I look at the naked, bloodied body next to me. “What’s he doing here?”
A sinless man is being crucified beside us: me on his left, the other criminal on his right. The crucified always die in disgrace, our lives held up as negative examples.
Yet, he is good. People call him rabbi, healer, messiah, saviour, Son of God. At birth they called him Emmanuel: “God with us.” God with us in life. Now, God with us in death.
Crowds hurl insults at Jesus, insults we deserve. The other thief joins in. “Some saviour he is. Can’t even save himself, let alone us.”
“Have some respect.” I struggle for breath. “We had it coming, but not him. He’s not like us.”
“He’s a fake.”
“No. A king.” Lungs burn, limbs scream. Always knew I’d get caught, die alone. But I’m not alone. I’m with the one they call…
“Jesus.” I can barely whisper. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus turns his head and looks at me. I see his face for the first time. He’s no older than me. Blood trickles down from the crown of thorns on his head. His voice is gentle. “Today,” he says between breaths, “you will be with me, in paradise.”
Euphoria rises from my belly, shoots into every sinew and cell in my body, erupts in laughter. Never before have I felt such love, such joy.
Then suddenly, it’s dark. Mid-afternoon, can’t see a thing. The earth heaves and groans. Nails rip flesh. Cries, curses, prayers. Hold breath. Silence.
Is he gone?
Jesus shouts, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” One breath and–wait. No more.
I am alone again. But not alone.
Tears on my cheeks. Paradise. Today. I’m coming home to the King.
A prayer for Good Friday:
Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood
be my food and drink.
May your passion and death
be my strength and life.
Jesus, with you by my side
enough has been given.
May the shelter I seek
be the shadow of your cross.
Let me not run from the love which you offer,
But hold me safe from the forces of evil.
On each of my dyings
shed your light and your love.
Keep calling to me
until that day comes when, with your saints,
I may praise you forever.
– Soul of Christ (Anima Christi),
paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J.