To be continued…
We ponder what the good thief might have seen that changed his heart. He saw Christ hanging on the Cross. At first, he just saw just another condemned criminal. But something about Jesus touched his heart. He heard our Lord say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” One of the most challenging and beautiful elements of our Christian faith is forgiveness. For a Christian, forgiveness is not an option. We simply must forgive others. In the Lord’s prayer, we say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” For the good thief, this message of radical forgiveness opened a door to him out of the anger that had imprisoned him for years. He thought that this anger and all of the sins that flowed from it defined who he was. But Jesus said, no. Recognize the error of your ways and ask for mercy and my heavenly Father will forgive you. He will wipe the slate clean. The door of God’s forgiveness stands wide open until judgment day.
The good thief also saw those who stood by the foot of the Cross, Mary, the mother of God, John, the beloved disciple, and Mary Magdalene, out of whom our Lord had cast seven demons. These faithful few are all that were left of the Kingdom of God that Christ proclaimed at the beginning of His public ministry. And to this faithful remnant, Jesus speaks words that indicate that His kingdom, the Church, is above all a family. Turning to John, who represents every Christian disciple, He said, “Son, behold, your mother.” And to Mary, He said, “Woman, behold your son.”
In the Kingdom of God, each one of us are brothers and sisters of the same Lord! That means that as brothers and sisters, we share a common mother, the Mother of Jesus. The good thief saw that he could not only receive forgiveness, but he could also become a member of God’s family by turning to Christ. Anger separates us from others. Mercy and forgiveness make it possible for us to belong to each other in mutual love.
Moved by this alluring vision of forgiveness and belonging, the good thief let go of his anger and addressed himself to Our Lord and said, “Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” In other words, I confess that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Heaven. I am a sinner. Forgive my many sins and make me your brother in your Kingdom. Let’s make these words our own, by acknowledging our own anger and rebellion against God and coming to Him for mercy.
And what words does Jesus address to us, who plead for Him to remember us? “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
But we cannot avoid acknowledging that the season of mercy will not last forever. Yes, the good thief stole heaven by seeking mercy. However, we have every reason to believe that the other thief died in his sins and is in hell. We ask for the grace to recognize that this season of mercy will not last forever and to open ourselves to grace, confess Jesus as Lord and repent of our sins while we still have the chance. Our eternal destinies depend on our response.