The Second Word on the Cross – Lenten Meditation

The penitent Thief — The second Word on the Cross

1st Prelude. Behold Jesus, crucified between two thieves.

2nd Prelude. Ask for great docility in following the inspirations of grace.

POINT I. “And one of those robbers who were hanged blasphemed Him saying: If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us. But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art under the same condemnation.”

CONSIDERATION. The striking contrast between the two thieves offers at once a mystery and a lesson. The mystery is this, that both these thieves witness the superhuman charity and patience of our Lord, who hangs between them, praying and suffering for both of them alike; but, nevertheless, the one remains an impious blasphemer to the end, and dies impenitent; whilst the other, docile to the first movements of grace, opens his eyes and heart to the truth, and dies the death of the predestinate, baptized, as St. Cyrian says, in his own blood. The Church calls upon the faithful to venerate him, under the name of Dismas, on the 25th of March.

APPLICATION. The practical lesson to be derived from the above mystery is that God gives each man grace sufficient for his salvation, although He gives more largely to some than to others. But He also requires His creatures’ co-operation; thus, however great the graces bestowed on the good thief, he would not have been either converted or saved without his correspondence with these graces. And it follows that we religious, who have received extraordinary graces, must not look upon our salvation as therefore secured. What alone can give us a moral assurance of salvation is a faithful correspondence to each successively given grace.


POINT II. “And we indeed [suffer] justly, for we receive the due reward of our evil deeds; but this Man hath done no evil. And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy kingdom.”

CONSIDERATION. We go straight to God, and ensure not only His forgiveness, but draw down upon us still greater favours, when, like the penitent thief, we acknowledge our misdeeds and accept our punishment with contrition and resignation, joining humble and confident prayer to our submissive confession. The good confession of the divinity of Our Lord, which was then, as it were, annihilated, made by the penitent thief, shows us that, besides his justification, he received the gift of faith in an eminent degree.

APPLICATION. We are all weak; you have often considerable faults of which your conscience accuses you. Do you imitate the penitent thief? Do you not try to deceive yourself respecting them, or to hide or deny them before others? And with what sort of grace do you receive the correction they require?


POINT III. “And Jesus said to him: Amen, I say to thee, This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.”

CONSIDERATION. What consoling and encouraging words for the penitent thief in his last hour, surrounded by everything that renders death terrible and induces despair — agonizing pain, the remembrance of the past, the dread of the future! How great the power of one single fervent prayer! Here it changes a hardened sinner into a saint. He only asked Our Lord to remember him; and Our Lord gave him, with the remission of all his sins, the promise of a happy death, to be followed by bliss eternal.

APPLICATION. How wrong, therefore, to distrust the love of God, or the efficacy of prayer! However guilty or miserable we may be, or have been, prayer contains a virtue in itself, apart from the holiness of the man who offers it; and the more wretched our case, the more we should have confidence in its being answered. “That is very encouraging; but sometimes,” you say “I feel as if I could not pray in the least”; then make use only of the prayer of the penitent thief “Lord, remember me” so poor, so miserable; never shall we do
so in vain.

COLLOQUY with our merciful Lord.

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