He could see in the broken battered man hanging next to him a King, The King. How could he? How could he see what so many had missed? Like the Wisemen years before him with a baby in a manger surrounded by hey and shepherds and animals, he saw a king. I don't know how he did it. But it makes me love him even more. It makes me long for that kind of faith.

It is easy for us now. We know how the story ends. We know the Christ of the Resurrection, the Christ of the Ascension, the Christ of the Book of Revelation. We know, but do we believe? Dysmus did not know the end of the story, yet he could see in our suffering savior A King.

Lord, this Advent, help me to see like Dysmus. Help me to see you in the baby and in the beaten down.

And as we prepare for the celebration of the Birth of our Lord, I can think of no better prayer than the prayer of Dysmus:

Jesus, remember me, when you come into Your kingdom.

Friday, November 12, 2010


You may have figured out, I love Juvenile Literature. I also love the genre that elaborates through prequel or sequel the story of a well known and loved character. It also might not surprise you that I love Peter Pan. The genius of JM Berry can be in part measured by the many stories that were born from the characters of this beloved book.

The Disney Faeries' stories discussed briefly in The Fair Folk (May 2010) are comprised of many books and a full feature film. Here we learn the workings of Pixie Hollow, the home of Tinker Bell and her fairy friends.

Disney also had an animated feature film, Peter Pan II about Wendy's daughter, Jane, and her trip to the Neverland. I didn't expect to like this one, but I did. Not as good as the original, but Jane is feisty and the ending is sweet.

Dave Berry and Ridley Pearson have written several books in their Peter and the Star Catchers Series which serve to explain the creation of the Never Land, Peter's Powers, the birth of Tinker Bell, Mr. Grinn and the Mermaids; as well as to tell the stories of Peter, Molly Aster (Wendy's mother), Mr. Darling, Hook and the Lost boys long before the night the flying boy steals the Darling Children from their London nursery. My kids enjoy this series, and I like it. But having a long history with Peter, I had my own dreams of where he came from and don't love the theory of the authors, though they make for good adventures.

Of course, we must mention the fabulous movie Hook, staring Robin Williams, Julie Roberts and Dustin Hoffman. Peter has become a man, and a corporate pirate no less, and is blackmailed back to Neverland by the kidnapping of his children. On the Island, he is forced to remember how to crow and how to fly. He must remember his Happy Thought and how to be a child again in order to save his children and regain the love and respect of his son.

Also worth mentioning is Finding Neverland staring Johnny Depp as JM Barry.

I have a new book to add to the list. I have just finished Capt. Hook by James Hart. Though I always thought Hook was in fact a Cod Fish, there is still something to love about the child like Pirate. In the movie and the play his character is usually the same actor as he who plays Mr. Darling. Though we surely do not find either admirable, we also can not despise them. Mr. Darling tries to make amends by sleeping in Nanna's Dog House until the children return. And Hook is wise enough to envy the eternal youth of Peter. Surely someone who is so jealous of childhood can not be all bad.

We meet James as the illegitimate son of an English Lord as he heads off to the prestigious all boys school, Eaton. He quickly makes a friend, Jolly Roger and also makes an enemy in the senior and house captain, Arthur Darling.

Although intent on remaining an outsider and nonconformist, he soon becomes a legend and King among the under class men. He bleeds yellow blood, has trained poisonous spiders, is an academic genius, master swordsman and leads his friends to victory in the Famed Eaton Games, scoring the first point scored in over two hundred years of competition.

After having the gaul to fall in love with a Sultana visiting the Queen, and the adventure this leads to, he is banned from school and English Life. Faking his own death and leaving Arthur Darling in quite a mess, he heads to sea for seven years aboard his father's ship, The Sea Witch.

Aboard the ship he is reunited with a runaway Jolly Roger. He makes the acquaintance of a fellow nonconformist, Mr. Smee and makes an enemy of the cruel Mr. Blood, the disciplinarian of the ship. He gets his sea legs, leaps the backs of whales and earns the respect of many of his fellow crewmen.

However, it is also here he learns his father is a slaver and the Black Gold they will be caring to England are African Slaves. Though all his heroes are the villains of history, this is unthinkable to the boy prophesied to have a black heart. He confronts Mr. Blood and finds himself in the hold with the slaves.

Leading a mutiny with the help of a warrior slave, he becomes the Captain of the Ship and gains his hook and his name. The book ends with his promise to return the Africans to their home and then to sail to find the island of his dreams and his beloved Sultana by finding the constellation Lyra and going from the second star to the right and straight on 'til morning.

Monday, November 8, 2010

To Anonymous


For my children, and for you and me the question is always how it "could be". We do not need to be taught how it is. We know. Disappointment comes so very naturally. It is hope that must be nurtured.

That the one good deed was not done for you, unfortunately is not God's fault. He has given his creatures Free Will. Humanity may have let you down, I assure you, God has not. Just because His creatures fell short in your case does not mean He doesn't have a plan for you. Perhaps you are stronger than you know. Perhaps his plan is not to have others do things for you to change your world, but for you to do something for someone else to change His world.

I assure you my faith in humanity is often tested. My faith in myself is daily challenged. Read Stress (April Archive) My faith in God has not been tested, in the sense that I have never lost the knowledge that he exists and loves me. I pray daily to escape the dark night of the soul experienced by the most holy. (The spiritual darkness of losing the assurance and consolation of God's existence which requires a complete act of the will to force oneself to believe with out the slightest feeling that He is near.) As I have been granted my prayer, it only proves I am weak and do not count among the greatest friends of God. When I am ready, he will hide from me to allow me to prove my love. I am not ready. Perhaps you are.

Whether you believe it or not, we belong to the Mystical Body of Christ. God's love transformed the world and His son transformed human suffering forever. It is only through our suffering that we can really understand love. I am sorry you have been denied by man the feeling of being loved. But you are never denied the opportunity TO love. That is your gift from God and to embrace it is your choice. He loves you and asks that you love others for him. If you have not known the love of humanity, do not give up on God. Believe in His love for you and learn that in loving others (especially those hardest to love) you will know He is there.

I will pray for you.