Feast of Christ the King
2 Samuel 5:1-3
And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" Luke 23:42
Someone once said that the short prayers in Scripture are among the best ones! In today’s Gospel we have a striking example of this from a very unlikely person. We call this questionable man the "good thief".
Luke does not call him either good or a thief, but a Kakourgos in Greek or evil kakos and ergon worker, a malefactor. It is the word for a habitual evil-doer and not just someone who made one big mistake. Who would believe that such a one would utter one of the most beautiful and meaningful prayers of Scripture! The enemies deliberately picked the scum of the criminal world to be executed with Jesus to utterly destroy His Name.
"Jesus, remember me!" What a wonderful prayer from such a miserable man who was utterly despised by society. Let’s take a moment to take a closer look at this prayer. First of all, the criminal addresses Jesus by name. It is curious in the Gospels that only about 5 times is the name Jesus is used by people petitioning Him. It is always by people who are in pain. The Blind (Luke 18:38), the lepers (Luke 17:13), and possessed (Mark 5:7) are those who address Him by Jesus. It speaks of a special intimacy of two men suffering the same extreme pain and disrespect. Gandhi said: "it is by my cross that I can climb into the heart of humanity". When Jesus asks us to suffer we enter into a special intimacy with Him. So we begin our prayer with Jesus, partners in his suffering.
Next He asks Jesus to remember him. How honored we are when we are remembered with love. The root word in the Greek New Testament for remember is a derivative of meno which means dwell or remain. When the criminal asks Jesus to remember him, he is asking to be put into the mind and heart of Jesus. Can we possibly live in a better place than the Heart of Christ. It is hard to get better than that in prayer.
We might image that our converted malefactor just said this prayer once. The text clearly uses the imperfect tense which means: he kept on saying over and over, Jesus remember me. What a great prayer for us partners in the sufferings of Christ to say!
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.