+IHS PASSION OF OUR LORD: THE 38. MEDITATION OF the second word of christ
Christ and the Good Thief
The 38. Meditation of the second word of Christ.
And the same thing did the Theives, which were crucified with him, upbraid unto him: and one of the thieves,which were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou art Christ, save thyself, and us: but the other answering, blamed him, saying: Neither doest thou fear God, which art in the same condemnation? We indeed suffer justly, for we receive worthy punishment for our facts, but this man hath done no evil.
Consider first, the ignominy offered to our Lord in this place, either by one thief, according to St. Epiphanies, and St. Augustine; or else in the beginning by both, according to St. Chrysostome, but the one repenting, & the other persevering. For they were most wicked and infamous men, and did worthily suffer, the accursed dath of the Cross. But it did much more afflict our Saviors heart, that he, for whom, and with whom he did shed his blood, should presently be carried headlong into Hell. Learn hereby, that commonly - he, which liveth ill, dieth ill, as he lived ill, except he be changed by Gods special grace. For a sinner is stricken with his judgment, that dying he forgetteth himself, who living was forgetful of God.
Consider secondly the words of the evil Thief (If thou art Christ save thyself and us:) First he wanted faith, who desired a miracle that he might believe. Secondly, he desired temporal life and safety, after the manner of all sinners, who have no care of their everlasting life to come. Thirdly, he spake this perhaps to please the Jews, which stood by: but it profited him nothing, to get their favor; because the world ever giveth a false reward to her followers. Fourthly he once uttered this railing speech, but being rebuked he held his peace; being better then thyself, who art neither amended by good admonition, nor well pleased with him that adviseth thee.
Consider thirdly, the mercy of Christ on the good Thief, whose heart he did not only instruct by outward signs, but also did mollify it by inward grace, so as he profited more in three hours by hearing him teach from the chair of the Cross, then the Apostles did in three years by following our Lord continually, and seeing his miracles. For so great is the force of the cross of our Lord that it doth not only move the sense, but also giveth understanding to the hearing, and addeth affection to the understanding. Therefore this good thief being deprived of all outward things, and having his body stretched upon the Cross, gave only all that was left unto him, to wit, he consecrated his heart and tongue unto Christ. For he believed with his heart to justice, and with his mouth he confessed to salvation, being made a teacher from the chair of the Cross, openly confessing Christ, and freely reproving the vices of the standers by.
Consider fourthly the words pf the good Thief, First with great charity he rebuked his companion, when he sinned, before he craved any thing for himself of our Lord; and he putteth him in mind of his eminent death, for sinners ought to be repressed with the fear of Hell, when they will not be moved with Gods benefits. (Neither doest thou fear God?) a bold word, but worthy of a Martyr. None of these (saith he) fear God; and dearest thou imitate them, being now presently to go before God thy Judge? Secondly, he confesseth his sin and rivets the punishment of the Cross in satisfaction. For it is a sign of a good man to confess his own faults, & to extenuate the sins of other men, if he can. Thirdly he declareth the innocency of Christ: But this man hath done no evil, which saying is true only in Christ, and in his most holy Mother; for he hath done no sin, neither is their any fraud in his mouth. But because he did no sin therefore he ought to beare the sins of all men, and suffer the punishment thereof in his body. The goof Thief reacheth us here, that we should not complain in adversities, but confess our sins, and give glory to God openly, and convert our souls earnestly unto God. Do thou imitate this thief: for death is at thy gates, or at least lyeth in wait for thee. And pray our Lord to strike his saving fear into thy heart.
And he said to Jesus:O Lord remember me, when thou shalt come into thy Kingdom.
Consider first, that this good thief fulfilled the parts of justice: First he declined from the evil, which he reprehended in his companion; and then he did good turning unto Christ, Secondly, according to the doctrine of Micheas, He exercised Judgment, previously accusing his sin; he loved mercy, admonishing his companion to conversion; and he walked carefully with God, of whom devoutly and humbly he craved pardon.
Consider secondly, the several fruits of the cross and affliction, according to the several dispositions of men. The wicked are not amended, but rather blaspheme: the good confess their fault, and come nearer unto God. Do not marvel then, if our Lord grant prosperity in the world to the wicked, and affliction to the good; which he doth mercifully for these causes; both because the wicked should not offend more deeply by their impatience, & the good be joined more firmly unto God; & also that the wicked may have some reward in this life, seeing they are to be deprived of everlasting life, & that eternal reward may Be reserved for the goodb
Consider thirdly, even word of the thief: (O Lord) a word of reverence, fear, & subjection: I submit and promise myself to be thy servant and bonds lave: he doth not say, O my Lord, force speaketh to the Lord, creator, and possessor of all creatures. Remember me, a modest & humble petition; I ask not a Kingdom, nor any honors; but only that thou wilt remember me, knowing that thou canst not remember me, & not help me. I dare desire this remembrance, though I am a sinner. 1. Because thou hast admitted other sinners praying unto thee. 2. Because this hast done so many & so great things in favor of sinners. 3. Because I a sinner, having given over my will of sinning, do now believe in thee with my wholehearted, do entirely love thee, and with my mouth do openly confess thee. 4. Because I ask nothing but remembrance, and pray for nothing but mercy. 5. Because if is reason, that he be partaker of thy rest and glory, whom tho hast vouchsafed to be a companion with thee in thy l;labors, torments, and death. When thou shalt come into thy kingdom. I acknowledge thee to be a King, but they kingdom is not of this world: I know, that the Angels expect thee at thy death, and a whole Army of Servants, who shall not carry thee, as they did Lazarus, but shall attend and follow the coming of thy own will and power. Admire thou the faith of this Thief, who alone, when all others blasphemed, disbelieve, and detest thine own infidelity,who when the whole world believeth, doest scarcely believe; and pray Christ tinkered thy faith, and bring thee into his kingdom with this thief.
And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.
Consider first, that thou mightest learn to pacify thy anger with the virtue of mildness: and that he approved the counsel of the other, who thought it requisite in necessity to have recourse unto Christ; that thou mayest obtain the gift of counsel.
Consider secondly, that Christ as a Priest of the new Testament did forgive sins, and as a Judge doth assign merit and rewards. For to the just Thief he promised glory; and to the unjust, to whom he appointed no crown of Justice, he declared by his silence that the fire of Hell was prepared. For Christ giveth glory; but the pains of hell are not given by Christ, but rather proceed from our sins, according as the Apostle saith: Who shall render to every one according to his works: to those truly, who according to patience in good work seek glory and honor, & incorruption,life everlasting: But to those which are of contention, and which do not yield unto the truth, but believe iniquity, wrath & indignation: that is, it shall be rendered, not so much by the will of Christ, as through the malice & merit of sin.
Consider thirdly the benignity of this King of the Jews. 1. He doth not reject a man infamous for theft; who beholdeth not the outward opinion of men, but the inward disposition of the heart. 2. He presently hearth him confessing, and forgiveth his sins. 3. He giveth more then was asked. Remembrance only was craved, glory is promised, and the same to be rendered by & by, even the very same day.
Consider 4. the words of our Lord (Amen) this is a word of confirmation: for, that thou mayst give credit to my words., I affirm it by the word with which I never use, but in affirming great and serious things, and I promise it to thee openly before all these witnesses. (I say) I the truth, who cannot lie, whose promise is effectual, I the Lord of the Kingdom dispose of mine own, and of no body's else. (To thee) not to all, least they might take occasion to defer their penance to the end of their life, but to thee alone, lamenting earnestly, confessing thy sins, & making satisfaction for them by this thy punishment: that if perhaps any sinner at the last instant of his death will convert himself, he may by thy example conceive hop of pardon. For before we sin, we ought to set before our eyes the immumerable sinners standing before the Cross of our Lord, and yet obtaining no pardon, least our Lord perhaps leave us, and we perish amongst them: for he, who hath promised pardon to the penitent, hath not promised repentance to the sinner. But after our sin we must remember the Thief, least we despair. (This day,) presently after thy death, that thou mayest acknowledge the virtue of the Cross.
~ Fr. Francois Coster S.J.