Wednesday 29 February 2012

Seven Last Words: "Today you will be with me in Paradise"

(Luke 23:33, 39-43)
During the seven weeks of Lent we invite you to  come and stand with us at the foot of the Cross as we listen to the 'Seven Last Words' spoken by Jesus.  Each week we will post a reflection which will seek guidance from these words as we, his Church today, like him, experience betrayal, criticism, abandonment and disownment.
In this second weekly Lenten Reflection we shall listen to Christ's offer to us of eternal life, so long as we come to him with true repentance and full faith

As Jesus hung upon the cross horrendously suffering, vulnerably naked, helplessly dying he had to endure further scoffing, mocking and derision, from the Jewish leaders, the soldiers and the unrepentant thief. Their taunts about saving himself reveal that for them salvation meant liberation from the cross.  However, amidst all of this the repentant thief cries out to Jesus and teaches us two vital lessons: repentance and faith.  Contrary to the unrepentant thief, the openness of the repentant thief to accept his judgment is linked with the acceptance of his sin.  He acknowledged his need for forgiveness and asked for salvation from the very one who could grant it.

Jesus’ response is one of the most astounding and encouraging verses in all of Scripture. He promises that the criminal will be with him in paradise.  He asks nothing of the past crimes of this man.  We have no reason to believe this man had been a follower of Jesus, or truly understood who He was.  He hadn't left everything behind to be Jesus’ disciple.  He wasn't suffering because he spoke the truth to those who refused to hear it, but because of his crimes. He even admitted that he had been justly condemned!  The repentant thief’s faith was the size of a mustard seed, if that.  And even though he came for forgiveness in the very last hours of his life it seems that his confession of guilt opened the way for forgiveness and salvation. 

Do you acknowledge your sins? 

Do you accept your guilt and any fair-judgments put against you? 

Do you accept your cross and see delight and salvation through sorrow? 

Have you put your ultimate trust in Jesus?

Do you know that, when your time comes, you will be with him in paradise?

There are many of us who are ignorant of our sins and deluded by what they are doing through pride and self-centredness.  There are those of us who seem to deny our guilt, refuse to accept fair judgements put against us, rebuke criticism, and place our trust in people and not in God; we can be people imprisoned by our stubborn denial of sin.  Last week we reflected on how God is infinitely forgiving but how we must reach out for this forgiveness.  How much, today, in response do we need to hear the word Jesus once spoke to a man who had no hope and no reason to expect mercy. We can be in God’s presence with all our weaknesses and failures, like the good thief, and God still takes pleasure in our very existence and promises Paradise to us.
Although we should make every effort to live, according to the Church’s teachings, as disciples of Jesus, in the end our relationship with him comes down to simple trust. "Jesus, remember me," we cry. And Jesus, embodying the mercy of God, says to us, "You will be with me in paradise." We are welcome there not because we have the right theology, and not because we are living rightly, but because God is merciful and we have put our trust in Jesus. All Christ asks of us is repentance and faith. 

Prayer for the week:
Lord Jesus, those you loved wished to crush all hope from you leaving you hanging in utter sorrow and despair.  And yet it is joy and hope that you offered to the repentant thief.  When we cry out to you, you hear us. When we ask you to ‘remember us when you come into your kingdom’, you offer us the promise of paradise.  Today, I live trusting you and you alone.  My life is in your hands; fill me with joy and hope so that I may share it with those who are filled with sorrow and despair.  Amen

Come and Join us....
If you live in Dublin why not come and be present for our 'Seven Last Words' Lenten Reflections?  The above reflection will be part of a 30 minute meditation held at the Our Lady of the Angels Capuchin Church on Church Street each Friday of Lent beginning at 8:00pm.  Music for these reflections will be provided by the CYC chamber choir.  
You can read the other weeks reflections here: week one, week two, week three, week four and week five.

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