Yesterday was the fourth session of the Lent Retreat in Daily Living we are offering at UST Law School this lent. This week the focus of the retreatants prayer will be models of discipleship.
The reflection at the gathering today was given by my friend and colleague Chato Hazelbaker, who is an Evangelical Christian. The prayer material for the week (actually two weeks, since next week is Spring Break so we won’t meet again until March 27) covers eleven different individuals, but Chato focused his talk on three of them: Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus (who Chato discussed together with Joseph of Arimathea) and the “good” Thief.
Although Chato’s discussion of all three offered much to reflect on, for me the most powerful was what he said about the thief and the meaning of his simple prayer and Jesus’ response to that prayer. The thief, knowing who Jesus is, prays, “remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus responds, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The response is not “if you do x” or “if you don’t do y,” but the promise of eternal union with God in response to that prayer of faith. Jesus’ response, Chato suggested, means that we can live and celebrate Easter all the time – knowing that Jesus already died for me. We can live our lives already knowing how our story ends. That is what our faith gives us.