According to Luke’s account, Jesus has suffered agony in the midst of mockery and scorn from those around him. No one seems to have understood his life. No one seems to have caught on to his self-giving for those who suffer, or his forgiveness of those who are guilty. No one has seen in his face the compassionate gaze of God. No one today seems to sense much mystery in such a death.
The religious authorities make fun of him with contemptuous gestures: he has tried to save others; let him save himself now. If he is the Messiah of God, God’s «Chosen One», God will come right to his defense.
Even the soldiers join with taunts. They don’t believe in anyone Sent by God. They laugh at the sign that Pilate commanded be placed on the cross: «This is the king of the Jews». It’s absurd that someone can reign without power. Let him show his strength by saving himself.
Jesus keeps quiet, but doesn’t come down from the cross. What would we have done if the one sent by God sought his own salvation by escaping from that cross that unites him forever with all who have been crucified throughout history? How could we believe in a God who abandons us and leaves us on our own forever?
Right then, in the midst of so much mockery and scorn, there’s a surprising statement: «Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom». It isn’t a disciple or one of Jesus’ followers. It’s one of the two delinquents crucified next to him. Luke puts him forth as an admirable example of faith in the Crucified.
This man, at the point of dying as a condemned man, knows that Jesus is innocent, that he hasn’t done anything but good to everyone. He senses in Jesus’ life a mystery that has eluded him, but he’s now convinced that Jesus isn’t going to be defeated by death. From his heart is born a plea. He only asks Jesus to not forget him: Jesus will be able to do something for him.
Jesus answers right away: «Today you will be with me in paradise». For now these two are united in pain and powerlessness, but Jesus welcomes him as an inseparable companion. They will die crucified, but will go together into God’s mystery.
Immersed in today’s unbelieving society, many go about confused. They don’t know if they believe or not. Almost without knowing it, they carry in their hearts a small and fragile faith. Sometimes, without knowing why or how, when they are exhausted by life’s heaviness, they call out to Jesus in their own way. «Jesus, remember me» and Jesus hears them: «You will be with me always». God has a way to meet up with each person and these ways don’t always pass through ways we think of. What’s decisive is to have a heart that opens us to the mystery of God incarnate in Jesus.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf