Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? . . . . Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:39-42).
Each time I read that passage I think of the three men. They hung for hours between earth and sky, ravaged by thirst, and mocked by the mob.
And for hours, the two watched the One in the middle.
Nothing escaped their notice. They heard His groans, His agonized, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And they heard Him pray for those who hated Him: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Yet, despite what the two witnessed, only one was changed.
Sometimes as I read that text I feel as if I can see through the lens of eternity, and I watch the Lord hanging on that cross, bloodied and dying to purchase my reconciliation with the Father. It is that image – when I think to focus on it during Mass -- that makes Mass so meaningful for me. Each time the priest consecrates the bread and wine, eternity slips into our timeline. Christ steps into our presence through the readings, the hymns, the prayers. And we receive Him in the Eucharist.
It remains one of my greatest fears that, after meeting Him, I remain unchanged – or worse, I grow lukewarm; that I hear Him and receive Him – but become passionless about knowing Him, loving Him, imitating Him.
What could be worse than to see and hear the King during each Mass, and not be changed? What could be worse than to witness His love and sacrifice, and remain satisfied with tepid faith?
Nothing could be worse.