Did not God choose those who are poor to be heirs of the kingdom? (Jas 2, 5)
The inscription announces Jesus the king of the Jews. But the rulers and the soldiers deny it. Joining them is one of the two criminals. Only the other gets it right. How about us?
An inanimate object proclaims this time Jesus’ kingship. Before, there was no need for the stones to cry out, for a crowd was proclaiming him Davidic king. But now people just watch, terrorized perhaps into silence. It is dangerous to say something that goes against the opinions of the powerful rulers who are quite capable of obtaining the death penalty for someone innocent.
But having nothing to lose any longer, the other criminal musters courage and opens his mouth. He recognizes as king someone who seems the least likely to be so. Overcoming despair, he puts his trust in him.
He does not cooperate with those who wish him nothing but perdition and gloat over their role in unmasking and crucifying a supposed impostor. He is not one of the condemned who ends up behaving like their condemners.
Moreover, the believer takes the trilingual inscription as a universal invitation to God’s kingdom, while the mockers see everywhere valid accusations or seditious self-claims. They take advantage of these to get rid of those they deem are rivals in the race to the highest positions and the best promotions, or to justify their culture wars.
The repentant thief likewise makes known that no one, though justly condemned, should give himself up for lost. And such hope is well-founded: God enables even those in the power of darkness to enter the kingdom of his Son; he wants to reconcile us to himself through the Word made our bone and our flesh.
Indeed, we have redemption through the one who came to give his life for all. We surely believe this and proclaim it when we celebrate the Eucharist. But those who are so sure of themselves, their righteousness and authority, let us take note, are the ones who deny what is accurately affirmed about Jesus by the criminal who recognizes his sin and his powerlessness. It is a good idea to ask if we grasp the inscription.
Do we adopt the attitude of the long-suffering and helpless poor, among whom the true religion is preserved? Do we not imitate the rich who haul us off to inquisitions, suffer no pain and serve as leaders for shameful profit? Does not our life memorialize more the tyrant who ordered the massacre of innocent children than Mary, full of grace, and her seer, St. Catherine Labouré?