Feast of Christ the King
Today’s Gospel contains one of the most beautiful prayers in the whole Scripture! The felon crucified with Jesus begs Him: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” Lk 23:42 The Inspired Greek text uses the imperfect tense for the criminal’s request which indicates he asks Jesus over and over again. Memory and its derivatives are used over 90 times in the New Testament.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, we find remembering an especially important word. It is zākar and it appears over 222 times “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, And all the families of the nations will worship before You.” Ps 22;28 A basic element in OT piety is that man remembers the past acts of God, His commandments and His unexhausted possibilities. A frequent prayer in OT is “remember me”! “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your lovingkindness remember me, for Your goodness sake, O Lord. Ps 25:7 “Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” Judges16:28
In American English, our word remembering is very close to the Scriptural use. “You are in my mind, my memory, and in my heart.” The felon continually pleads with Jesus to place him, a criminal, in His caring mind and heart. With one another we can be no closer than to be in the mind and heart of each other. What a moment of mercy and graciousness of Jesus for a miserable failure! To use Augustine’s phrase:” Misericordia et misera.” (Mercy and Misery) It is a phrase used by Saint Augustine in recounting the story of Jesus’ meeting with the woman taken in adultery. Calvary is the greatest rendezvous of humanity and Divinity! It is meeting of sinful man and an incredibly forgiving and loving God!
The prayer of the felon should capture our attention! No matter how others evaluate us we are all criminals before God for what we have done or especially not done! Prayer places us in the presence of the crucified Christ. This love of Christ on the cross is eternal. It is in real-time, alive and not fossilized. Somebody said watch carefully the short prayers in the Scriptures. Among the finest: “Jesus, remember me”. Put me in Your mind and heart at the greatest expression of Your care and forgiveness for us on Calvary.
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.