In today’s Lord of the Rings passage we read:
Frodo said, ‘But for Gollum, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him!'”
And in today’s Scripture we hear:
So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.” (John 19: 17-18)
There is much written about the Good Thief, the Penitent Thief, by tradition St. Dismas, who asked for Jesus’s mercy. Much less is written about the Bad Thief, the Impenitent Thief, by some accounts Gestas, who belittles Christ. By all accounts, he is not a decent man: a proven criminal, a murderer, without remorse and without shame. Yet he–as is Judas, as is Caiaphas, as is Pilate–is the Gollum of the Passion: fallen and unreconciled, yet necessary for the Quest’s completion. For all to have come to pass, someone needed to betray Jesus, and accuse him, and condemn him, and mock him upon the Cross. And yet, like Gollum, we are left to wonder: might they have been saved from their wickedness? There were fleeting moments on the road to Mt. Doom where it looked like Smeagol might prevail over his baser nature: what then would have become of the Fellowship? If Judas had rejected the silver; if Caiaphas had calmed his anger; if Pilate had taken the advice of his wife: would their outcomes have been different? If the Impenitent Thief had just said a single sentence different, would he now be with Christ in paradise?
These are deep and disquieting thoughts on a deep and disquieting day. For we consider justice and mercy, free will and fate, salvation and condemnation: all while the world awaits the resolution of all things.
Want to Read More?
Year A: On Carrying and The Costs of Salvation
Year B: On the End of All Things
Year C: For the Sake of Mercy and Compassion