In this second reading from The Cross-Shattered Christ, Hauerwas looks at the unsettling words of Jesus to the thief on the cross . . . and the unsettling silence.
First, he says perhaps we're uncomfortable because of what is not said, what is not explained for us about this thief that gets off easy. "In the world as we find it--a world that seems to make belief in God some desperate irrationality, Christians are tempted to say more about what we believe than we can or should say."
Yet as Rowan Williams says in Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles Our Judgment, "God is in the connections we cannot make" and Hauerwas further observes, "Our attempt to speak confidently of God in the face of modern skepticism, a skepticism we suspect also grips our lives as Christians, betrays a certainty inappropriate for a people who worship a crucified God."
So those who are "formed in the white heat of modernity" want to know more yet Hauerwas fears the knowing is wrongly motivated by a desire to live and die with significance. "As a result we live desperate, deadly lives in the hope we will not be forgotten."
Like the thief on the cross, we ask to be remembered, but perhaps the thief knows understands something we do not. Hauerwas drives at the center of our self-centered nature and says, "We desperately ask to be remembered, fearing we are nothing. In contrast this thief confidently asks to be remembered because he recognizes the One who can remember."
Through baptism we are given a new body, a body no longer isolated from the bodies that constitute Christ's body, and we are thereby made capable of remembering that we live through memory. Only Christ, on the Second Person of the Trinity, could promise to the thief and to us that today we will be with him. To be with Jesus, to be claimed by Jesus to be his friend, is paradise, for Jesus is the kingdom of God, the autobasileia, the kingdom of the crucified . . . Our salvation is no more or no less than being made part of God's body, God's enfleshed memory, so that the world may know that we are redeemed from our fevered and desperate desire to insure we will not be forgotten.Hauerwas ends this reading by saying, "the only remembering that matters is to be remembered by Jesus."