Then [one of the criminals] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Gospel for Nov. 24, Lk.23:42-43)
We’ve read these words so many times that it’s easy to miss their power. Here is Jesus using his last minutes of earthly life to show mercy to a dying criminal and to promise him life in heaven that very day. We may not like to admit it, but we have a tendency to insulate ourselves from entire groups of people — perhaps the poor, the homeless or the sick. Yet these are precisely the people with whom Jesus spent so much time. While the religious “upper class” often ignored or mocked Jesus, the poor acknowledged him as Lord and were transformed. May the unlikely words of a criminal — “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” — become our own urgent prayer.
This month, I challenge you to ask God’s pardon and mercy by making a thorough examination of conscience and going to confession. I also challenge you to serve those in need individually or with your council through Faith in Action programs such as Coats for Kids or Food for Families.
Are there habits in your daily routine which exclude or ignore those on the margins of our society? What are some ways, large or small, that you can increase your efforts to help the poor and the needy? How does going to confession help us to imitate the penitent thief, and what can we learn from his prayer?