Pope Francis's address at the Way of the Cross on Friday contained an element that was, I think, joyful enough to save for an Easter post.
The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness.
It is also reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us.
Let us remember this: God judges us by loving us.
If I embrace his love then I am saved,
if I refuse it, then I am condemned, not by him, but my own self,
because God never condemns,
he only loves and saves.
The last sentence points to a certain dichotomy of choice. In the constant presence of the love of God I have the choice to embrace His love, and be saved; or to refuse it, and be condemned.
This field of love is, so to speak, a self-correcting test.
In the context of the Via Crucis, what immediately comes to mind is the personification of this dichotomy in the two thieves crucified alongside Jesus, described in Lk 23:39-43.
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."
The two thieves crucified with Jesus are literally in the presence of the mercy of God. One responds by "reviling" Jesus: If you were really the Son of God, you would get down from here. (This line parrots what the rulers say, and what the soldiers say, and it's not far from the words Luke puts in Satan's mouth in Chapter 4: "If you be the Son of God, throw yourself down from here.")
The other responds, first by defending Jesus, then by making what amounts to a confession ("we have been condemned justly... but this man has done nothing criminal" can certainly be read that way -- perhaps the man does not even realize quite how true it is), finally, by embracing that love: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
And he is answered -- canonized from the cross.
The story of the two thieves is too iconic to mean nothing more than "a story of two thieves." It shows us two ways to respond to the "problem" of suffering in the presence of a just and merciful God -- the whole problem of pain. One response is rejection: God cannot be God, because if He were God, He would not allow this to go on. The other response is acknowledgement of the debt we owe, embrace of suffering, and entering into a conversation with the acknowledged King.
I suppose either response is equally logical; but one is a response of rejection, and the other is a response of embrace.
Judging by loving is not a dereliction of duty on the part of the judge. It does not mean "no judging," or "love instead of judgment." It is a method of judging.
Something to think about.
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Side note: I find it interesting that the feast day of St. Dismas, the "Good Thief," is March 25 -- the same date as, and so usually eclipsed by, the Annunciation. (Another feast of making an important choice to embrace God.) But the Annunciation got booted till later because it was superseded by Holy Week, and so St. Dismas came out from behind the angel's wings this year. More on this from Fr. Z.