One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
A Word of Hope
These few verses are found in Luke’s account of Jesus’ passion on the cross. He had been crucified with two thieves hung on crosses beside him. The holy Jesus had suffered the exhaustion of his betrayal, trial, torture and now the pain of being nailed to the cross. Death of his body was close at hand. And yet, he must endure ridicule from one of those thieves and many individuals who traveled by the site of the crucifixion. It seemed almost too much to deal with. Almost a time to curse and spit if there had been only enough energy left in his body. Maybe it’s a time to sink within one’s own body and shut out all the noise and evil action around.
However, one of those thieves recognized Jesus’ holy nature and pleaded that Jesus would remember his confession: “I have been condemned justly but this man (Jesus) has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus could have been consumed with his own agony, but instead, he responded to that thief: “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
There’s a real lesson for us in these few verses. In times of deep pain and loss in our life, there usually are others around us who also are in agony and may not have an adequate relationship with God. They may not have the assurance of that divine loving presence which can lead them through the current trial. In such difficult and self-consuming moments, we are still servants of Christ, and still asked to witness to God’s loving and forgiving care. It is during such moments, that our words and actions have their greatest strength to tell of divine grace. It is then that we can extend to others God’s offer of peace to a weary humanity. As followers and proclaimers of the blessed love of God, never do we have the right to “crawl into our own shell of comfort” and ignore the pain of those around us! May we always take the example of Jesus’ promise given to this dying thief. We can do no less than Jesus!
Gracious God, as we reflect on the example of Jesus’ experience, strengthen us to be more faithful and consistent in our life’s witness to your redeeming love. Open our eyes to the opportunities in which we can help others find you as a rich source of comfort and guidance for their life. May this week be filled with God-given opportunities for us to express God’s love.
Donald (Luke) Day
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare