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Friday, May 03, 2013

Reflections on the Crucifixion: the Other thief

We often cite the good thief on the cross next to Jesus as a good example of repentance and of Christ's mercy, but something about the other thief struck me today as I meditated on the fifth sorrowful mystery of the holy Rosary. The taunts and desperate pleas of the unrepentant thief seemed to me akin to the temptations we face, sometimes daily, to walk away from our commitments to our spouse, our family, to love them regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in. I know these temptations well, and it doesn't have to be about walking away completely. Even walking away from today's commitment to be supportive, to be patient, that already falls into this mindset of 'me' rather than 'them' who depend on us. Yes, we may be in great pain, and what would it cost to give ourselves a little comfort, a break from our commitment, even for just a day? Nothing wrong unless it costs our family something that they truly need. What that might be would vary, but I am keenly aware that the small breaks I give myself, by shutting out my family just a bit can, little by little, accumulate towards aloofness, alienation, indifference. If I could find a way to give myself a break while maintaining good relations with them, such as in playing a game with my children that I enjoy as much as they do, I should. But to shut myself away at a moment when they need me -- that may well be the beginning of walking away. Christ on the cross would have been tempted to at least ease his pain a little -- he did not deserve any of it, after all. Why didn't he? Here was a man truly committed to his Bride, his Church; to the family he gathered to himself. He didn't deserve any of the pain he endured at the hands of our sins, but he took it upon himself to defeat it by embracing it to the very end, every lash and cut and bruise, every spit and insult -- and every temptation to walk away, and he stayed the course. Why? So that sin would be crushed completely, absolutely, even to the last loose end. In other words, to make for total victory. I believe that we who are united with him in his body and Holy Spirit are called likewise to such a battle and absolute triumph. When we hear the taunts, or even the reasonable suggestion to give ourselves a break, we should consider what it costs the ones who depend on us and whom we are called to love. Perhaps with a little creativity, with due consideration for our need for a break and their need for our love, we can find a middle ground, one that does not sacrifice their needs and our commitment for the sake of wanton selfishness. Not that it would be easy, but we are not called to go easy. We are called to be faithful, loving and confident in hope.

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