The Third Cross…..The Cross of Hope

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Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” All of heaven must have come to a hush to hear how Jesus would respond. We see His reply in v.43, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” What wonderful words of hope to a dying, sinful man! These were words that caused the angels of heaven to rejoice! No one is beyond hope of redemption in whose soul still lingers some fear of God. For as the penitent thief confessed the sin in his own life, (“We deserve to die for our evil deeds,”) faith rose in his soul and he blurted out, (“but this man has done no wrong.”) He appealed to Jesus to remember him and it was a plea that did not fall on deaf ears. The response was immediate, “Truly, I tell you today you will be with me in Paradise.” The word “Paradise” is a Persian word meaning “a walled garden.” When a Persian king wished to do one of his subjects a special honor, he made him a “companion of the garden” and he walked in the royal garden with the king. It was more than immortality that Jesus promised the penitent thief. He promised the place of a companion of the garden in the courts of heaven. “You will be with me” said Jesus. The penitent thief knew he had made some pretty bad choices in his life, choices that led to his crucifixion, ….and isn’t life just full of choices.

Once upon a time there was a court jester who had served the Caliph at Baghdad and his court, keeping them amused whenever they called on him. One day in a moment of thoughtlessness he offended the Caliph. For his mistake the Caliph ordered that he be put to death. “However,” said the ruler, “in consideration of your many years of service, I will let you decide how you will die.” “Well,” replied the jester, “if it’s all the same to you, O most gracious Caliph, I choose death by old age.”

Though you and I don’t get to choose how we die, we do get to choose how we live. You and I are the sum total of the choices we make. Hour after hour, day after day, we make choices, big ones, little ones, tough ones, easy ones, liberating ones, confining ones, selfish ones, selfless ones. At the end of the day, you add up these choices and This Is Your Life, as the old TV show put it.

This Sunday we celebrate Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe and the closing of the Year of Faith. What better way than to rejoice in remembrance of the Cross of Christ our King, “the cross of forgiveness and redemption” and to thank him for making that third cross, “the cross of hope.”….. Our Holy Father Emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI, has spoken of the power of Christ the King in this way: “It is not the power of the kings or the great people of this world; it is the divine power to give eternal life, to liberate from evil, to defeat the dominion of death. It is the power of Love that can draw good from evil, that can melt a hardened heart, bring peace amid the harshest conflict and kindle hope in the thickest darkness.” From the Cross, our King pours out his gifts upon humanity of all times and places.

Sylvia Bates