Dear sisters and brother in Christ,
Today we bring the liturgical year to an end with the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Our Gospel account from John has Jesus reigning from the Cross and having two thieves hanging one on each side of him.
Let us reflect on the two thieves. First the unrepentant thief. He is a profoundly disturbing character. There was no compassion, no sympathy, no humanity left in him. Even with death staring him in the face, he did not show a single trace of remorse.
The sad reality is that even Jesus could not reach him. No one can save a person who does not have the desire to be saved. God’s forgiveness is there, but one has to have the disposition to receive it. As Oscar Wilde said, “The person who is in the state of rebellion cannot receive grace.”
Now let us look at the repentant thief. Some folks think he got off easy. After a life of crime, he made a quick act of contrition, and went straight to heaven. There are those who struggle with accepting death bed confessions. But we must understand that God’s mercy is calling a person to repentance and conversion until the very end.
Hanging there on the cross, the repentant thief did an examination of his life. When he looked back, what did he see? Certainly that he had made a mess of things. He had wasted his life.
He could have made excuses or blamed others: his upbringing, his environment, his companions. But he did not. In effect, what he said was: “I am guilty. I am getting what I deserve.” He accepted full responsibility for the person he had become.
What a refreshing attitude. Today there is a tendency to take responsibility away from the individual. It is common to blame someone else. Some buy into the idea that our sins are not really sins at all, but accidents set in motion by forces beyond our control.
To do what the repentant thief did is never easy. Pride makes a person try to salvage something. But he knew it was too late and that Jesus was his only salvation. His humble confession went straight to the heart of Jesus. It brought him, not only forgiveness, but heaven itself.
The good thief gives all of us hope, but especially to those who come to the end of life and have nothing that they can feel good about. Even at the eleventh hour, there exists the possibility of letting the light in.
This Gospel account is an excellent one to hear as we bring the Jubilee Year of Mercy to its close. God’s mercy is always available for those who repent and have a conversion of heart. It is never too late for anyone to turn back and experience salvation.
— Father Dennis
20 November, 2016