Saturday, March 7, 2009

Neminem Nisi Jesum

Today we hear of the Transfiguration of Christ, and of the Sacrifice of Isaac. Once again, the translators of the New American Bible have missed the boat. In the Sacrifice of Isaac, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son. In the Transfiguration God tells Peter James and John, that Jesus is His Beloved Son. But, we don't hear that connection in English, because in one place it is translated as your son, whom you love, in another, it is rendered Beloved Son. The Church, of course, wants that connection to be made in our minds. Since, however we are stuck with the NAB (for which the American Bishops have copyright), that connection has to be made by the homilist.
There is a connection between the Transfiguration of Christ and the second of the Seven Last Words of Christ. The Transfiguration allowed Peter, James and John to see a glimpse of the glory of Christ. This glory, not fully seen even after the Resurrection, was also seen by the good thief (St Dismas), but after his death. I know, this is a tangent, right. Well that's how this works. The glory of Christ, revealed to Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor was just an installment of the glory to be seen by all in Paradise.
St Dismas is promised to be taken to Paradise that day, not because of his good works. He was not known for any of those! He was a thief. He led a sinful life. What makes him a saint is that he knew who and what he was. He knew he was a thief. He knew that he had transgressed not only the Law of God, but also the civil law, and that his punishment was well deserved.
When the bad thief, who seems to have gone down in history with just that monicker, spoke, it was completely unrepentant. He was the thief who, in the words of Rhett Butler, was not sorry he had stolen, but was very sorry he had been caught. He asked Christ to prove that He was the Christ by saving Himself -- and while He was at it -- to save the two thieves as well.
It is Saint Dismas who says, Have you no fear of God? We deserve this sentence; this Man, has done nothing wrong. Then he adds something very significant, perhaps the most sincere act of contrition ever spoken, Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your kingdom. He, aware of his standing before God, does not even dare to ask forgiveness. He merely asked to be remembered. Christ, who is faithful beyond our wildest imaginings, not only remembers him, but promises him Paradise.
It is for us, during this season of Lent, to consider our place before God, and humbly to ask Him for pardon and peace. Christ has left us the Sacrament of His Mercy. Will we be like the good thief?
Memento mei quando veneris in regnum tuum!

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