Translated by Fray Emilio Larlar, Jr., OAR
A. Let us invoke the Holy Spirit with the words of St. Augustine.
Come Holy Spirit, by whom every pious soul who believes in Christ in order to make himself a citizen of the City of God is made holy! (En. in Ps. 45, 8). Come Holy Spirit, grant that we may receive the promptings of God, place in us Your fire, illumine us and raise us up to God (Sermon 128, 4).
With a willing heart, and with sincerity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing them to have an impact on you:
The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at Him and said, “He saved others, let Him save Him-self if He is the chosen one, the Messiah of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at Him. As they approached to offer Him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save Yourself.” Above Him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” 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? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Let us meditate now with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Evangelist St. Luke:
St. Augustine stresses that the good thief on the cross professed with his mouth his faith for his salvation. In spite of the fact that his arms and his feet were nailed on the cross, his tongue was free; he professed his faith in Christ and he was saved: (…) This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me (Is 29:13). Speak with your lips and come near with your heart. Because one believes with the heart in order to attain justification, and one confesses with the mouth to attain salvation. This was what happened to that thief, hanging on the cross next to the Lord, who recognized the Lord on the cross. The others did not recognize Him when He performed miracles, and this recognized Him hanging on the cross. He was attached to the cross with all his members; his arms were nailed, and his feet were nailed, his entire body was attached to the wood; that body could no longer move its other parts, but, yes, his tongue and his heart were free: he believed with his heart, and he confessed with his mouth. Lord, remember me, he said, when you come to Your Kingdom. He hoped that his salvation would come late, he was happy with receiving it after a long time; he hoped for it after a long period of time, but the day came suddenly. He said: Remember me when You come to Your Kingdom. And Jesus answered him: I assure you that today you will be with Me in Paradise. Paradise has trees of happiness: today you are with me on the tree of the cross, and also today on the tree of salvation (En. in Ps. 39, 15).
St. Augustine also comments on how the good thief on the cross robbed heaven from Jesus, because Christ Himself had taught him as interior Teacher in his heart: “Contemplate the three crosses present when the Lord was crucified in the midst of two thieves. The torment is the same, but the reason separated those whom the torment united. One of the thieves believed in Jesus Christ the Lord while He hung on the wood. First, he says to his companion (…) the other thief, his companion, insulted Christ the Lord telling Him: If You are the Son of God, save Yourself; but the other answered him: You do not fear God; we suffer these evils because of our actions, but this is the Holy One of God. O what a confession! If he confessed this way, he was hanging without any motive. Then he said to Christ Himself: Lord, remember me when You come to Your Kingdom. What faith! He hoped that the one whom he saw being crucified had to reign. Such thief did not despise Christ suffering the same punishment as he was. He saw Him dying like him and he hoped He had to reign over him. This thief was great! He exerted effort and stole the Kingdom of Heaven. Where did he learn it? He committed armed robberies at narrow mountain passes, he was brought to justice and he heard the sentence: from narrow mountain pass to the judge, from the judge to the cross. Where did he learn what he said if it was not taught him by the Teacher he had at his side? Indeed, Christ the Lord, the Teacher of all, who hung at his side and taught him in his heart. Why have I said this, brothers? Because punishment does not make a martyr but the cause or reason does. There were three crosses there: the torment was the same, but the cause was different. Of the thieves, one was condemned and the other saved, and in the middle was the one who was condemned and saved. The one He punishes, the other He absolves, that cross was a tribunal.” (Sermon 328, 7).
Let us pray now from the bottom of our heart with the text. I suggest to you the following phrases and questions that may arouse in you the dialogue with God, and, at the same time, may elicit affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not pass to the other phrase or question if you can still continue talking with God in some of them. It is not a matter of finishing this list, but of helping you to pray with those points that are most applicable to your personal experience:
- “Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” (Lk 23:38).
- What does it mean to you that Christ is the universal King?
- How does Christ reign in your life?
- Where did he learn what he said if the Teacher which he had at his side did not teach him? Indeed, Christ the Lord, the Teacher of all, who hung at his side and taught him in his hear.” (Sermon 328, 7).
- What is the main teaching that Christ gives you in your heart?
- How could you imitate the good thief?
I propose to you some points of affective inner contemplation. Once again, there is no need that you follow everything, but that you choose what is more applicable to your personal experience:
- Contemplate Christ reigning from the cross. Focus the eyes of your soul on Christ crucified, the King who opens the doors of the Eternal Kingdom by His death. Consider, adore and give thanks for the salvation fulfilled by Christ on the cross.
- Reflect on Christ in His glory, King of all creation and of all things. Consider His greatness and power. Consider that in spite of His greatness He is filled with mercy and compassion. Allow yourself to be impressed by His greatness and power. Contemplate, praise and love.
Think about everything you can share with those who surround you with about the experience you have had about God, especially with regards to the kingship of Christ, His power and mercy. The following points can guide you in sharing with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text:
- What have I discovered about God and about myself during this moment of prayer?
- How can I, in these moments of my life, apply this text of the Scriptures? What lights does it offer me? What challenges does it present to me?
- To what does this text of the Scripture concretely commit me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my predominant feeling in this moment of prayer?
G. Final Prayer of St. Augustine
«The Son of God, who made us, was made among us and reigns over us as our King, because He made us being our Creator. He who made us is the same who governs us; that is why we are Christians, because He is Christ” (En. in Ps. 149, 6).