To their delight, the Grandsons took in an unexpected lesson in static electricity the other day.
What began as a mischievous game of “keep the balloon away from Gramps” morphed into a teaching moment, when one of said balloons affixed itself to the ceiling tile – attracted by an unseen but unmistakable force.
It’s kinda fun to be in the company of Little Ones when such an event unfolds, isn’t it? Because with age comes the tendency to believe you’ve seen it all before…along with an irrepressible to desire ‘splain things, even phenomena that you yourself only dimly understand.
Fortunately, a six-year-old’s curiosity is quickly satisfied – without requiring even a shallow dive into particle physics. And with the balloon back in play, there were additional hijinks to pursue, almost entirely at Gramps’ expense. It was time to move on to the next adventure!
Still, I couldn’t quite shake the whole static electricity thing. Stuck was I, mulling over the many unseen forces at work in our world. Forces of attraction and repulsion.
Perhaps that had something to do with how I’d spent my early Saturday morning, in the company of a faith-sharing group where we break open the scriptures proclaimed at Sunday Mass. This week, we marked the feast of Christ the King…by revisiting Luke’s account of the crucifixion. This surely seems like an odd choice by the liturgists: Why recall an episode of Jesus’ utter powerlessless, in order to proclaim his sovereignty over the universe?
But where I really got stuck was in meditating upon the two characters who flank the Savior in Luke’s retelling of the gruesome scene.
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?”
How could that be possible, I wondered. How could the first thief be repulsed by a potential Savior? How could someone on death’s door not recognize the gift he was being offered in the person of Jesus?
But is the second thief any less odd? He seems to know himself well. You might even say he finds himself a tad repulsive:
“…indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man [Jesus] has done nothing criminal.”
Why, then, with his next (dying) breath, does he ask the Lord to remember him? Wouldn’t it make more sense – in his brokenness – to want to be forgotten by God?
Clearly, the “good thief” sees something in Jesus that most of us find difficult to see. He’s discovered a Savior who’s looking not to bind us by the worst choices we’ve made…but to free us, by embracing the positive particles that remain at our core. And like St. Dismas, I’m beginning to think this is a King that I could learn to cling to.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.