Friday, March 23, 2007
Jesus, Remember Me
LUKE 23: 39 -43
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? 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?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal."
Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
My parish has Stations of the Cross every Friday during lent, and Mass afterwards; when one is properly disposed, the devotion and pray can offer the best sort of preparation for communion.
Tonight after I had received Our Lord, I knelt, contemplating the huge crucifix that graces our altar. I love to look at this crucifix and consider what Jesus did for us, and try to place myself at the very foot of his cross, trying to obtain a greater understanding.
There are some lights which are focused upon the crucifix in such a way that a shadow is cast to either side and from the correct vantage point, it appears there are actually three crosses there; Jesus is front and center, and then, just below and in profile, two other crosses in shadow.
I could not help but think of the criminals who were crucified with Jesus, and in a flash, I realized that I am one of them.
Suddenly I understood that these criminals are metaphors for all of us; we are one in the same.
But there is a difference in their response to their situation and to Jesus, and this is where we must stop and consider who we are and who we want to be.
I have always had a sort of attitude of condescension towards the criminals, but for Dismas who realized who Jesus was and prayed for mercy. Yet he was a criminal; he is "beneath" us, right?
Nope. He is who we aspire to be.
All of us offend God; all of us sin. All of us, by this definition, are criminals in one way or another. All of us receive our just punishments throughout life, our humiliations, sometimes deserved, and all of us have an opportunity at each occasion to either admit our wrongs and move one...or to nurse our wounds, justly earned, and blame others.
One of the criminals ridiculed Jesus, demanding that he save himself. The other criminal rebuked the first; both were in extreme pain. Both were being punished for their crimes. They were truly suffering, but one, through his suffering, was converted. Even in his suffering, rather than closing in upon himself, he rebuked the one in what can be seen as an opportunity to point him towards mercy personified in their presence, and then he turned to Jesus and asked him for mercy for himself. This criminal was named Dismas; and what I find truly remarkable was that he first thought of his angry companion before he asked for mercy for himself.
Jesus did not deny the requestof Dismas, and he did not address the other man; the other had already rejected him.
As I prayed in front of that crucifix tonight, I realized how often I have been the one to reject Jesus, screaming and condemning and ridiculing in my pain. I also realized how often my suffering comes through my own actions, and how often I am only upset because I was called out on my wrong actions in some way. Rather than owning my sin and admitting my failure, I scream and cry. I am not proud of this fact, and in actuality, I realized that this revelation from the cross came to me just after I had prayed that the Lord show me my true proverty.
Our true poverty as human beings is our concupiscence; our tendency to sin, to turn from God. He shows us His glory, and we turn away, grasping in futility at the world which is only so much dust dressed up in glitter. We are poor; we are criminals. We are so far away from God, yet He is there and willing to lift us up to Him, if we but ask.
Jesus will not refuse our sincere requests for mercy; we must only recognize the poverty in our spirits and reach out to the one who died that we may inherit his Kingdom.
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom. Amen.