Crucified naked between two thieves, Jesus reigns as King. We make startling claims about this Jesus who died a criminal’s death and, seemingly, as a total failure. Jesus Christ is our King, our Lord. This is at least paradoxical. In truth, it is subversive. We have no other Lord but the God of Jesus. No leader, no government, no economic system, no country, no religion, and no president trumps the God of Jesus. The Holy Mystery as revealed in the Lamb is the center of our lives. Every other power or system is relative to the power of the Lamb. The nonviolent, gentle, humble, prophetic, purely mystical Jesus reveals a God who is gratuitous mercy on the side of the poor and marginalized, freeing all from within and offering eternal happiness if we but let go.
The early Christians knew well the cost of calling Jesus Kyrios, which is ancient Greek for Lord. In the ancient world, there was only one Kyrios, and he was the Emperor. He ruled the Roman Empire absolutely. There was even a whole religious cult devoted to worshipping the Emperor. The ancient Christians refused to worship the Emperor, who made peace through violence, subjugation of people, and oppression of the poorest. He was a man, not God. To call anyone Kyrios was not only unpatriotic but also a crime. Still, the early Christians chose Jesus crucified as their Kyrios. It is through Jesus that the early Christians intimately knew the God of life and love. It is through Jesus that the early Christians experienced salvation. They did not have the same experience with the Emperor.
The early Christians chose Jesus as their Kyrios even when it meant death. Many were persecuted and put to death in Roman coliseums. Many were beheaded and crucified. Surprisingly, more and more people became Christian. The early martyrs, those killed for their faith in the Lord Jesus, attracted others to the faith by their heavenly courage and Gospel resistance to the often-oppressive Roman Empire. The Gospel spread, and through it God liberated many more people. These early Christians, the martyrs, could not have witnessed to the goodness of God in Jesus and simultaneously protest the evils of the empire without having a living connection to the Holy Mystery of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. This living connection is available to everyone right now.
Reigning on the cross, Jesus says to the good thief crucified next to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus our King is saying we, too, can know the Mystery of God by inhabiting today. We can connect with God by being present in the now. Today is paradise, where we simply enjoy God. Paradise is the interior state of pure nothingness, which is the state of consciousness fully inhabiting the present moment and detaching from all false gods or enslaving “things.” The now is paradise when we live there consciously.
Often, however, we do not experience the now as paradise. We get anxious, afraid, distracted, lonely, depressed, or bored. With a new president, many of us are dreading the future while others are excited. Neither attitude helps. Getting anxious or excited over what the future holds distracts us from the paradise of the now. Amid our obsession with past and future, Jesus our King appears to say we can enjoy God this second by letting our minds be quiet and sinking into the indistinct nothingness within. Then, we are present and can accept the experience of the now. Change is then possible.
If we accept God in this present moment, we initiate a revolution of the heart. We need a revolution of the heart. This is a turning away from hatred and fear toward love and enlightenment. Some believe Trump’s election is the solution to the country’s problems. While many others think he represents the revenge of racism and misogyny, which some are labelling “white male supremacy.” We desperately need this revolution of the heart. We need people to let go of their hatred and fear. It is the only way forward, the only way to true justice and peace. Only when everyone is present here and now, open to divine mercy, and connecting with the God within can they change and see everyone truly as brother and sister. Thus, being present in the now, knowing today is paradise, is an act of resistance to all evil and to everything separating us from God and one another. It is a mystical and a prophetic act. It is the only sane response to our present situation, no matter whom we voted for. It is to follow Jesus our King.