By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
In the Gospel for this Sunday, we find Jesus nailed to the Cross. The rulers and the soldiers mock him saying, "If you are King of the Jews, save yourself"(Lk 23:37). Amidst the sneering and jeering we hear a lone voice, like one crying from the wilderness, saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). This is the climax of the story that had been unfolding since Jesus began His public ministry saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, brings us to the contradiction of the Cross.
When I look at the two men crucified at either side of Jesus, I wonder... What was the difference between them? They both met Jesus on the Cross, but only one recognized the King in disguise. Why did one see the mystery while the other did not? Perhaps one was blinded by self-interest, by self-love. "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Lk 23:39). He just wanted to get off the cross. Yet, the other one had wisdom, for he said, "Have you no fear of God?” …The beginning of wisdom is fear of the LORD (Pr 9:10). The Good Thief saw himself hanging next to the innocent Lamb and accepted his own cross; he did not ask Jesus to bring him down from it, for he realized it was just. Wisdom allowed him to see that Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36), and, repenting from his actions and accepting his current suffering, placed all his hope in Love.
“If you want to be happy, despise what Jesus despised on the Cross, and love what Jesus loved on the Cross.” (St. Thomas Aquinas) This is the contradiction of the Cross, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 16:25). This is the truth, and it is found in the crosses of our lives. It is when we are suffering the consequences of sin that we must focus on the Kingdom of Heaven. We must close our ears to vanity and focus on the one Who is hanging right beside us, for He longs to say to each one of us, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).