I Love The Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Who Lives Within Me, Now and Forever. Amen

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Three Crosses on Golgotha

By George Velez: Coordinator of Catechesis for DHT - Sts. Peter & Paul (Brooklyn)

During the liturgical season of Lent, the Church calls all Catholic Christians to make sacrifices, both small and large. These sacrifices are aimed at increasing our love for God over and above our love for the things of this world. As a loving Mother, the Church urges her children to repent and make changes in their lives, and has them look to the Lord Jesus as an example. He, who loved the Father perfectly. He who was without sin. He who sacrificed all, even to the very last drop of His own precious blood on the cross, for you and for me.

Being nailed to His cross, He is then lifted for all to see. There, on the cross in the midst of two others, one can look at Jesus and learn the love of God and the love for God. Looking at the other two crosses there, also, is quite telling. There, on that day, at that moment, are found all the responses to God that one can give in this life. It is here, the scene of the three crosses on Golgotha, that I would like to draw your attention for just a moment.

Hanging on one of the crosses next to Jesus, is found a criminal. We will call him, the bad thief. This thief reviled Jesus. He hated God. Being put to death on a cross was the punishment for his crimes, yet he refused to acknowledge, and accept, his guilt and earthly fate. He refused to change, but rather chose to test God, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” (Luke 23:39) He receives no response from Jesus. [Remember Jesus’ response to Satan in the desert, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Matt. 4:7)]

Hanging on the other cross next to Jesus, is found another criminal. We will call him, the good thief. This thief did not revile Jesus. No! Instead, he rebukes the thief that reviled Jesus, he shows reverence to God, acknowledges and accepts the justice of his punishment, then looks upon Jesus and recognizes Him as king. “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal... Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:40-42) To him, Jesus does respond, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Then, we come to the cross of Jesus. The one who loved God perfectly. The sinless one. The one who deserved not the punishment of death on a cross. The one in whom no guilt was found, but was falsely accused. The one who looked out at the people, while on the cross dying, and said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) The one who did not accept the cross, but rather, He embraced the cross. Not needing to accept this cross because of guilt, but choosing to take the cross for love of God and for love of you and me.

There on Golgotha stood three crosses that day. Found on each cross were different men, with different dispositions (or attitudes), from which we can learn and reflect during this Lenten season, and everyday after.

Am I like the bad thief on the first cross, who neither repented nor sacrificed. The one who hated God and hated his situation. The one who tested God, so hard of heart that he refused to change and accept what was justly due to him. For those like him, we pray for God’s grace to transform their hearts of stone creating in them hearts of flesh, that they may become like the good thief.

Am I like the good thief on the second cross, who repented and sacrificed. The one who feared God, rebuked a sinner, realized and accepted what was happening to him as justice for his past behaviors and amidst all that, realized Jesus as king and found the strength to call upon Him, ‘remember me, when you come into your kingdom.’ For those like him, we pray for God’s grace to sustain them and transform their hearts of flesh creating in them hearts like that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Am I like Jesus, on the cross in the middle, who needed to repent of nothing, yet chose the baptism of repentance to ‘fulfill all righteousness.’ (cf. Matt. 3:15) The one who chose to sacrifice even His life, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.” (John 10:18) The one who chose only to do the will of the Father, “...not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39) The one who surrendered and gave all to the Father, consistently, all the way up to His last breath, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) We pray for God’s grace to be able to imitate Him. To Him we pray for the graces. Create in me, O’ Lord, a heart like Yours. Amen.


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