On the Good Thief
Here is another tidbit from Fr. John Saward’s remarkable new anthology, Firmly I Believe and Truly, which seeks to capture The Spiritual Tradition of Catholic England. Fr. Matthew Kellison (1561 - 1642) is meditating on Our Lord’s promise from the cross, “This day thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Lk 23). These are remarkable words for the time of severe persecution in which they were written, and no less applicable to us in the less severe trials of the present day:
But how great was Christ in his goodness to this thief? How prone was he to mercy, who even at the last hour had mercy on him, and for his short confession forgave him all his sins. He is like a vessel full of water, for as that being but touched runneth over, so Christ is so full of mercy that if the sinner do but touch him with true repentance (as the thief did) he overfloweth and washeth away the sinner’s sins and all the filth of them.
O how great is the force of contrition and true repentance which in a moment made St Paul of a persecutor, a preacher; St Matthew of a publican, an apostle and evangelist; St Mary Magdalen of a public sinner, a pattern of all true penitents; which made St Peter of a denier of his master before a maid servant, a confessor of him before the tyrants of the world; and of the poor fisher, a prince of the apostles; which made a thief an inhabitant of paradise and Heaven itself.
O my soul, art thou thus prone to mercy as thy sweet savior is? Doest thou easily forgive them, that have offended thee? Doest thou not show thyself too hard and difficile [= troublesome] in this kind? If thy heart be hard to forgive, desire God with David to create in thee a clean heart, clean from all malice, soft and easy to pardon those that offend thee, for as thou forgives, so shalt thou be forgiven.