Once, two travelers were going through a forest when night came upon them. In a matter of minutes, the narrow path which they had been following became invisible. In the darkness terror lurked everywhere. Then, to make matters worse, a violent thunderstorm broke over the forest. Terrifying flashes of lightning were followed by loud peals of thunder which shook the ground under their feet. Torrents of rain poured down on them. The trees swayed dangerously.
The first man looked on the storm as a calamity. Every time there was a flash of lightning, he looked up at the sky and cursed. The result was that he strayed from the path and got lost in the forest. The second man, however, looked on the storm as a blessing in disguise. Each flash of lightning lit up a little bit of the path ahead of him, and thus he was able to take a step forward. By keeping his head down, he succeeded in staying on the path. And so, a step at a time, he made his way out of the forest.
Sometimes that’s the way it is in life: there is just enough light to be able to take the next step; just enough strength to do the present task.
The thunderstorm was the exact same for both travelers. Yet for one it proved to be a stumbling block, while for the other it proved to be a stepping stone.
The travelers remind us of the two thieves in the Gospel story. Both of them were caught up in a terrible darkness. First of all there was the darkness of their own lives of crime. Then there was the terrible darkness that descended on Calvary at the crucifixion of Jesus.
One of them cursed the darkness. The other saw a gleam of light through it. That light came from the presence of Jesus, Jesus the friend of sinners, who came to seek out and to save the lost. The thief’s clean and humble confession went straight to the heart of Jesus. It won for the thief, not only forgiveness, but heaven itself.
In the end the only one who knows and understands us fully is God. He is the only biographer in whose accuracy we can absolutely trust because he alone sees what’s in the heart. He sees our wounds and sorrows, our scars and handicaps, our hopes and longings. Jesus looked at the thief, and seeing the sad tatters of his life, was moved with compassion for him.
The good thief gives hope to us all. Even at the eleventh hour there exists the possibility of letting the sunlight in. Through his sheer goodness, Jesus turns our darkness into light.