Remember me may trigger us to hum the theme song of Disney’s touching animation Coco. Perhaps it may, but this phrase possesses a more engraving meaning for one’s soul, especially when these bring to our memory the words pronounced –a prayer– by a dying thief who stole our Lord’s heart and heaven too.
We are naturally filled with holy envy as we ponder on how easy it seemed for him to enter paradise with this simple and brief request. But we cannot forget that this prayer was said in the very same agonizing circumstances Jesus was experiencing. And this gave the thief’s petition a power that Christ’s heart could not refuse.
It is interesting to focus on the words of his prayer because he was not asking for anything in particular to alleviate his pitiful condition, nor to be spared of some pain and suffering, or as the other thief cried for deliverance from death. Our good thief simply asked for remembrance.
If there is any prayer so simple yet profound that has ever been pronounced on earth, it would be the good thief’s last words. They reveal how he humbly accepted his punishment and how he felt unworthy of anything except some form of remembrance.
Had he really known who it was he was asking to remember him? How did he react when he heard those words “Today, you will be with me in paradise?” Undoubtedly, as with all prayer, his words were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is teaching us a lesson with these words!
Man is a being of remembrance. When travelling we are sure to buy some souvenirs. In our digital world, we hoard pictures of people, food and record sounds to later share as virtual keepsakes of unforgettable experiences. We treasure keepsakes and heirlooms handed down to us by our loved ones. Even in the most immaterial level we are elated when someone surprisingly greets us on our birthday or anniversary.
All these examples demonstrate how temporal man, has eternal longings to be remembered and cherished. And this desire for eternal remembrance can only be given us by someone everlasting: God.
Now when the good thief asked our Lord to remember him, he was asking for the only thing that a man could fittingly ask of a God: to be remembered. The petition also underlines the humble acceptance of the radical difference between God and man. God is everything and man is nothing. But when He who is eternal remembers, he who is temporal is eternalize!
But how exactly does God remember man? And what does he remember about man? I believe this can be answered in a dialogue between St. Faustina and our Lord.
Once she told our Lord, “Jesus, I thought about You so many times last night.” And our Lord replied, “And I thought of you before I called you into being.” Then Faustina asked, “Jesus, in what way were You thinking about me?” Our Lord said, “In terms of admitting you to My eternal happiness. (Diary, Bk. III, # 1292)”
Our Lord’s reply is mysteriously awesome! He reveals that He was already thinking of Faustina even before she existed. And what exactly would God be thinking at the moment before our existence? God can be compared to an artist’s who has already seen the picture or statue in his mind even before setting himself to work on the canvas or the marble block. And this was precisely what our Lord was remembering.
It amazes me how God, our Lord, remembers that moment before to we came to being! What is there to appreciate and treasure in a non-existent moment? In recalling a moment of our nothingness what is it that God remembers?
Our Lord’s answer is His mysterious and infinite love for each one of us. And from that point up to the present moment of our existence, He continues remembering and cherishing that primordial love. And Jesus excitedly waits for us, as our least form of gratitude, to remember Him in return for His mysterious divine initiative.
Now the tables are turned around, it may very well be our Lord who addresses us with the thief’s prayer: do you remember me? How often, therefore, do we strive to live more in His presence? Do we realize that even just the slightest thought of remembrance towards Jesus, can already move His merciful heart, and pour upon us infinite graces of His mercy, peace, joy and love?