Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. He replied,
Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.
Today the drama of the Passion begins, the journey from the inferno of suffering to the paradise of joy. Every detail of every incident described has over the millennia entered into our collective imagination. Even though, lacking any transmission of faith, many may be unable to identify the detail or the story, the image still remains potent. Anyone truly listening to this narrative will recognise themselves in it. Here, in his last human exchange Jesus, he consoles the thief crucified next to him, after they have died they will be in Paradise together.
It is an interactive drama and we can only understand it once we are inside it. So much of the story relates to the psychological humiliation of Jesus – his being entirely stripped of rights and dignity – and to his physical degradation and suffering. The meaning, then, is not just that Jesus was a heroic individual, an innocent who became a scapegoat. It is also that our pride and physical vulnerability are also put into question. It is hard just to look at this story objectively, without eventually falling into it and empathising mentally and physically with all that Jesus endured. It is this capacity for empathy that explains the redemptive quality of the death of Jesus, why what happens to him changes us.
I have often seen how people, accepting their terminal illness, will use their remaining time to offer up their dying on the altar of their last days. A sense of life overwhelms the sense of death. Love becomes stronger than isolation. How is this moment reached and what happens next? It happens when we share the unshareable. The dying person’s detachment is now the means of the deepest, gentlest influence.
Meditation takes us through this in the microcosm of our inner world. Lent has brought us to this reflection on ultimate meaning.