domenica 20 marzo 2016

«Jesu, memento mei»

We have four gospels, each of them with its own features. The gospel of John is the most different from others; Matthew, Mark and Luke are very similar among them and are called “synoptic.” If there is a section where the four gospels resemble each other to a greater extent, that is the passion narrative. And yet, even in this case each gospel keeps its own character. We are accustomed to listen every year to the different accounts of Jesus’ passion; and so we are not able to distinguish what each evangelist tells us; we often confuse the information we find in a gospel with the one we find in another. That is why I would like briefly to highlight the main points characteristic of Luke: Jesus’ farewell discourse during the last supper;  his appearance before Herod during his trial; his meeting with the women of Jerusalem on the way to Calvary; and finally the episode of the good thief.

Since we are in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, it can be useful to linger for a little while on this last scene. Jesus is crucified in the midst of two criminals. One of them defies him: “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other one rebukes him, acknowledges his own guilt, recognizes the innocence of Jesus and then turns to him as his last chance: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In this short appeal there is all that is necessary to attain salvation. 

First of all the good thief addresses Jesus not with a title, but with his proper name, which means, if you remember, “God saves.” Peter will say before the Sanhedrin: “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12). We have heard in the second reading that “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” It is enough to call upon the name of Jesus to be saved.

The good thief asks Jesus to remember him. It was a common prayer among the Jews on their death-bed. It is a very humble prayer. He does not demand anything extraordinary; he just begs: “Remember me; do not forget me.” It is enough.

Finally, the good thief recognizes Jesus as a king, as the awaited Messiah of Israel, the one who should come to save his people: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” It is an act of faith in Jesus. It is this faith that cancels in a moment all his sins and gains to him access to that kingdom. And Jesus passes his judgment: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”