11. Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Good Thief
Leader: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
All: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
Quiet moment of asking: “We ask to be amazed at hearing the words of forgiveness uttered by Jesus to one of the thieves crucified with Him; and even to hear those words addressed to ourselves too.”
Lord, you have been at this point lifted high on the Cross and your pain is beyond anything we can imagine. And a soldier pierced your side with his lance, causing blood and water to flow. Yet you found, and showed to everyone, the strength to speak words of forgiveness. That came directly from your pierced heart. May we hear those words again addressed to us too? May we know them as spoken from your sacred heart. And may they stay with us, encouraging us to be people who forgive, not people who condemn.
One of the criminals hanging there abused him: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.” But the other spoke up and rebuked him. “Have you no fear of God at all?” he said. “You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He answered him, “In truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23: 39-43
NOTICE – A silent contemplation moment
We try to understand, in our hearts as well as in our minds, how even at this extreme moment Jesus still desired to speak words, not of bitterness and anger, but of kindness and forgiveness to one of these criminals crucified beside him. What do we notice about our reaction to this episode? Is it the amazement that we asked for as we began this Station? Or perhaps it is the two very different reactions from each of the two criminals crucified with him. With which one do I sympathise more? One is still trapped in his bitterness and anger while the other is on his way to healing and mercy, despite these external signs of suffering and cruel punishment. We might notice elements of each reaction surfacing within our own hearts as we contemplate this extraordinary scene. Offer anything that needs to be healed to this crucified saviour, now. Let that blood that began to flow from his pierced heart be healing for us.
Not only did Jesus accept the cruelty that was being done to him, but he actually wanted to forgive. He knew very well that, in being crucified between these two, the state’s torturers and executioners were making it clear that he was to be seen as a common criminal. Sometimes we prefer to get even with the person who has wronged us. But when we watch Jesus here, we learn that this will never be God’s way.
Good and gracious God, I often find it very hard to forgive someone who has been cruel to me. It is sometimes very difficult to stop myself thinking about getting revenge or making someone apologise to me. At such times, I might fall into the temptation to stay with my anger and hurt rather than to learn from it and grow. I refuse your mercy even if I believe that you offer it to me and to all. But, you teach us all that forgiveness has to come first, and you teach us this even while they are nailing you to the cross. Help us to believe that you want to forgive us, as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Help us to ask for your forgiveness, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and give us the strength to be forgiving people.
Together we pray; Lord, we want to walk beside you in your suffering. Forgive us; and help us to see you in the suffering of the poor.