Well, long time no see. A lot has been going on, but that’s all for another post. Today I want to write about The Repentant Thief.
I’ve written a couple times on my tumblr about how The Stations of the Cross (otherwise known as The Passion) aren’t all doom and gloom like a first look would have you believe. Of course it’s a dark story, and it’s supposed to make you reflect on how Jesus died for us, but I see in it glimmers of hope, that shows the true message that there is hope even in the darkest of hours. There a couple ways that this comes across: the first is when Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. The second is when Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross. I have examined both of these stories in the past. Today, I’m going to write about someone who actually isn’t part of the Stations, but appears in one of the gospels. (Being Catholic, I have no idea which gospel it is…pretty typical of Catholics actually, to not be able to quote the bible directly, but that’s another story). This is the story of the Repentant Thief.
I went to Palm Sunday mass at the beginning of this week, and as usual, they have the longer form Gospel that is read as a script. I went to the more traditional church in town, since the one I was going to was a bit too… nontraditional for my tastes. (They applauded after EVERYTHING! ARGH!) However, when going to the traditional church, you can be assured of the fact that they will always read the the version with the most fire and brimstone “you’re going to hell, you’re an awful person” vibe. And that they did! Including (and this is the part that irks me the most) the fact that the two criminals hanging on the cross with Jesus joined in with the crowd to taunt him.
NO. JUST NO.
I know it’s a version of the story, but I just don’t think that it’s the one we should focus on. What happened to the Repentant Thief? Gotta give props when props are due, so that’s what I’m here to do. Give props.
In this version, Jesus is up on the cross. On each side is a thief being hung for their crimes. The unbelieving thief of course asks “if you’re all they say, why don’t you get us all down from here?” The other thief berates his companion, saying “we’re getting what we deserve! But this man has done nothing, and is innocent.” He turns to Jesus and says “Sir, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replies:
“On this day, you will be with me in paradise.”
Wow. Just wow. And that’s what being Catholic should be all about. It should be about extending forgiveness to those who truly ask for it, even in your own suffering. In his darkest hour, Jesus forgave the thief who repented. The thief himself is noble–he admits his actions in life were wrong and asks for forgiveness. He even defends Jesus and accepts that his own fate is just. Do we have the strength to do that? Accept our faults fully and ask for forgiveness?
On Good Friday today, remember that even in the darkest of hours, there is a glimmer of hope. If you’re brave enough to seek forgiveness (or to give it), it will come to you.