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 REFLECTION on Thursday 2nd July

 

This week’s reflections are by Veronica Zundel. An Oxford graduate, writer and columnist. She lives with her husband and son in North London’

 

 

Undeserved success

 

Reading: Luke 23: 39-43 (NRSV)

 

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into[c] your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”


I heard of a clergyman who wanted to determine who was worthy and who was unworthy, so that he could withhold communion from the unworthy. I think he’s got it all wrong. The Apostle Paul makes it quite clear in 1 Corinthians that while we should examine our consciousness before partaking, the only qualification for eating the bread and drinking the cup is that we should ‘discern the body’ – that is, recognise the presence of Christ in On this sharing and in each other. On this measure, the repentant criminal has got it right: he recognises the presence of God in Jesus and throws himself on Christ’s mercy.

The result is that Jesus accepts the criminal’s faith and promises him salvation, not just a ‘ticket to heaven’ but a transformation of his life, even after death, and a place with Jesus in the undeserved love of God. In life, the criminal was a failure: he chose wrongly, and he wasn’t even good enough at crime to get away without punishment. But next to Jesus, he receives a ‘success’ he never dreamed of, the chance to live for ever in the presence of the one who has loved him from the beginning.

Sometimes life offers us a joy or an opportunity that we would never have expected, and it can come even when we think our life is over. All we need to do is be ready for it and accept it. An attitude of defiance and cynicism, like that of the first criminal, will only condemn us to futility.

Being open to God’s leading may bring you some joyful surprises into our life.

‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom;

Make this prayer today.