BY: Fr. Jude Nnadi.

Readings: 2 Samuel 5: 1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43

“THE RULERS SNEERED AT JESUS AND SAID, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine, they called out. “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself. Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking hum, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this mas has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23).
Sisters and brothers, this last Sunday of the liturgical year has the crucified Christ at the background, a King whose kingship is not manifested in a triumphal act but in a humiliation, it is not implemented through a supreme judicial act but through an extreme gesture of forgiveness. And our evangelist Luke in the story of the two criminals flashes the horizon of the Kingdom which is inaugurated precisely in that man crucified in Jerusalem. In fact, the words Jesus pronounces, have as their vertex a symbolic term of Persian origin, paradise, which literally means “garden, a place of delight” and which is placed in parallel with the word “kingdom” pronounced by his partner in death, one of the criminals.


In the book of the Revelation (2,7) we see an indication of an original image of the Kingdom of God: “To the victor I will feed from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.” Inferred from the Eastern world with its royal palaces surrounded by fascinating parks full of fountains and luxuriant vegetation, this image on the lips of Jesus evokes the fundamental page with which the bible opens, that of the “paradise” of Eden, from which man with his sin and rebellion was expelled and to which he now returns with the guidance of Christ, the light of Easter. There humanity will rediscover peace and fullness of life, harmony, and happiness.
At this point we return to pointing out some series of elements scattered throughout the Lucan text. The first: An extreme act of Jesus is a gesture of love, placed as the seal of a life consecrated to liberation, forgiveness, and salvation. Second element: the last company of Jesus is once again that of the least of the earth, as it was in the days of his travels through the streets and villages of Palestine. After tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick, the possessed, sinners of every stripe, it is now the turn of two “criminals”, two criminals, perhaps revolutionary zealots, as Matthew and Mark will make clear.
Third datum: the people, the leaders, the soldiers, the unrepentant criminal await only a gesture of physical and spectacular salvation; Instead, Jesus offers a definitive and integral salvation that snatches humanity forever from death. Fourth fact: the destiny of every man is always in the hands of his freedom. Even on that extraordinary afternoon of human history, it was up to the conscience to choose adhesion to God’s Word or blasphemy. A great moment everyone goes through in solitude.

But the last point, the central one, is precisely the entrance of Jesus and of the repentant sinner into the Kingdom of God. Christ does not give us an invitation into the kingdom of death but in that of life; he did not come to announce to us the God of the dead but that of the living (Lk 20:37) and his death is not a definitive seal but a threshold that introduces us into “paradise”. This passage is a song of entry, not of a tragic death but a hymn of the exodus towards divine and eternal life, towards salvation.
Our liturgy today invites us to active faith in Jesus Christ, like that of the criminal who stole paradise. A man who saw Jesus tormented and worshiped him as if he were in glory. He saw him nailed to the cross and begged him as if he were on a throne. He saw him condemned and asked him for a favor like a king. An admirable criminal, who saw a man crucified and yet proclaimed him God.



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