Editor’s note: The CatholicMatch Institute is featuring a Lenten series for Catholic married couples. Each reflection will focus on one of Christ’s seven last words on the cross. In addition there will be a Lenten action for married couples to put into practice. This is the second reflection in a seven-week series. Click here to see the full reflection series.
“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus is crucified along with two thieves, one on the left and one on the right. The crowd and the soldiers mock him, calling him to come down from the cross and save himself. The thief on the left, known as Gestas, berates him, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39) The thief on the right, Dismas, the good thief, rebukes him, “we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal” (Luke 23:41). He then turns to Christ and says “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”(Luke 23:42). Jesus welcomes him into his glory, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
By considering the two thieves’ encounter with Christ, we gain valuable insight regarding our marital relationships. Gestas, the impenitent thief, focuses on himself. He fixates on his own misery taunting God to free him from his just punishment, challenging his “power.” We imagine the thief angry, cursing, hanging so close to his Redeemer yet sadly, dying alone.
Dismas, conversely, focuses on Christ. He hears the crowd jeering and reviling, yet he recognizes his own guilt and believes in Christ’s innocence. Dismas is overcome by Christ and transformed. Dismas, following Christ’s example, does not ask to be removed from his cross, but bears his suffering patiently assured of his heavenly reward. As Fulton J. Sheen observes, “It was the thief’s last prayer, perhaps also his first. He knocked once, sought once, asked once, dared everything and found everything.”
How often are we immersed in our own trials unable to look outside ourselves? Christ commands, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) If we, as married spouses, remember to look outward to each other, and upwards towards the cross, a truly sacrificial love will be inevitable.
“Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers. Of this salvation event marriage, like every sacrament, is a memorial…the sacrament gives them the grace and duty of commemorating the great works of God and of bearing witness to them before their children. As actuation, it gives them the grace and duty of putting into practice in the present, towards each other and their children, the demands of a love which forgives and redeems. As prophecy, it gives them the grace and duty of living and bearing witness to the hope of the future encounter with Christ.” —The Role of Christian Family in the Modern World
1. Make time to pray as a couple. Remember to pray for your marriage.
2. Always speak to your spouse with kindness. Often we use impeccable manners with people we do not know but forget to use them with the one we have vowed our life.
3. Grow in the virtue of patience with your spouse by being patient with everyone you meet this week.