The “Good Thief” and Good Friday

“My song is appreciate not known,
my Saviour’s love to me
enjoy to the loveless shown,
That they could pretty be.”

It is typical exercise in several Christian denominations to replicate on the Passion all through Lent. For occasion, in the Catholic Church, there are the Stations of the Cross. Yet another popular exercise, across Christian denominations, is to take a look at the “last 7 words of Christ from the cross”. That is, the previous 7 factors Christ suggests to his followers before his loss of life. In that tradition, I would like to give a Lenten reflection of my have. But relatively than aim on every of the previous 7 phrases or sayings, I would like to emphasis on just 1. Particularly, Luke 23:43, where by Christ tells the “good thief” that “Today you will be with me in paradise” (NIV).

The good thief elicits this reaction by defending Jesus’ innocence, and by humbly admitting his individual sinfulness: “We are punished justly, for we are finding what our deeds have earned. But this person has accomplished practically nothing wrong…Jesus, bear in mind me when you occur into your kingdom” (Luke 23:41-42, NIV). What should be manufactured of this scene? What non secular lessons could be garnered from this interaction concerning the very good thief and Christ? What need to be built of Christ’s promise of salvation to the good thief? Even though considerably can, and has been reported, yet again I’d like to concentration on only one particular straightforward perception: We really should hardly ever despair of God’s mercy. Honest repentance is normally efficacious, or as the outdated Lutheran hymn puts it, “Jesus sinners doth receive.”

The fantastic thief was, by his very own admission, a sinful male. He was staying justly punished for his crimes. We as well, however not in the similar literal problem, are in the identical metaphysical and non secular situation. Initial, all of us are, like the good thief, destined for the grave. It is not a make a difference of if, but only of when and the place. 2nd, every person is a sinner. As St. Paul wrote in his epistle to the Romans: “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace by means of the redemption that arrived by Christ Jesus” (3:23-24, NIV).

How then, offered the ubiquity of sin, can the thief, or any of us, be called great? The superior thief earns his ascription, not by means of sinlessness, but in the humble admission of his need for forgiveness. This is seen plainly in his admonition of the other thief to “fear God” (Luke 23:40, NIV). As Qoheleth insists at the conclusion of Ecclesiastes, “The conclusion of the make any difference all has been read. Dread God, and continue to keep his commandments for this is the complete responsibility of man” (12:13, RSVCE).

What then does the dread of God appear like? What does it in fact mean to concern God? 3 issues are well worth noting. To start with, one have to think about the 1st Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, NIV). God is sui generis. He is not the best good, but the great itself. He is not the loveliest factor, but really like by itself. As this kind of, nothing other than God merits worship. The next insight builds off of the very first. God is the source of almost everything. This involves our really lives, even as you study this sentence. As St. Luke recounts St. Paul’s preaching to the Athenians in Acts 17:28, “in him we are living and transfer and have our being” (NIV). Finally, Jesus Christ is the Logos, the Phrase designed flesh. The Logos, the ordering theory of all reality, has taken flesh and “dwelt amongst us” (John 1:14, KJV). Given these realties “fear of God” is not about legalistic piety but somewhat a prudent recognition of the points. An awe-stuffed recognition that we are all creatures, and that no make a difference how usually we deny it, we are, at all times and in every single way, beholden to our Creator.

Still, why is the good thief in the placement to communicate to Christ at all? If three strangers had been currently being crucified on a Friday afternoon, it would feel unusual to count on the excellent thief to check with Jesus to “remember him.” It appears probable, therefore, that the great thief realized, or at the very least knew of Jesus, right before he was crucified with Christ. Assuming this supposition is right, it has an crucial lesson to train. Just as the very good thief unsuccessful to comply with Christ, we as well, figuring out Christ, frequently fall short to adhere to him. As these types of, humble repentance is always in season. Scripture frequently reminds of this fact. For occasion, in Titus 3:3-6 we are reminded of the threat of smugly assuming spiritual superiority above other people:

For we ourselves have been the moment silly, disobedient, led astray, slaves to numerous passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating a person one more but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not mainly because of deeds finished by us in righteousness, but in advantage of his personal mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior”(RSVCE).

We are all saved by God’s grace. Saint and sinner are not separated mainly by the presence of sin, but by the existence of repentance, conversion and forgiveness. This is why Christ insists that whoever, “exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11, RSVCE). The implies of grace, and the route to repentance, conversion, and forgiveness are open to all. Moreover, Christians have the items of the scriptures, the Church and the Sacraments. As these types of, we must not hold off our repentance. However, as the good thief reveals, we should really in no way despair of God’s mercy. Everyone who sincerely repents – no matter how late or how frequently – will be saved.

The actuality of God’s superabundant mercy, is echoed fantastically in Dante’s Divine Comedy. In the Purgatory, Dante the pilgrim fulfills Manfred, the King of Sicily and son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Manfred was killed in fight, and in accordance to custom, referred to as out to God in his dying breath. That Dante places Manfred on the path to heaven signifies his spiritual genius. Manfred was a great sinner and experienced, soon after political disagreements with Pope City IV, been excommunicated.

Yet, anyone is a candidate for salvation. Also, it is always and all over the place God and God alone who judges us (Matthew 25: 31-46).  In the Purgatory, Manfred clarifies the predicament this way:

My sins were being horrible, but unlimited grace
has arms of generous goodness thrown so extensive
they acquire in all who switch to them…
No guy so loses, by their curse’s energy,
everlasting appreciate, that really like are unable to return
So extended as hope demonstrates any eco-friendly in flower.

We are all “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:8, NIV). We are frail and quickly damaged. This can tempt us to despair. But, God wishes the salvation of absolutely everyone (1 Timothy 2:4). His grace is, thus, freely given to all. Like the Prodigal Son, all that is desired is for us to “return to our senses.” All that is needed is to crop up, flip to God and say “Father, I have sinned against heaven and prior to you I am no for a longer time worthy to be called your son handle me as one of your employed servants” (Luke 15:18-19, RSVCE). Then God, even although we are “still much off,” will be stuffed with compassion, and operate to meet us.

How then can we continuously remind ourselves of God’s mercy? How can we also, like the Prodigal Son, occur to our senses? Permit me close with 3 tips. Initially, pursuing the fantastic thief’s illustration, we want to discover to “fear God.” The factors of this environment – however superior and serious presents from God – are “passing away” (1st Corinthians 7:31). They are penultimate. Only God is eternal. Anything in development is temporary and totally dependent on God. St. Theresa of Avila’s Bookmark Prayer succinctly captures the point that the concern of God is not about getting terrorized by a divine tyrant, but about recognizing God’s sovereignty, so as to rest peacefully in Divine Providence.

Permit nothing disturb you
Let very little frighten you.
All points are passing.
God never variations.
Persistence obtains all issues.
Almost nothing is seeking to him who possesses God.
God on your own suffices.

Second, we will have to come to realize and then reside in the fact of the Incarnation. That is, the Logos made flesh. The great thief, in repenting, participated in, was washed thoroughly clean by, the blood of Christ the Logos. The Incarnation, struggling, dying, and resurrection of Christ suggests that repentance, mercy, self-offering really like, and forgiveness are integral to the mother nature of reality, for Christ, the Logos, is actuality. As Pope Benedict XVI insists, “God’s reply is not an rationalization but an action. The reply is a sharing in struggling – not as a mere feeling, but as actuality. God’s compassion has flesh.” This reality, this reality, this flesh, provides new this means to Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no lengthier live, but Christ life in me” (NIV).

Third, we should occur to see as the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich put it, that “all fashion of issues shall be nicely.” Inspite of our weakness and failings, in spite of all the suffering and evil in the planet, “all method of matters shall be very well.” We can relaxation definitely in this awareness mainly because Jesus, the Logos, took flesh and dwelt among the us. Christ is legitimate God and true Man. He is Alpha and Omega. Ultimately, God is Really like.

The logical implications of these specifics are not constantly fully appreciated. If Christ the Logos is the Alpha and the Omega, and if Christ is God, and if God is Adore, then it follows that Like is the commencing and conclusion of all factors. As St. Paul insists, “If God is for us, who can be versus us?” (Romans 8:31, NIV). Even as we endure as pilgrims by means of lifestyle, we can relaxation in the expertise that Christ, in getting on flesh, suffers with and for us. Julian of Norwich is right: “All fashion of items shall be nicely.” As the superior thief demonstrates, God’s grace is offered to all, no make any difference how significantly we are unsuccessful, nor how late we repent. God’s love is tangible. “God’s compassion has flesh.” We need to by no means despair of God’s mercy.