Thought of the Day September 27, 2018 Forgiveness and joy

By 10:02 AM

As the Prodigal Son admitted his wrongdoing and asked forgiveness, seeking only to be accepted once more into relationship, not as son but as a hired hand, so the repentant thief admitted his turning away from God and asked only to be remembered, not forgotten. He didn’t deserve to be forgiven and saved, just remembered. To die and not to be remembered is to exist in nothingness. Maybe that’s one of the difference between heaven and hell. In heaven, we are remembered; in hell we are forgotten; in heaven we are named; in hell we are nameless.

Jesus recognized the fruit of his prayer to the Father: "Father, forgive them. They do not know what they do." While one thief cursed and blasphemed, while the bystanders heaped insults upon him, the other criminal accepted the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation. The word of God spoken through the prophet is fulfilled: “If a wicked man turns from his wickedness and repents, he will surely live and not die.”

 On hearing this, in spite of his sufferings a thrill of joy surged through Jesus, who confirmed the confession of this repentant sinner. “I assure you: this day you will be with me in paradise.” Not only will you be remembered, but your repentance will be told for ages to come. Not only will you be remembered, but you will be glorified. You will hear the Father say: Let us celebrate. For my son was lost and is found; was dead but now lives.. The gift Jesus gives him is not just remembrance but full victory and glory, participation in the life of the resurrection.  At that moment not only was there joy in Jesus, joy in the saved thief, but in heaven as well.

Who else in hearing range of the cross heard and repented that day, we do not know. It is not recorded in the gospel narratives. Who else down through the centuries, upon hearing this event proclaimed, has been converted, we are not sure. But at that moment and each similar moment through the ages the words of Jesus were fulfilled: “I tell you, there will likewise be more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent” (Lk 15:7). As he hung there, in spite of his life of sinfulness, his deserved punishment, he was now forgiven and saved, washed in  the blood of the Lamb. He is reconciled and restored to original innocence. He is promised eternal life and peace. Now he can surrender himself to death in the joy of salvation through Jesus. Now he can make his own the words of Simeon the prophet: “Now, Master, you can dismiss your servant in peace; you have fulfilled your word. For my eyes have witnessed your saving deed displayed for all the peoples to see: a revealing light to the Gentiles, the glory of your people Israel” (Lk 2:29-32).  When he dies  the Father, the angels, the prophets and hosts of heaven await him. Joy! (To be continued)

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